Police commissioner system bears high expectations, despite its limited powers
On January 13, the Yogi Adityanath government approved the setting up of the commissioner system of in the two cities of Noida and Lucknow, a first for the state. With the new system, people of Gautam Budh Nagar — which has witnessed rapid urban growth in past few decades— have started expecting more prompt, coordinated police response under a unified command system. While the stage is all set for the formal inauguration of the office of Noida police commissionerate by the chief minister on Sunday, people from different sections of the society, including former senior police officers, are not very clear about what to expect from the new police system.
Former Delhi police commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma, said without giving licensing powers to the police commissionerate controlling crime would not be a smooth task. “I am really surprised to know that both the new police commissionerates do not have the power to act against criminals under the Arms Act. In a bona fide police commissionerate system, the power of allocating and cancelling the arms’ license is vested with the commissioner of police (CP). But in Gautam Budh Nagar and Lucknow, the powers under these sections are still vested with the district magistrates. If the CP does not get powers under this section, the police system becomes weaker and can never be up to the expectation of the people,” Sharma said.
Sharma, who was a UP cadre IPS officer, added that under the new system, the responsibility of maintaining law and order must be vested with the CP for more clarity on the chain of command as well as for better accountability. “A bona fide CP serves as single-point of responsibilty when it comes to law and order as he is directly and completely accountable to the state government,” he said.
The former CP also said pointed out the heavy dependence of the GB Nagar police commissionerate on authorities like Noida, Greater Noida and Yeida. “The police should be kept as enforcement agency, rather than giving them negotiating with other authorities. The commissionerate must have adequate manpower, advance infrastructure and sufficient funds for modernising policing and only the comparison of the GB Nagar commissionerate with others will be justified,” he said.
Echoing similar views, former CP of Surat and Vadodara and the current director general of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), Rakesh Asthana said the commissioner system provides unified organisational command structure and the power to manage problems created by urban growth such as encroachments, anti-social activities and drug peddling among others. “Since it also creates necessary organisational independence and homogeneity so that the police can use their professional understanding to improvise according to ground realities, the commissionerate must be well-equipped with the licensing powers. I am sure the GB Nagar commissionerate will get the powers under Arms Act, Sarai Act and Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act very soon,” Asthana said.
Former Joint CP of Hyderabad and the current principal secretary (home) of Andhra Pradesh, Kumar Vishwajit, also said the police commissionerate becomes a meaningless institution, if the licencing powers are not vested with it. “It is a must that the police commissioner must have licensing and magisterial powers. If the CP remains a puppet in the hands of district magistrates, what will be the difference between the commissionerate and superintendent systems of police? Judicial powers were given to all the commissionerates, when this system was first introduced during the British rule in its presidencies,” he said.
However, some of the senior bureaucrats do not agree that the commissionerate system should have unlimited powers. Former textile secretary and a 1983-batch UP cadre IAS, Anant Kumar Singh, said the administration is based on the theory of check and balance.
“There are several instances when the police have committed many blunders. The magistrates can cross-check facts with their civil machineries, but if the police gets unlimited powers then who will observe the observers?” Singh said.
When reached for comment, additional chief secretary (home) Awanish Awasthi, said the government is also planning to give some more powers to the new police commissionerates. “However, the plan is in pipeline and it will be too early to say anything about it,” he said.
Legal experts also pointed out that the commissionerate system is very different from Police Act of 1861 according to which the superintendent of police is bound to report the district collector.
Noida-based Supreme Court lawyer, Rajesh Kumar, said that unader a commissionerate system, the CP does not report to the DM and powers of executive magistrates are also exercised by him. “These powers include issuing orders for preventive arrests or imposition of Section 144 of CrPC or granting bail in some minor offences, sanction or withdrawal of prosecution, holding certain enquiries under Section 116 of CrPC or holding security proceeding under Section 107. It gives freedom to the police from civil administration and creates an integrated command structure with powers of regulation, control, and licensing,” he said.
Citing the report drafted by the sixth National Police Commission that recommended the introduction of a police commissionerate system in cities with a population of 5 lakh and above, Kumar said in UPonly powers under 15 laws have been transferred to the police commissionerate. “But powers under several other acts related to licensing- the Arms Act, Excise laws among others-are still there with the district administration,” he added.
Resident’s associations in the city also said that the Noida police commissionerate must be given full powers.
PS Jain, president, Confederation of NCR residents’ welfare associations (CONRWA) said while government has done a commendable job with the introduction of new police system in GB Nagar, more needed to be done. “The law and order situation can only improve, if the police system has a single power centre. All the powers of traffic encroachment and issuing fines, besides powers under Sarai Act, Arms Act and Gunda Act, must be vested with the CP like other commissionerates,” he said.