'Order will ensure there is no misuse of directions'

‘Long way to go for police reforms’

Police and its reforms have been a huge talking point in the country for many years. The Supreme Court in 2006 came up with elaborate guidelines on the issue in a petition filed by former IPS officer Prakash Singh, whose fight has now entered the 22nd year. The state governments found novel ways to circumvent the guidelines in almost every point suggested by the Supreme Court. Every time the SC stepped in, the latest being on the appointment of Director General of Police (DGP). Singh spoke to Shemin Joy of DH on the latest SC order, the status of police reforms and related issues. Excerpts:

The Supreme Court has now come up with guidelines on the appointment of DGPs, giving a role for the Union Public Service Commission in the selection. How important is this order?

It is important in the sense the earlier SC order was in 2006. Frequent experiences have shown that several state governments are misusing the order in many ways. Very strategically, in some cases, the appointment of DGP is made in the eleventh hour. The present DGP in Tamil Nadu was given the appointment hours before the officer was to superannuate. I am aware that last Telangana DGP had an extended tenure of three-and-half years. These were brought to the notice of the SC. Taking cognizance of these aberrations and distortions in the system, it issued some guidelines regarding the appointment of the DGPs. The importance of this order is that it wants to ensure that there is no misuse of the directions and it ensures that no distortions are made.

How do you think this particular order will help in reducing political interference in the working of police?

It will prevent the state governments from appointing acting DGPs as some states were doing. It will also ensure that UPSC prepares a panel. It definitely reduces the area of administrative discretion. They have tried to lay down the rules to ensure that the earlier orders are not violated.

But the criticism is that it could end up giving an opportunity to the Centre to intervene or manipulate appointments. Handling police, being a state subject, should be left to states. How do you see such criticism?

I think that is not right. The state governments are playing havoc in the matter of appointing the DGPs. In Uttar Pradesh, they appointed DGPs for a period of one month, for a period of two months, five months. You are appointing an officer for five months, why are you not giving him a tenure of two years? What do you expect from a DGP who is appointed for two month or five months? What will he do? Except dancing to the tunes of the political masters hoping all the time that they might give him in an extended tenure. This concern (of trampling of states’ rights) is uncalled for. This laying down of guidelines was necessitated because of excessive misuse of SC directions on police reforms.

The Court verdict on police reforms came in 2006. What is the status of police reforms?

There is a long way to go. The SC has laid down the guidelines only for one of the directions it gave in 2006. There are so many other things which have to be done like on the State Security Commission. Several states have set up Security Commissions. But the point is that it is not set up as per the SC directions. The composition has been violated, the powers have been not given.

Similarly, states have set up the Complaints Authority but they are not done as per the SC guidelines. In one state, a district magistrate is the chairperson of the Authority. In Maharashtra, the Police Establishment Board is headed by an additional chief secretary. All kinds of deviations are there across the country in the implementation of the 2006 order. In actual implementation, there are several features which are in direct conflict with the SC order.

In an article on police reforms in the Indian Police Journal, a young IPS officer, Deepika Tiwari, has said criminalisation of politics is a key factor in slowing down the pace of police reforms. She went on to say that there were several instances in where political leaderships across states have used police forces for their own interests and agenda. Do you agree with such an assertion?

Yes. She is not wrong. A look at the data by Association of Democratic Reforms on lawmakers shows a number of them with questionable, if not criminal, background. What do you expect then? You cannot expect them to support police reforms.

The rules and regulations give a lot of freedom for IPS officers and other policemen. But there is an assumption that they sometimes do not show the spine to stand up to the illegal demands of the political leadership.

You can say that but the point is there are officers who have acted. These officers responded bravely. But they were humiliated, punished, given bad postings, suspended. All these have been happening. That had a demoralising effect on the rest of the police force. Those who were committed to following the right path, started having doubts. It requires tremendous guts. It is not just a question of having a spine but a question of having a great deal of moral courage to make the kind of sacrifices that the system demands from a police officer.

Another question is on police excesses. We happen to hear cases of custodial deaths from Kerala, we had the controversial firing at anti-Sterlite protesters in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi. Do you think the police force sometimes oversteps its mandate?

Yes, it happens. They overstep their mandate and sometimes completely from the mandate. It happens both ways. In Kerala you saw one extreme, in Haryana you saw another extreme. When the reservation agitation was on, instead of enforcing the rule of law, they (Haryana) locked up the police posts and police stations and disappeared. Policemen were not to be seen on the streets. The rioters were given a free run in several towns.

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