New Delhi: An assessment of the compliance status of states and union territories with the Supreme Court directives on police reforms has revealed that there has not been “a single case of full compliance” and that the governments have “either blatantly rejected, ignored, or diluted significant features of the directives”.
More than a decade after the passage of the directives, the Centre and all states are still not in compliance with them, a study by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has noted. It has also pointed out that only 18 states have passed new Police Acts since 2006, and while others have issued government orders/notifications, not a single one has incorporated the directives in full conformity with the Court’s scheme.
The CHRI study had made assessments on the basis of the directives pertaining to police reforms issued by the court and a set of specific parameters laid down for each.
The findings of the study assume significance as the Supreme Court, which had in the matter of Prakash Singh versus Union of India, 2006 earlier laid down seven directives on police reforms for the central and state governments, will again be hearing the matter after nearly a decade on April 23.
State security commissions
The first of these directives pertained to the constitution of a state security commission (SSC) in each state and union territory with an aim to “ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the state police”.
The main functions of the SSC were supposed to include drafting broad policy guidelines, evaluating the performance of the police and preparing an annual report to be placed before the legislature.
The panel was meant to be a buffer between the political executive and police through its policymaking role and wide membership. In short, it was to ensure that the political executive has the ultimate responsibility of providing the public with efficient, unbiased and accountable policing while retaining its legitimate authority over the police, the CHRI said.
There were five broad elements pertaining to the constitution of SSCs. These included establishment of a state security commission; inclusion of the leader of the opposition in it; inclusion of independent members in the SSC and inclusion of an independent panel for selection of the independent members; the need for states to specify that SSC’s recommendations are binding on them and the placing of an annual report of the SSC by the state before its legislature.
What the Supreme Court had in mind for SSCs
The apex court had also provided three models – those recommended by the National Human Rights Commission, the Ribeiro Committee and the Sorabjee Committee – to the states or UTs to choose from while forming the SSC. However, all these models generally included the chief minister or the home minister as the chairperson, DGP as ex-officio secretary, leader of the opposition, chief secretary, a retired judge nominated by the chief justice of the high court, and three to five non-political independent members.
On the inclusion of the independent members, the Supreme Court had stated that members of the commission are to be “chosen in such a manner that it is able to function independent of government control”.
Twenty-seven of 29 states constituted SSCs
As for compliance on constitution of the SSC, the report said 27 out of 29 states have constituted an SSC, either through Police Acts or government orders. Only Jammu and Kashmir and Odisha had not established a state security commission on paper.
However, when it came to fulfilling the other conditions laid down on the constitution of SSCs, many states had fallen short. Six of the 27 states, namely Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Punjab and Tripura, had not included the leader of the opposition in the SSC.
Likewise, as many as 18 states had included independent members as part of the SSC, but had not provided an independent selection panel for their appointments. On the other hand Bihar, Karnataka and Punjab had not included independent members in the SSC at all.
When it came to making the recommendations of the SSC binding, only Andhra Pradesh was found to have done so. The report also marked Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh as non-compliant since they had made recommendations of SSC binding “only to the extent feasible”.
Of the 29 states, only eight – Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal – were found to have fulfilled the requirement to prepare an annual report of the SSC and table it before the state legislature.
The report said while SSC have been set up in all the union territories and they include the leader of opposition and five independent members each, the MHA’s memo remains silent on the selection panel, binding recommendations and preparation of annual report.
On the other key binding features of the constitution of the SSCs, the assessment report said Nagaland is the only state that provides for tenure and independent selection of the director general of police (DGP) in full compliance with the court’s scheme.
Twenty-three states ignored guidelines on appointment of DGPs
Though the second directive pertaining to the “tenure and selection of the DGP” clearly states that the DGP must be selected from amongst the three senior-most officers empanelled by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for the post and that the selection be made on the basis of the candidates’ length of service, service record and range of experience, the assessment revealed that the requirement of the UPSC preparing a shortlist of candidates on these criteria was largely ignored. In 23 states it found that the power to appoint the DGP vested solely with state governments.
Similarly, while the directive laid down that the DGP must have a minimum tenure of two years irrespective of the date of superannuation, the study found that only four states had provided this minimum tenure to the officer.
As for the compliance with the third directive that provided for a minimum tenure of two years for the inspector general of police (in charge of a zone), the deputy inspector general of police (in charge of a range), the superintendent of police (in charge of a district) and the station house officer (in charge of a police station), the study found that only six states had provided for minimum tenure of two years for the IGP and other officers in key operational posts.
Separation of investigation and law and order wings not undertaken by 12 states
Likewise, when it came to the fourth directive, the CHRI said “to encourage specialization and upgrade overall performance, the court ordered a gradual separation of investigative and law and order wings, starting with towns and urban areas with a population of one million or more.” But it said the assessment found that “12 states have not laid down any measure to separate investigation duties from law and order”.
As for the union territories, it said, except Delhi, they have not implemented this directive since the separation has to be effected in towns/urban areas with population of ten lakh or more.
Only Andhra Pradesh complied with all directions while constituting Police Establishment Board
The fifth directive had pertained to the setting up of a Police Establishment Board (PEB) within each police department, made up of the DGP and four senior officers. The Board was to decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters for police officers of and below the rank of deputy superintendent of police. It had been laid down that the state governments would be able to interfere with the Board’s decisions only in “exceptional cases” after recording the reasons.
The Board was also to act as a forum of appeal for officers of the rank of superintendent of police and above for any grievances regarding promotion/transfer decisions, disciplinary proceedings, or illegal orders; and for generally reviewing the functioning of the police in the state.
The CHRI study noted that while “all states have constituted Police Establishment Board on paper but only Arunachal Pradesh complies with the directive fully.”
No state formed Police Complaint Authority in accordance with directive
As for the sixth directive, which provided for establishing a Police Complaints Authority at both state and district levels to “to look into complaints against police officers from the public in cases of serious misconduct and select types of misconduct”, the assessment said only 12 states had constituted a PCA both at state and district level in accordance with the directive. “There is not a single state that complies with the Court’s scheme in terms of composition, selection process and functioning of the PCAs,” it pointed out.