The Supreme Court and police reforms have a vast history. Still, the most recent policy changes implemented by the Supreme Court can be traced back to 2006, when the court ordered policy changes in police organisations for all states and union territories.
The police reforms were mainly directed at transforming the practises, cultures, and ethics of the police cells to ensure that their duties are being performed smoothly and without any impediments.
It is also important to regulate that human rights and democratic values are being implemented consciously, and the police organisations are maintaining a stable rapport with the other security forces.
Prakash Singh vs. Union of India
An Appeal for Change
Prakash Singh, a retired IPS officer, filed a writ petition in 1996, seeking that the police organisations be free of political control, particularly in the areas of transfers and postings. This appeal was made in the public interest of the Supreme Court.
This appeal came into the limelight again in 2006 when the Supreme Court announced Police Reforms and the Revised Police Act for regulating and transforming the police organisations, mainly for the DGP (Director-General of Police) of the states to have a fixed tenure of two years.
The court’s verdict and formation of police establishment boards:
The court proclaimed that police establishment boards were to be concocted to look into the matters of police postings and transfers. This was only one of the few recommendations from the apex court.
One of the most fundamental changes announced by the court was to have a fixed two years tenure for the Director-General of Police (DGP)
The DGP was to be selected from the three senior-most IPS officers of the state.
This verdict faced its repercussions mainly because the DGPs had control over postings and transfers earlier. But then, due to the implementation of this reform, they were reduced to an inferior position, and their post was authoritatively not as effective.
Revised Police Act
The revised or the Model Police Act, 2006, acknowledges that the police organisation is to be regulated by the respective state governments, according to the Indian Constitution. This act has been modelled based on the Police Act of 1861.
According to the revised policy, the central government is responsible for the training and resources while the state supervises their respective police forces. On the district level, the power was divided on a dual basis.
Hence, the centre, the states, and the districts were issued direct instructions that were to be strictly followed due to the reform policy:
The seven directives that were implemented were:
Ensuring that the state government is not misusing its authority over its police force.
The DGP is to be appointed through a proper screening process with a fixed tenure of two years.
Making sure that the other posted police officers were also offered a minimum tenure of two years.
The various functions of the police are to be separated.
A Police Establishment Board is to be set up to look after the transfers and postings of police officers.
Establishment of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) for addressing issues of misconduct by police officers who rank below or above the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police
Setting up of National Security Commission (NSC) to create a panel for the selection of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.
These reform policies have so far been implemented in the majority of Indian states and Union Territories. The Police Act of 1861 had failed on major aspects for it to be completely implemented, but the reform model is certainly being followed on a much greater capacity, according to the records.
The police reform is aimed at supervising the official police conduct on the aspects of values, ethics, and authority. These reforms have been inflicted to ensure that the police organisations are following democratic and human rights.
The factors that led to the implementation of the police reform were:
Law of the colonial times: The Britishers appointed and used the police force to suppress the Indian mass and keep them under control. However, this practice has been anticipated in several states of India since the reform.
Death in police custody: In the 1900s, several cases of death in police custody using torture or harsh punishments were observed.
Torture protocol: Although India has voluntarily signed the “United Nations Convention on Torture”, we are yet to receive a proper national protocol or law on torture. Hence, the police force is in charge of regulating proper punishment protocols according to the state or central guidelines.
Political control: This issue was raised in the Prakash Singh writ petition that the police force was mainly under the control of the political parties who often misused their power and tried to control the general public based on their religious preferences. Hence, the decision was made to sift the responsibility of regulating the police force between individual states and the centre.
The Police Act of 1861 had failed miserably. It was evident from the nation’s situation that the political parties were deliberately controlling the police force and the police officials.
This haywire situation and the writ petition by retired IPS officer Mr. Prakash Singh had finally brought the reforms in the police organisation in 2006, which has successfully been implemented in the majority of Indian states and Union Territories.
These reforms are generally concerned with making the states and the union territories in charge of their respective police forces while the centre provides training and other resources.