Maharashtra’s Record of Police Reform
Timeline of Reform
In 2006, the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case distilled the many recommendations of the many commissions that had looked at policing over the decades. It drafted 6 clear directives that all the states and Union Territories must adopt in order to fix India’s policing problems. It is a package to be taken all together. It also directed states to pass Police Acts at the earliest to give reform a statutory hold.
The Court has consistently hauled up Maharashtra for non-compliance, and the recently passed police legislation in the state violates each and every directive.
Maharashtra in the Court
The Government of Maharashtra has submitted several affidavits, claiming to comply with the Court’s order, but even just on paper this amounted only to minimal compliance for a few of the directives. Then in 2008, the Supreme Court set up a three member Monitoring Committee to tour states and examine compliance on the ground. In 2010, after visiting Maharashtra, the Committee reported that Maharashtra had not complied at all with the directives.
In February this year, the Government issued the Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014. Unlike the passing of legislation, an ordinance is purely an executive decision and is not open to discussion in the legislature. The Ordinance did not follow the Supreme Court’s directives at all. In June 2014, in total secrecy, the Government converted the Ordinance, word-for-word, into a Bill. After being tabled in the Legislative Assembly, the Maharashtra Police (Amendment & Continuance) Act, 2014 was passed with very little debate and absolutely no public consultation.
All of this happened despite repeated protests by Police Reforms Watch and CHRI. In March, soon after the Ordinance was promulgated, Police Reforms Watch and CHRI held a press conference in which it warned that the Ordinance violated the directives and would perpetuate, rather than remove, political interference in policing. Then, in June, after the Act was hastily passed, we urged the Governor to send the law back to the Legislature for proper debate. These protests were in vain.
Examining the Maharashtra Police (Amendment & Continuance) Act, 2014
The Act wipes out the possibilities of good policing that the Supreme Court’s directives intended. In fact it embeds into law all the bad practices that are rife and keeps the police totally in the pockets of the political executive. The people of Maharashtra now have a police that is still short-staffed, still under-trained, still unspecialised, and still ill-equipped to serve the people. But now they also have a law designed for the police to be entirely the creature of the government in power.
We, the people of Maharashtra, must demand a change. We must urge the Government to repeal the Maharashtra Police (Amendment and Continuance) Act, 2014 as it dilutes and circumvents the Supreme Court’s directives. We must demand that the new government commits to drafting a new Police Act for the State that incorporates elements of good policing with active consultations with people from all walks of life from all over the state.
See below for a directive-wise summary of the Act. For a full critique of the Ordinance (which has now been replaced verbatim by the Act) click here.
1. State Security Commission
Although the Act sets up an SSC, it does not have a retired judge nor a selection panel to select the “non-official” members of the Commission. This mitigates its independence. Its recommendations are also non-binding and only “advisory in nature”, which allows the Government to ignore any recommendations it considers inconvenient.
2. Selection and Tenure of the DGP
The Act omits the short-listing of candidates by the UPSC, which keeps the selection of the DGP firmly in political hands.
3. Tenure for Operational Officers
The Act provides for 2 year tenure but allows mid-term transfers of senior officers on account of administrative exigencies.
4. Separation of Investigation and Law & Order Functions
The Act does not create new and specialized crime investigation units, but only divests investigation to existing crime branches and detection cells.
5. Police Establishment Board
The Act deviates from the Court’s composition and brings in people outside the police leadership. It assigns the important role of Chairperson to a bureaucrat – the Additional Chief Secretary.
6. Police Complaints Authorities
Instead of being totally independent of the police as the Supreme Court required, the Act allows includes serving officers on the body. Moreover, there is no arms-length process for appointing members. This severely mitigates its independence. It also provides for a jail term of two years or more for any false or frivolous complaint. Finally, the Act provides the government the option to reject the Authority’s findings.