Sunday, 30 November 2014

India needs 'SMART' policing to maintain law and order: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his concerns about the image of police in public mind. He said the mental image that people have with regard to police has to change. It is good that he noticed it and thought something was needed to be done about it. But unfortunately his diagnosis and prescription were utterly wrong. He thought it was the negative portrayal of police in Bollywood cinemas which was responsible for distrust of people in the law-enforcement forces. The medicine, according to him, is wearing make-ups. He said, “Every police thana (police station) should have a website to propagate good deeds done by the force. Each thana should upload one positive story a week, which shows the good work done by them,” said the PM.

It is not surprising that he is asking for image make-over by masks and make-ups after the huge success of the art in his own case.

The root of the ills that plague policing in India lies deep in history. The police force in India was set up after 1857 war of independence. The constituting statute was passed in 1861 which is still in force and governs policing as mother statute of all other police Acts. The force was conceptualised by the servants of the Queen as protectors of the interest of Her Highness in her Indian colonies and to repress people and their voices. True to their founding objectives the force served the Queen well during her regime and after that her successors even after independence.

Although there are legal protection for the police in Police Acts as well as in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, cases of police atrocities started coming up to the High Courts and the Supreme Court when after independence democracy started to percolate and deepen in remote towns and rural India. And after growth of mass media they also began to pick up stories of police atrocities, torture and killings. It is not the stories of the inhuman deeds which are responsible for the bad image of the police but it is the deeds themselves which are responsible. অন্ধ হলে কি প্রলয় বন্ধ থাকে? (Does disaster stops if you shut your eyes up?)

For decades there was a movement by human rights activists, police officers, lawyers, judges and common people for police reform. As a part of this movement, two former director generals of police moved tthe Supreme Court in 1996 requesting the Court to direct central and state governments to address the most glaring gaps and bad practice in the functioning of the police.

After a decade, on 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgment directing central and state governments to implement a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kick-start police reform. The Court's directives seek to achieve two main objectives: functional autonomy for the police - through security of tenure, streamlined appointment and transfer processes, and the creation of a "buffer body" between the police and the government - and enhanced police accountability, both for organisational performance and individual misconduct. The case is know as Prakash Singh vs. Union of India.

Central government has yet to comply with the directives and the responses of the states are tremendously varied. In short, most of them did not comply with the directives in their letter and spirit. In response to the directives the Assam government passed the its state police Act in 2007. It is, in fact, was an effort to bypass the Supreme Court order.

Reforming laws governing policing in compliance with the Supreme Court directives would only be the first step towards a long journey in the direction of building a law-enforcement institution which itself follows laws, protects rights of the people and enforces laws democratically.

Wearing masks or makeups would lead us nowhere.