Police Reforms In India

In Criminal Justice System Law enforcement agency plays a critical role in securing the safety of society. The policing system has been designed as the primary enforcement agency that looks after the maintenance of Law and order in the country. A brief analysis of current scenario and prospects of Police Governance is covered by the article.

Historical Background

  • The Police System is a colonial legacy. The first Police commission was set up in 1857 soon after the mutiny. First Indian Police Act was enacted in 1861
  • Post – independence, we are still governed majorly by Indian Police Act (IPA) of 1861 which was drafted as a direct consequence of the Revolt of 1857.
  • Sir A H L Curzon commission was established in 1902-03 for Police Reforms and to look into issues arising because of Indian police Act 1861. It recommended the appointment of local people at officer level in the police system.
  • National Police Committee, 1978 was the first commission at the national level after independence. It had a broad term of reference covering the police organization, its role, functionality, accountability, relations with the public etc. It produced eight reports including Model Police Act, between 1979-81. But the majority of recommendations of NCP have remain unimplemented.

Why is Police Reform the need of the hour in India?

  • The basic architecture of policing is still colonial in India which is a repressive force. An independent country needs a police system that is service oriented that instils faith among its citizen.
  • Politicization of Police system due to the interference of political leaders and party workers has lead to loss of its autonomy and degraded its respect among citizen.
  • The poor quality of investigation which leads to a lower conviction
  • The advancement in technology which has opened new dimensions of crime which can not be tackled by the current system
  • To prevent the highhandedness of police in the form of extra-judicial killings. Recently NHRC noted that 206 cases of encounters occurred in the last 12 months
  • To improve the Police to Population ratio

Constitutional Provision

  • Police is an exclusive state subject and the centre has its limitations in this regard
  • After independence, some states came out with their own police acts
  • For example, the Bombay Police Act, 1951; the Kerala Police act 1960; the Delhi Police act, 1978
  • However, all of these police acts were a replica of the Indian police act, 1861. This has in extreme situations made the situation of guardian turning predator and the confidence of the people has come down.


Issues Concerning Police Forces

Operational Freedom: The Indian Police Act provides for the political superintendence of police force. This provision has been widely misused by political leaders both in the state as well as centre and has become a bottleneck in effective policing in the country. The Second Administrative commission has highlighted this issue of operational freedom in policing and commented how this has lead to a biased performance of duties.

An overburdened force: Currently, there are significant vacancies within the State police forces and some of the Central armed police forces. A high percentage of vacancies within the police forces exacerbates an existing problem of overburdened police personnel. Most of the police personnel have to undergo a 12-hour duty on a daily basis without week off.
Constabulary related issues: The constabulary constitutes 86% of the State police forces and has wide-ranging responsibilities. The Padmanabhaiah Committee and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that the entry-level qualifications and training of constables do not qualify them for their role. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has further noted that the promotional opportunities and working conditions of constables are poor, and need to be improved. Importance of providing housing to the constabulary (and generally to the police force) to improve their efficiency and incentive to accept remote postings has also been emphasised by expert bodies, such as the National Police Commission
Police infrastructure: Modern policing requires a strong communication support, state-of-the-art or modern weapons, well-trained staff, Efficient Utilisation of funds and a high degree of mobility. The CAG and the BPRD have noted shortcomings on several of these fronts.

Police-Public relations: The police – public relation in India lies under the shadow of distrust. People view police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive. This state of police – public relation needs an overhaul which is essential for an effective policing in the country.
Crime Investigations: Crime investigation requires skills, training, time, resources, and adequate forensic capabilities. However, the Law Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that state police officers often neglect this responsibility because they are understaffed and overburdened with various kinds of tasks.

Legislative Reforms

  • There is urgent need to have a central law to regulate rising cases of money laundering; drug, arms and human trafficking.
  • Article 252 can be relied upon to have a single police law if two or more states consent
  • Police and Public order to be shifted from state list to concurrent list of VII Scheduled
  • India does not have central legislation to tackle transnational organized crime

Steps that need to be taken

Specialized investigation unit: To improve the quality of investigation, every state should have a specialized investigation unit within the police force which must not be diverted for any other purposes.
Community policing:  To improve police – public relation, community policing can be an important step. In community policing, police work with the local people in the community for prevention and detection of crimes, maintenance of public order and resolution of local conflict. Various states have been experimenting with community policing including Kerala through ‘Janamaithri Suraksha Project’, Rajasthan through ‘Joint Patrolling Committees’, etc.

Improving police -people ratio: The police – people ratio need to be improved particularly in metro cities and state capitals where police personnel is overburdened. One way could be to increase the number of personnel in these cities by levying an extra security tax which can be used to provide quality policing in the city and better life to police personals.

An Independent Complaint authority: To instil faith among citizen and to overcome police misconduct, an independent complaint authority is the demand of the time.

Modernization of policing Infrastructure: Policing infrastructure in India is archaic in most of the towns in India. The system needs continuous budgetary support to overhaul the policing infrastructure in the country. A modern patroling system, modern equipment, communication system, forensic labs are the need of the hour.

Initiatives undertaken for Police Reform

  • In 1996, A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Prakash Sing and N K Singh in the Supreme Court asking the Court to direct governments to implement the NPC recommendations.
  • Ribeiro Committee was formed in 1998 by Court to review the action taken to implement the recommendations of NPC
  • This was followed by the Padmanabhaiah Committee on examining the requirement of Policing in the new millennium submitted its report in 2000 and Malimath committee submitted its reports in 2003 on Criminal Justice system
  • Supreme Court Directives in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case was the landmark in the fight for police reforms in India. In its directions, the court had pulled together recommendations generated since 1979. They make up a scheme, which, if implemented holistically, will cure common problems that perpetuate poor police performance and unaccountable law enforcement.

The Seven Directives In a Nutshell

Directive One: Constitute a State Security Commission to prevent undue political interference in policing by making policy guidelines.

Directive Two: a Merit-based transparent system for appointment of DGP and a minimum tenure of 2 years

Directive Three: Provide security of tenure to Superintendent of Police, Officer in charge of Police station and police officers in operational duties.

Directive Four: Separate wings for law and order administration and Investigative policing.

Directive Five: Setting up of a Police Establishment Board to decide on the matters of transfer, postings, promotion and other service related matters.

Directive Six: A Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to look into complaints of serious nature against police officers. It will take up cases of misconduct for officers of and above the rank of DSP.

Directive Seven: Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of

Importance of police reforms

The three greatest problems confronting the country today are:

  1. Challenge of international terrorism
  2. The spread of Maoist influence over vast areas of central India
  3. The cancer of corruption

To tackle these problems we need a professional police force, well trained and equipped, highly motivated, and committed to upholding the law of the land and the constitution of the country.


  • Lack of Political will in Implementing the various recommendations given by numerous committee and SC Directives. While few states actively resisted the court’s order, few states did nothing.
  • Since the 2006 SC order, 17 states have passed new Acts while 12 have issued executive orders. For instance, in the majority of the 17 Police Acts passed since 2006, state governments have given themselves the sole discretion to appoint police chiefs instead of choosing from a panel recommended by the UPSC.


  • Safe and efficient internal security is need of the hour for sustainable economic growth for India particularly in the light of complex security threats
  • A review of Police Governance framework, legal set up, the issues ailing the Police force –all call for Police reforms to be a priority of the state
  • It is essential to now look at the police as a service organization meeting those needs of the society that are essential for safety, security, quality of life and peace.

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