Is CM Fadnavis unwilling to curb political interference in policing ?
Activists: Is Fadnavis reluctant to curb political interference in police functioning?
Ahead of the upcoming assembly session, activists from Mumbai are demanding that the Devendra Fadnavis-led government change the “flawed” Maharashtra Police (Amendment and Continuance) Act 2014, so as to ensure there is no political interference in the transfers of police officials, among other issues. If the government does not act on the demand, then the civil society groups are willing to challenge the law in court, said Dolphy D’Souza, Police Reforms Watch. D’Souza said the state government should amend the law in consultation with various civil society groups active in the state.
Until a few months ago, the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was then president of the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata party, was in consensus with the groups that found the new law gave politicians “excessive and unjustified” control over the police. After becoming chief minister, though, Fadnavis has not been able to spare time to meet these groups.
The law was amended in June 2014 following a Supreme Court directive on police reforms. At the time, Fadnavis, who was in the opposition, had reportedly called the exercise of reviewing the law “a half-hearted attempt in violation with the apex court’s directive.” As per the documents provided by the civil society groups, Fadnavis, while criticising the Act, had said, “Instead of empowering the director general of police in matters related to transfers and postings, the home minister and the CM appear to have ensured greater political control.”
Not just that, Fadnavis in his party’s electoral manifesto had promised to do away with political interference in the functioning of the police.
“When in the opposition, the current CM had been a vocal critic of the Bill, so it is imperative for him to stick to that stance now,” said Saurav Datta of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
The groups strongly criticized the section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Act that makes it compulsory for the prosecuting agencies to take government sanction to prosecute senior-ranked police officers. “Until we amend this section, the police officers will continue to get away with even crimes as heinous as murder. Two much-known examples where this particular section came as a rescue for the police officers are those of the Khwaja Yunus murder case and the Sohrabuddin case,” said human rights activist and advocate Vijay Hiremath.
The activists also seek reforms that can help improve the living conditions of the low-ranked policemen and women constables.
“Constables who are most instrumental in the upkeep of the city’s law and order are poorly paid and have minimal facilities. The working condition of female constables is even worse, because most police stations do not have separate toilets for women or a separate space where the women constables on night duty can rest,” Hiremath added.
Activists’ questions for chief minister Fadnavis –
* Why is there a clause in the act which effectively gives the state government sweeping powers to transfer police officers as per its wishes?
* Why does the new act not include a shortlisting process for selection of DGP by the Union Public Service Commission? The Supreme Court had recommended this step to reduce political interference in the posting.
* Why does the new act not address the issue of protecting police officers from undue political interference?
* Why have the SC’s guidelines not been followed in setting up the state security commission (SSC), which is to monitor if police functions are performed away from the pulls and pressure of the government?
* Why has the state government given itself the sole discretion to select (and effectively remove) the non-official members of SSC?
* Why is there no judge as a member of the SSC, as suggested by the court? Instead, there are three members from the political executive- the home minister, chief secretary, and the additional chief secretary (home).
* Why, in the new Act, does the chief minister remain ‘competent authority’ for general transfers of all IPS officers, and the home minister for the state cadre officers of and above the rank of deputy superintendents?