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Dire need for police reforms to implement rule of law

The Balance Of Accountability And Executive Autonomy Is One Such Issue On Which, The Governments To The Hon'ble Courts, Have Considered Deeply And Described The Police Reforms As A Major Contemporary Necessity From Time To Time.

By : Gautam Lalotra | Updated on: 21 Apr 2018, 11:39:03 AM

New Delhi:

India, today, is shining towards becoming one of the superpowers. However, most of the Indian administrative and political structure metamorphosed in a period when the sun of the British Empire was shining at its pinnacle. 

After brutally pulverizing the 1857 rebellion, the Britishers’ viewpoint in regard to the Indian society underwent a drastic change. For them the Indians were already ‘Crippled indigenous people eating in porcelains”.

Post the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, the Britishers led themselves to believe that we are not worthy of qualifying for any administrative institution of democratic and liberal order. In the works of Rudyard Kipling, the character of the colonial dictators has been portrayed as ruthlessly barbaric. 

Only at the sight of the naked sword do these Asian people follow any law and order, wrote Rudyard Kipling in his short story “The Tomb of His Ancestors”. In the riddle of the empire, Kipling wrote, ‘before the advent of the British Empire, there was a grim semblance of murder, torture, and bloodshed around us and the bruisers came to the very aid of our society’. 

There was a league of British writers, journalists and the bureaucrats who presumed Indian society as “rootless, uneducated and foolish”, hence advocated for this country’s laws.

All the bureaucrats and writers such as Lord Curzon, Kitchener, Mod Diver, Flora Annie Steele, Sarah Duncan were the part of this league who justified the British Empire in its full glory. Flora Annie Steele in the favour of British put up such vacuous argumentation that even a sane person can get agitated. 

In the early 20th century, she wrote that “there are very few pros to this country on whose basis somebody should consider the ideas of touring this country.

People here are neither good looking nor do they believe in social reconciliation. Now it is not difficult to comprehend why Babar got upset as soon as he set foot in this country. 

He might have witnessed nothing else apart from the vast stretch of sand and trees or he would have seen a crow who wanted to pronounce that as black as it is from outside, the same from within.

It was the psychology of the evil British Empire that created their subconscious mind for our country in presence for which they fabricated several laws for us. However, amongst all these were some rare Britishers like EM Foster, CF Andrews and Edward Thomson who felt uncomfortable and uneasy with the disgusting irrational nature of colonial rule. 

Bureaucrats of the British India who often rendered their service to the country as young British officers were deeply influenced by Rudyard Kipling. Edmund Candler wrote in “youth and the east” that the civil servant of his generation had picked a lot from Rudyard Kipling. These civil servants comprised of District Magistrate and Police Captains.

Both together structured “steel frames” of the British empire, a concrete system which kept them safe and sound from challenges posed by the country. 

In the British arrangement, the district magistrate was the head of the administration who used to sit in the headquarters thereby running the various big districts of British India. The “omnipotent” and “omniscient” civil servant’s role was projected with such grandeur that it was impossible to run the country without them. 

The weight of the country was laid on the shoulder of the civil services, the essence of this aforementioned statement clearly reflects in the articles of RG Garden, Claude Hill, and Tomas White. 

Philip Mason in his book, The Men who ruled India, writes: The young district Magistrate in a lonely district is monarch of all he surveys and can be as Un English as he likes, provided he has sense enough to keep his ebullience out of his fortnightly reports. 

Akin to the administrative institutions, the Police was also constituted. The British police adhered according to the system of law on the basis of modern penal code by providing the society with a degree of stability.

But it will totally be unjust to claim that the British police fits in the definition of the ideal model in present circumstances, as many believe. But the relationship between British police and Indian commonwealth were strained at several levels. 

In the second decade of the 20th century, Philip Mason put forward an interesting description of the reaction of the commoners in regard to the robber Sultana being apprehended by the British police officer Freddy Young who got subsequently hanged. He writes: Sultana was hunted down and caught by a policeman whom everyone knew as Freddy young.

There was a play called sultana Daku, a favourite at fairs all through northern India, in which at first Freddy young was the avenging hero and the crowd would cheer when the villainous Sultana was brought to book. But as the play was repeated year by year the parts were reversed, until Sultana was the hero, a gallant Robin Hood who befriended the poor and robbed the English, while Freddy became the comic villain, fat and cowardly, continually calling for whiskey.

The aforementioned piece of writing sheds light on the major psychological and the cultural differences between the colonial rulers and the general public being administered by them. But aftermath of 1857 sepoy mutiny, the kind of police Britishers wanted to give us the shadow of their imperialist plans, thus the racial superiority and colonial needs are very evident. 

