Police Reforms: 4 Decades and Still Waiting

Article Edited and Compiled by Shantanu K. Bansal

The police force is far from efficient, it is defective in training and organization, it is inadequately supervised, it is generally regarded as corrupt and oppressive, and it has utterly failed to secure the confidence and cordial cooperation of the peopleA.H.L.Fraser, Chairman of the Second Police Commission(1902)

The need for police reforms in India is long recognised. There has been almost four decades of discussion by government created committees and commissions.

Way back in 1979 the National Police Commission (NPC) was set up to report on policing and give recommendations for reform. The Commission produced eight reports, dozens of topic specific recommendations and also a Model Police Act.

None of the major recommendations were adopted by any government. This persuaded two former Director General’s of Police (DGPs) in 1996 to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court asking the Court to direct governments to implement the NPC recommendations. In the course of the 10 year long case, in 1998 the Court set up the Ribeiro Committee which handed in its reports in 1999.

It was followed by the Padmanabhaiah Committee report in 2000 and eventually the Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC or Soli Sorabjee Committee) that drafted a new model police bill to replace the colonial 1861 Police Act. Meanwhile very little was ever done on the ground to improve policing.

Starting from the second Police Commission in 1902 headed by A.H.L. Fraser, there have been many commissions and committees formed to look into reforming the police in India.

Prominent among them are: Gore Committee on Police Training, the National Police Commission, The Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms, The Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms (summary), Prakash Singh Vs Union of India – SC directives for Police Reforms and Soli Sorabjee Committee.

What are the Seven Directives by the Supreme Court on Police Reforms?

In passing these directives the Court put on record the deep rooted problems of politicization, lack of accountability mechanisms and systemic weaknesses that have resulted in poor all round performance and fomented present public dissatisfaction with policing. The directives can be broadly divided into two categories: those seeking to achieve functional responsibility for the police and those seeking to enhance police accountability. They are as enumerated below:

The Seven Directives in a Nutshell

Directive One

Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:

(i) Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the
(ii) Lay down broad policy guidelines; and
(iii) Evaluate the performance of the state police

Directive Two

Ensure that the DGP is appointed through a merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years appointment.

Directive Three

Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police (SPs) in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum
tenure of two years.

Directive Four

Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.

Directive Five

Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.

Directive Six

Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of
Police in cases of serious misconduct.

Directive Seven

Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure security of two years.

De-politicisation of Police remains the Major Issue

Other Issues of Growing Importance

The issues include vacancies and fair representation of women, reforms in criminal justice system, in-service training of police, sensitisation towards role in society and ensuring optimal accountability. The analysts also believe that police performance shouldn’t be judged merely on crime data. The de-politicisation of the police remains the gravest issue which must be addressed urgently.

End Notes:

“Seven Steps to Police Reforms” by Human Rights Initiative, document available at: https://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/programs/aj/police/india/initiatives/seven_steps_to_police_reform.pdf.pdf




  • Shantanu K. Bansal

    Founder of IADN. He has more than 10 years of experience in research and analysis. An award winning researcher, he writes for the leading defence and security journals, think-tanks and in-service publications. He is a senior consultant at the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Shimla. Contact him at: Shantanukbansal2@gmail.com

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