Maha among worst states in compliance with police reform directives
Singh was speaking on the occasion of Police Reforms Day, which marks the anniversary of the landmark judgement of the apex court on the subject. It was also a day to celebrate the establishment of the Indian Police Foundation (IPF), a think tank and policy advocacy platform dedicated to improving policing in India
MUMBAI: Maharashtra is among the worst performing states when it comes to compliance with the 2006 Supreme Court ruling on police reforms, according to the man whose name is synonymous with the judgement – Prakash Singh. He also believes that without the corruption within the criminal justice system, India would already have been a superpower and an economic powerhouse.
Singh was speaking on the occasion of Police Reforms Day, which marks the anniversary of the landmark judgement of the apex court on the subject. It was also a day to celebrate the establishment of the Indian Police Foundation (IPF), a think tank and policy advocacy platform dedicated to improving policing in India. Some of the most well-known luminaries from the policing and legal worlds gathered to discuss the need for police reforms in the current socio-political context.
Singh who had started the topic by filing a PIL in the Apex Court in 1996, said there were some gains in his 27-year-long battle with the system. “The concept of police reforms has entered the public consciousness now. The number of warriors in the battle has also gone up tremendously in the form of individuals and NGOs dedicated to the cause,” he said.
Maharashtra, he said, was among the states that were the most defiant voices against the police reforms right after the Supreme Court ruling. He said it was not surprising for him that a recent IPF report said along with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, Maharashtra was among the five worst-performing states with regard to the compliance of the ruling.
“It is essential to consolidate and take forward the efforts in this direction for the survival of our democracy. Especially as we see 40% of our members of parliament having criminal charges against them, with 25% of them charged with heinous crimes,” he said.
Singh also mentioned how Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the need for SMART (sensitive, mobile, accountable, responsive, tech-savvy) police way back in 2014. Yet, there is no formal action or implementation of the concept to date.
Senior advocate Mihir Desai who takes up cases related to custodial deaths, police brutality and fake encounters, believes that policing should be separated from external influences and interferences.
“There needs to be some autonomy in the system along with accountability. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that our police force is working under a lot of stress, especially due to lack of sufficient infrastructure,” he said.
As an example, he spoke about the huge backlog of samples to be processed at the state-run forensic science laboratories across the country which hinders scientifically conducted investigations.
Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court who was chief guest of the event asked how we, as people, can expect police reforms without reforming ourselves. “Popular culture, especially cinema, celebrates mob justice or a ‘villian’ killed by a heroic police officer to serve justice. Is it really justice? Justice and rule of law differ, in accordance with the social fabric and climate in which they are formed,” he said.
He also said that he understands the public impatience with a slow-moving system. However, the justice delivery systems are slow as the liberty and rights of every individual are equally important in a democracy.
Former Mumbai police chief Julio Rebeiro received a citation of service on the day as well. Picking up the conversation regarding the separation of policing from political influences, he spoke about how this is being completely defied in the country today.
“Political patronage plays an important part today in selecting people who will take up important police posts. If important posts like the Police Commissioner of Mumbai are given out to those favoured by political leaders, the sense of service will definitely be questionable,” he said.
He also underlined the importance of public participation in police reforms.