Four years after the revolt of 1857, the British made 1861 police act to regularize the Indian police. Britishers never frankly recovered from the sepoy mutiny of 1857.

To execute their colonial goals, the Britishers began to divide our society on the lines of disruptive elements. They placed these disruptive elements in accordance with their mentality to their administrative structure.

The Police Act of 1861 prevailing in Uttar Pradesh and its various districts still is the base of Indian police system in the contemporary times and is the living evidence of colonial dictatorship. 

A reflection upon the mentality behind the structuring of the police structure in Awadh and the Northern province (today's Uttar Pradesh) is recorded in a report of 1872 (Police Prison Report Page 20, Statement 1872), which states that caste should be a determining factor for the appointments at lower positions in Police.

On page 17 of this report, 23 such Castes have been side-lined, who were told not to join the police. In addition to this, there were some castes who have been favoured in Police recruitment. 

This report also exudes some other restrictions. Total number of Muslims recruitment shouldn't go beyond one third. Armed forces should have at least ten percent of Sikhs, Gorkhas, Paharis. Again in 1890s, the KA police committee acceded the principle that this policy should and must be maintained for recruitments in Police. 

The aforementioned instance demonstrates that after 1857, Colonial dictators made it a point to retain the feudal social relation present in lower strata of society in their administration levels as well. The shadow of same ideology encompasses all the laws of that era. The police act of 1861 should be interpreted in its right context of colonial dictatorship. 

Section 23 of The Police Act of 1861 states the duties of the police officer. According to this, the first duty of the police officer is to "follow the orders issued by lawful and competent authority". This is one of the duties which was of immense importance to the Britishers. The second duty was the "assemblage of secret information". 

During the freedom movement, this duty was the prerequisite for the Britishers. After this, the third line of duty for the police was to "stop the crimes". The duty which is the topmost priority of the present-day Police system was not so for the Colonial Dictator's Police. 

The Structuring of the entire Police Act of 1861 was done in such a way so that accountability of police to the public was not ensured in conjunction with the disputed stand of Police in regard to the criminal justice system with no proper autonomy or external pressure.

The administrative centre of power for smooth execution of the Colonial interest were Kolkata, Madras and Mumbai where the British administrators fabricated the Police structure on the lines of Metropolitan Police of London, they found it more apt than the rest of the country where the Police structure was built around the Police Act of 1861. 

The Police Act of 1861 is a serious impediment in the direction of Police Reforms. In order to promulgate the Democratic aspirations through the amendment of this Act has been taking place time to time. Between 1977 and 1981, the National Police Commission presented recommendations for making the Police system more accountable and providing the Police with more executive powers.

After that many commissions and committees were formed such as Riberio Committee in 1998, Padmanabhaiah Committee in 2000, under the guidance of Soli Sorabjee Model Police Act drafting committee 2005, Second Rehabilitation Reform Commission 2007. All these commissions and committees have generally agreed that there is a need for a basic change in the structure of the police, especially in urban areas with a large population. 

In 2006, the Supreme Court gave a historic judgment on the police reforms on the petition of Shri Prakash Singh, Director General of Retired Police of Uttar Pradesh.

In 2006, the committee formed under the leadership of Soli Sorabjee proposed a 'Model Police Act' for the purpose of replacing the 1861 Police Act. Based on this new act, 17 states of the country have created new Police Regulations in place of 1861 Police Act. This has not been implemented in Uttar Pradesh. 

This committee has also suggested that the establishment of Police Commissioner system in urban areas having more than 10 lakh population should be considered. In order to receive and prosecute the complaints against the police, the Supreme Court has said in the case of Prakash Singh V Union of India to make Police Complaints Authority at every level so that such grievances can be taken fairly.

The balance of accountability and executive autonomy is one such issue on which, the governments to the Hon'ble Courts, have considered deeply and described the police reforms as a major contemporary necessity from time to time. 

The rule of law is considered to be the greatest characteristic of any modern society. To implement the rule of law at both the level of both the language and conduct, it is need of the hour to move towards the police reforms. It is not easy to pull the police out of the ideology of the colonial era and in the laws of that era.

It is necessary that police reforms should be implemented. In the second decade of the 21st century, the views of 1861 do not seem rational. 

(The author is a 2006-batch IPS officer. He was SSP, Noida, Ghaziabad. Currently he is REgional Passport Officer, Ghaziabad )

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First Published : 19 Apr 2018, 02:25:16 PM

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