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Good governance can make good police
Jayanta Bhattacharya, Senior Journalist
Good governance can make good police

There is a notion among a section of people that police is the savior when they are in distress. There is counter belief too that a section of police is nothing, but criminals in uniform. But I believe that the nature or behavior of police change with the nature of governance.

   There is a notion among a section of people that police is the savior when they are in distress. There is counter belief too that a section of police is nothing, but criminals in uniform. But I believe that the nature or behavior of police change with the nature of governance.

In colonial rule police was regarded as a tool of oppression by the rulers. There is documentary evidence that since the enactment of the Indian Police Act, 1861, the colonial rulers were very conscious of not only building a police that must be feared, but they also consciously avoided structures and mechanisms of popular accountability. Unfortunately, both the tendencies have continued as people's representatives ruling the country since Independence too found the existing setup helpful. In many cases we are still following the legacy of the colonial British police.

   But, if we talk about police in Tripura, we must thank them for getting us rid of three decades old insurgency. Now people do not spend sleep less night in hills and villages because they know that they would not hear the ugly roaring of guns from the militants. Yet, over the recent years, the state has witnessed massive changes, from conflict to tranquility. The riots, ethnic conflicts and massacres appear to be a thing of the past. The schools in the hills are full of children again, vacated by the security forces. The doors of the government offices and banks were opened to the public. The Primary Health Centers (PHC) which had not seen doctors for years are manned once again. We know how much sacrifice did police and paramilitary forces had to make for the cause. Things began to change with a combination of political firmness, stringent security measures and determined development efforts. The key has been the state government’s pro-activeness. But everything was possible due to unprecedented sacrifice by police, Tripura State Rifles (TSR) and other security forces. Their skills, their perseverance and bravery have brought them a rare laurel – President’s colour award. I always believe that good governance can always make a good police force which can be responsive to the problems of common masses which Tripura police has earned through their strict discipline of being dutiful, obedient to orders, creditable conduct, transparent functioning and unity of force.

With my experience of traveling to many states of the country as a journalist and I have no hesitation to say that our police is one of the best pro-people police force in the country.

In search of a definition of good police, I would like to quote Sir Richard Mayne, who in 1829 said - “The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquility, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful, and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained”. I think Tripura police will acquire all this qualities in true spirit.

With a deep sense of pain I would like to gaze back in the decades of sixties and seventies. What was the scenario in the country then? The police represent an established organizational culture with deep systemic roots in society and the polity. Contradictory though it may sound, the police culture in India is profoundly rooted in societal mores, though society itself is a victim of it. Therefore, only a comprehensive understanding of the roots and holistic police reforms can make police less harsh.

The Police Act of 1861 requires the police to remain committed to the political executive. The National Police Commission suggested that the police should be more concerned with protecting the interests of the people and it should remain loyal to society.

Everybody knows that our political rulers use and misuse the police for their vested interests. The unprincipled self-seeking politicians abuse the strong arm of the police for their partisan ends.

Politicians always like to lord over the men in uniform. MPs and MLAs are quite often seen taking undue interest in the postings of SPs, DSPs, so that they could help them not only in keeping an eye on their voters but also in protecting them in their illegal activities.

This has turned our police force into a tool for subverting the process of law, for prompting growth of authoritarianism and for shaking the very foundations of democracy. 

In England, a police officer is considered an officer of the law. In India too, the judiciary expects our police to follow the rule of law. In the Hawala case, the Supreme Court had to direct the police to consider all people equal, irrespective of the position and status of the person.

The increase in police work, particularly bandobust duties and VIP security, without a proportionate increase in personnel, has increased pressure on time. Naturally, the emphasis on confessional evidence in a limited time increases the dependence on third degree methods and leads police to be inhuman, who use such methods more indiscriminately in all

The experiment in the 1970s of Mr. George L. Kirkham, a U.S. criminologist, is worth citing here. He decided to join the police to understand their aggressive behavior. Experience taught Mr. Kirkham that the thankless and strenuous job of policing generated anger and impulsiveness in him. As a policeman, he would frequently denounce the very legal restraints upon his occupational activity, which as a criminologist he always regarded as essential to the preservation of democracy!

Mr. David Bayley observed in his book - ``Police and Political Development in India'' (Princeton, 1969): ``In India today a dual system of criminal justice has grown up - the one of law, the other of politics (sic!). With respect at least to the police, decisions made by the police officials about the application of law are frequently subject to partisan review or direction by elected representatives. Thus autonomy of police officials in specific and routine applications of law has been severely curtailed... People accused of crimes have grown into the habit of appealing to political figures for remission from the sanctions of law. Police officers throughout India have grown accustomed to calculating the likely political effect of any enforcement action they contemplate... Altogether, then, the rule of law in modern India, the frame upon which justice hangs, has been undermined by the rule of politics. Supervision in the name of democracy has eroded the foundation upon which impartiality depends in criminal justice system.''

Last month Tripura police observed police week and asked me to say about what can we expect from police

When we have lot of praise for police in Tripura, we may expect segregation of investigating officers from officers doing general law and order duties. A police officer in a police station spends sixty percent of his/her time in duties related to maintenance of VIPs, petition inquiries, preventive patrol, surveillance, court attendance and collection of  intelligence.

Police must be accountable to the people, to the organization and towards rule of law.

We do not want to hear a complaint from any commoner that his or her complaints were not registered in police stations. Generally it is done due to extraneous influences of corruptions that operate on the system. Heavy pressures on police officials alienate them from taking interest in investigation.

Taking FIR is evaded by saying that it is not in the particular jurisdiction of that police station. There is lack of wish to register cases in general police stations related to crime against women on the plea that there are separate women’s police stations. But all police stations are supposed to register cases and then transfer to the respective police stations. Verbal complaints should be regarded as F.I.R and then help the complainant to resister it properly. On line FIRs should be treated as an official F.I.R and react promptly.

Not arresting people in framed up cases being influence by politicians or money. No illegal fire arms in anybody’s house should be planted by police and then arrest them in framed up cases.

Surprise visit to police stations and similar units by senior officers and proper training can yield good results.

Police should emerge as friends of people, interact with people and remain unbiased.


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