Prakash Singh & Ors vs Union Of India And Ors (Police Reforms Case): Guidelines framed by the Supreme Court of India on Police Reforms.

CasePrakash Singh & Ors vs Union Of
India And Ors (Police Reforms Case)
Case NumberWrit Petition (civil) 310 of 1996
CourtBefore the Supreme Court of India
Court approached underArticle 32 of the Indian Constitution
Date of Judgement22/09/2006
BenchY.K. Sabharwal,
C.K. Thakker
& P.K. Balasubramanyan
Author of the judgementY.K. Sabharwal, CJI.
AbstractIn the present case, the three judge bench of the Supreme Court has laid down guidelines with regards to New Police Act. In the instant brief, the author takes into consideration the cases referred, the acts/commission reports considered, the reason behind such guidelines and the effects of the judgement.
Author of the BriefMadhav Chandan, Student at Gujarat National Law University.
KeywordsPolice reforms, Compliance, Writ, Indian Police
Act,1861, National Police Commission, Rule of
Law, Law Commission 154th report, Malimath
Committee on Reforms.

Brief Facts and Procedural History:

When the recommendations of National Police Commission were not implemented, for whatever reasons or compulsions and they met the same fate as the recommendations of many other Commissions, this a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India was filed about 10 years back, inter alia, praying for the issue of directions to Government of India to frame a new Police Act on the lines of the model Act drafted
by the Commission:

  1. The first writ petitioner is known for his outstanding contribution as a Police Officer and in recognition of his outstanding contribution, he was awarded the “Padma Shri” in 1991. He is a retired officer of Indian Police Service and served in various States for three and a half decades.
  2. The second petitioner also held various high positions in the police.
  3. The third petitioner Common Cause is an organization which has brought before this Court and High Courts various issues of public interest.

Issues:
The question, however, is whether this Court should further wait for Governments to take suitable steps for police reforms. The answer has to be in the negative.

Case considered:

  • Vineet Narain & Ors. v. Union of India & Anr. [(1998) 1 SCC 226] In the above-mentioned case, Court noticed the urgent need for the State Governments to set up the requisite mechanism and directed the Central Government to pursue the matter of police reforms with the State Governments and ensure the setting up of a mechanism for selection/appointment, tenure, transfer, and posting of not merely the Chief of the State Police but also all police officers of the rank of Superintendents of Police and above.

Acts/Commission Reports considered:

  • Indian Police Act, 1861: Governing act for Police system in Country
  • National Police Commission, 1977 : To redefine the role, duties, powers and responsibilities of the police with special reference to prevention and control of crime and maintenance of public order, evaluate the performance of the system, identify the basic weaknesses or inadequacies, examine if any changes necessary in the method of administration, disciplinary control and accountability, inquire into the system of investigation and prosecution, the reasons for delay and failure and suggest how the system may be modified or changed and made efficient, scientific and consistent with human dignity, examine the nature and extent of the special responsibilities of the police towards the weaker sections of the community and suggest steps and to ensure prompt action on their complaints about the safeguard of their rights and interests.
  • Important Recommendations:
    1.To establish Statutory Commission in each state for policy guidelines for police functions
    and reforms.
    2. To draft new Police Act.

    • Law Commission: 154th report
    •  Ribeiro Committee (1998-99)
    • Padmanabhaiah Committee (Jan – 2000)
    •  Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System. (2001-3)
    •  New Police Act, 2006 ( Sorabjee Committee)

Petitioners Contentions:

  • To provide directions to Government of India to frame a new Police Act on the lines of the model Act drafted by the Commission in order to ensure that the police is made accountable essentially and primarily to the law of the land.
  • Petitioners refer to a research paper ‘Political and Administrative Manipulation of the Police’ published in 1979 by Bureau of Police Research and Development, warning that excessive control of the political executive can shake the very foundation of democracy.
  • The petition sets out the historical background giving reasons why the police functioning has caused so much disenchantment and dissatisfaction.

Respondent’s Contentions:

  • None of the State Governments/Union Territories urged that any of the suggestion put forth by the petitioners and Solicitor General of India may not be accepted.
  • For most of the State Governments/Union Territories, oral submissions were not made.
  •  Respondent’s put forth a plea to compliance with New Police Act when passed.

Why were Guidelines were given provided that of New Police Draft,2006?
(i) the gravity of the problem;
(ii) the urgent need for preservation and strengthening of Rule of Law;
(iii) the pendency of even this petition for last over ten years;
(iv) the fact that various Commissions and Committees have made recommendations on similar lines for Introducing reforms in the police set-up in the country; and
(v) total uncertainty as to when police reforms would be introduced.

Guidelines/ Directions under:
Article 32 read with Article 142 of the Constitution empowers this Court to issue such directions, as may be necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter.

Compliance with guidelines under:
All authorities are mandated by Article 144 to act in aid of the orders passed by The Hon’ble Supreme Court of the country. Further under Vineet Narain’s’ case: Guidelines and directions to be observed were issued in the absence of legislation and implemented till legislatures pass appropriate legislations.

Guidelines/Directions:

  • State Governments are directed to constitute a State Security Commission in every State to ensure that the State Government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the State police and for laying down the broad policy guidelines so that the State police always acts according to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country.
  • Selection and Minimum Tenure of DGP: To be selected by the state government from amongst Top 3 senior-most officers of the Department. He/She should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation.
  • Minimum Tenure of I.G. of Police & other officers: Prescribed minimum tenure of two years unless it is found necessary to remove them prematurely following disciplinary proceedings against them.
  • Separation of Investigation department: To ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people ensuring full coordination between two wings.
  • Police Establishment Board in each State which shall decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters: Comprising the Director General of Police and four other senior officers of the Department.
  • Police Complaints Authority at the district level: To look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Also at a state level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above.
  • Central Government shall also set up a National Security Commission: To prepare a panel for being placed before the appropriate Appointing Authority, for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO), who should also be given a minimum tenure of two years. Further to review and upgrade the working of forces and to provide recommendations.

Cut-off point provided by judgement to compliance with directions:
On or before 31st December 2006 & The Cabinet Secretary, Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of State Governments/Union Territories were directed to file affidavits of compliance by 3rd January 2007.

Effects of Judgement:
Positives:
● Establishment of state security commission
● Selection and Minimum Tenure of DGP
● Minimum Tenure of I.G. of Police & other officers
● Separation of Investigation and law and order police
● Establishment of Police Establishment Board
● Establishment of Police Complaints Authority

Deficiency in Judgement: (Problems remaining untapped)
● Totally ignored following recommendation:
The National Police Commission in its 8th report submitted in 1981 recommended: “Protection available to the police officers should be withdrawn under sections 132 and 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides protection to various categories of public servants from prosecution for acts they commit in the course of
performing their duties.”
● Wider interpretation of term “acting or purporting to act in the discharge of duty” by various courts.
● In complaint authority board no mandatory requirement for having a member of the civil society.
● No concept of democratic policing
● Non-consideration of the issue of the composition of the police force in accordance with caste, religion, gender, etc.
● No accountability towards public at large directly under its mechanism

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