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PM Narendra Modi Must Take Bold Actions and Give India 'One Nation, One Police'

There should be a Model Police Act which should be adopted by all the states with necessary minor changes.

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The Prime Minister and the Home Minister recently addressed a 'Chintan Shivir' at Surajkund in Haryana, which was attended by the Chief Ministers, Home Ministers, and senior officers of the central and state police organisations. The idea behind the 'Shivir' was to provide a national perspective to policy formulation on internal security-related matters. 

The utility of such interactions cannot be doubted. It is a matter of concern that some of the challenges on the internal security front have been haunting us for several decades. There have been multiple insurgencies in the north-east for the last about seventy years. The Maoist problem has been troubling us for the last nearly fifty years. Jammu & Kashmir has also been having a separatist movement, aided and abetted by Pakistan, for the last nearly thirty years.

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Snapshot
  • The Prime Minister has shown the capacity to take hard decisions. It is time that he took some bold initiatives on the police and law and order front.

  • Every major power in the world has a national security doctrine prepared by experts in the field. It is high time that this lacuna in our strategic thinking is filled up.

  • The Home Minister should give serious thought to bringing ‘police’ and ‘law and order’ under the concurrent list of the Constitution.

  • More important than what the policemen wear is what they do and how they perform.

India's Internal Security Challenges and the Lack of Strategic Vision

These major challenges, apart from several others of lesser gravity, have meant huge deployment of forces in the turbulent theatres year after year. It is estimated that nearly thirty-six thousand policemen have so far laid down their lives battling terrorists, extremists, separatists, mafia and all shades of lawless elements in different parts of the country.

According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, violence cost the country 7% of its GDP in 2020.

The Home Minister is optimistic that these problems would be resolved in the not-too-distant future. We would like to share his optimism, but there is no room for complacency. 

One of the basic reasons why the country has been convulsed with serious internal security challenges is that we have not cared to develop a national security doctrine. There has been absence of strategic vision. Our response to these problems has generally been ad hoc and depended on the perception of the politicians in power at any given point of time. No wonder, policies were changed and modified with the change in government.

Every major power in the world has a national security doctrine prepared by experts in the field. It is high time that this lacuna in our strategic thinking is filled up.

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Can 'Police' Be Brought Under Concurrent List?

The Home Minister talked of “borderless” crimes like terrorism, cyber crimes and narcotic trafficking, and urged all the states to come on board the centre’s efforts in dealing with these challenges. The Home Minister has touched the pulse of the problem.

However, mere platitudinous appeals to the state governments will not lead us anywhere. He would have to take some hard decisions. The HM should give serious thought to bringing ‘police’ and ‘law and order’ under the concurrent list of the Constitution. The states have been playing havoc with the law enforcement machinery. Supreme Court’s directions mean nothing to them.

The police are used for all kinds of unlawful purposes, acting as an instrument of extortion in one state, committing excesses on those who voted for the opposition in another state, and so on. This has to end.

Police must be insulated from external pressures, as recommended by the Shah Commission, highlighted by the National Police Commission and endorsed by the Supreme Court.

There would be furore in the states against any such move. However, the states need to be told bluntly that the centre must have say in an area where they cannot function on their own even in a minor crisis. Bringing police under the concurrent list would only amount to giving de jure status to what obtains de facto on the ground. There is precedent of ‘Forests’ and ‘Education’ being transferred in the past from the state to the concurrent list with beneficial results.

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Strengthening India's Existing Policing Mechanisms

Government of India must also pass an Organised Crimes Act on the lines of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA). Organised crimes respect no borders and have spread their tentacles across the country. We urgently need a central law to tackle these. India is party to the UN Convention against transnational organised crimes. There is, thus, international obligation also to enact pan-India legislation on the subject. 

The country also needs to define the concept of ‘federal crimes’ and specify the offences which would fall in this category. Central law enforcement agencies should have suo motu jurisdiction over these offences. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission had strongly recommended this measure. 

The CBI also needs a statutory basis. Its dependence on Delhi Special Police Establishment Act is an anomalous arrangement. Its jurisdiction should not be subject to any ‘consent’ of the states and it should be clarified in the statute that officers of All India Services, irrespective of where they are posted or under whom they are functioning, would be covered by the CBI in matters of corruption. At present, a good percentage of AIS officers indulge in corrupt practices at the behest and under the patronage of corrupt local politicians.

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Indian Police Reforms Need to Go Beyond 'One Uniform'

The Prime Minister mooted the idea of a common uniform for the state police forces across the country and said that this would give a common identity to all the police forces. He was, however, cautious to say that this was only a “suggestion”. There could be no objection to the suggestion; it is only a question of feasibility.

We have today more than three million police and CAPF personnel in the country. Ensuring production of khaki of exactly the same shade and texture for such a large number of personnel would require careful examination. However, more important than what the policemen wear is what they do and how they perform.

In this context, the Prime Minister had come out in 2014 with the brilliant concept of SMART police – police which would be strict and sensitive, alert and accountable, reliable and responsive, techno-savvy and trained. The concept needs to be resurrected and implemented in all sincerity. 

Sartorial uniformity would be a cosmetic change. It would mean ‘One Nation, One Uniform’, but that would be a small step. Presently, several state governments have formulated different Police Acts for their respective regions. What the country actually needs is ‘One Nation, One Police’. There should be a Model Police Act which should be adopted by all the states with such minor changes as may be necessary to suit local conditions. 

The Prime Minister has shown the capacity to take hard decisions. It is time that he took some bold initiatives on the police and law and order front.

(The author was formerly Director General of Border Security Force and  also DGP UP and DGP Assam. He tweets at @singh_praksh. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Police   Police Reforms   Prakash Singh 

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