After a six-year wait for states to implement a Supreme Court order on police reforms, several former police chiefs are now venturing into activism to rid the force of what they call "deep politicisation" and "people unfriendliness".
To press the states and the union government to implement the apex court order issued in September 2006 after a 10-year litigation process, they have launched a nationwide movement to convert the force into a "truly people's police" from the "ruler's police" that they say it has transformed into.
For the purpose, former Uttar Pradesh director general of police (DGP) Prakash Singh has mobilised his old colleagues into the movement, launched on Sep 22, to ensure the executive's stranglehold on the police is removed and the force has the freedom to act in accordance with the law of the land. Members of the movement plan to fan out across the country to create awareness among opinion makers.
The apex court order asks the states and the central government to hasten police reforms, which has been a subject of debate for the last six decades since independence.
"The apex court has issued six directions to the state governments and one to the centre (for implementation of police reforms). The states have been dragging their feet on implementation," Prakash Singh, also a former Border Security Force (BSF) DG, told IANS.
"The petition I filed in the apex court dragged on for 10 years since 1996 before orders were issued. Their implementation has dragged on since. Even six years later, the reforms are only on paper," said the retired officer, who also briefly served as Assam DGP.
The court orders primarily aim at doing away with political control over appointments and transfers of police officers and to leave the work to a committee, and also help in efficient policing by bifurcating the force for crime investigation and law and order. It also provides for security commissions at both the state and national levels.
According to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, 14 states since the 2006 order have either enacted new police laws or amended the existing ones as part of their police reforms.
"The police reforms process needs to be pursued by the state governments," Shinde said at a recent conference of police chiefs.
According to him, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand have enacted the new Police Act or have amended the existing laws.
"The remaining states too need to enact the new Police Act," Shinde added.
However, Prakash Singh says the changes are only on paper.
"Some states have given affidavits of compliance to the court, but there is no change on the ground," he noted.
He also maintains that the states have been "smart" in enacting laws to legitimise status quo. "These enactments are not in letter and spirit of the apex court directions."
"We are nowhere near faithful compliance of the apex court's directions. These directions have the potential to change the philosophy of policing and transform it from ruler's police to people's police," he said.
Backing these views, E.N. Rammohan, also a former BSF DG, told IANS: "No state government has implemented the Supreme Court directives with all sincerity and in letter and spirit."
Julio Ribeiro, former Mumbai police commissioner and Punjab DGP, concurred.
"Politicians and bureaucrats do not want police reforms. They do not want to give up their powers to appoint and transfer. They want these powers to extend patronage to police officers to earn their loyalty," Ribeiro, who headed one of the police reforms committees set up by the government 15 years ago, told IANS over the phone.
His prescription to cure the "poor state of affairs" is "a people's movement" against executive control over the police and to transfer that power to the people, so that society could have a "good, honest, accountable" police force.
N.K. Singh, another retired DGP and co-petitioner in the apex court, noted that it is easier for small states like Goa and Puducherry to make progress in police reforms, but the larger states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar tend to procrastinate.
"Political non-interference is important to ensure our democratic institutions are free of criminals," Prakash Singh said.
(N.C. Bipindra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)