Civil Society Proposition for a new Delhi Police Law

The need for a comprehensive reform of the system of policing in the country, which is essentially based on the colonial Indian Police Act of 1860, has long been felt. Over the years, various Commissions and expert bodies have submitted their recommendations on the subject. A “Police Act Drafting Committee” (PADC) was set up by the Government of India in 2005 under the chairmanship of the eminent jurist, Shri Soli Sorabjee. The PADC submitted its proposition for a Model Police Act (MPA) to the Government in October, 2006.

Earlier, in a writ petition filed by Prakash Singh, Common Cause and another, the Supreme Court gave seven time bound directions on police reforms. Six of these related to policing and internal security at the state level and the seventh to establishment of a National Security Commission by the Union Government. The Supreme Court directions on state level policing and internal security find a parallel in the provisions of the MPA.

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission set up by the Union Government under the chairmanship of Shri Veerappa Moily also reviewed the system of policing and criminal justice.In its report on “Public Order”, the Commission endorsed the schema of the MPA while suggesting a few additional provisions, notably a penalty for illegal orders amounting to interference in investigation by the police and obstruction of justice.

As policing is a state subject under the Constitutional scheme, there has been a persistent demand from civil society that the Government of India should take the lead in enacting a new police law for the Union Territories based on the MPA and the Supreme Court directions. Eventually, in September 2009, the Union Home Secretary requested the Lt. Governor of Delhi to send a legislative proposal for amendments to the Delhi Police Act, 1978, in conformity with the Supreme Court directions and the provisions of the MPA. The Lt. Governor forwarded a draft “Delhi Police (Amendment) Bill, 2010” to the Union Home Ministry on February 23, 2010. The proposal has been put in the public domain for comments.

After an independent study of the Amendment Bill, three civil society organizations, which have been keenly interested in police reforms, viz. Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Foundation for Restoration of National Values (FRNV), came to the conclusion that it is not feasible to overcome the inherent limitations of the Delhi Police Act, 1978 through the amendment route in order to convert it into a framework legislation capable of meeting the contemporary needs of policing in the context of a hostile security environment, mounting societal tensions and rapid urban expansion. This perception was shared by several eminent persons at a Workshop organized by Bureau of Police R&D on April 10, 2010 as a part of the process of stakeholder consultation on the proposed amendments. It was felt that the amendments fall short of the objectives of the Supreme Court directions and the schema laid down by the MPA. Moreover, in the process of incorporating piecemeal the proposed amendments into the 1978 Act, its internal logic would get severely disturbed, giving rise to new legal uncertainties..

Against this backdrop, the three civil society organizations have jointly drafted an alternate “Delhi Police Bill, 2010”. The Bill, based essentially on the Model Police Act, 2006, faithfully incorporates the directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh’s case and also takes into account the relevant recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. On the other hand, those provisions of the Delhi Police Act, 1978, and the Amendment Bill, which seek to replicate the existing provisions of other specialized laws and codes, have been excluded in order to obviate potential conflicts or redundancy. This formulation reflects the deep desire of the citizens of India, and of many eminent organizations, corporate firms and civil activists, to improve the state and status of the police services across the country.

The proposed “Delhi Police Bill, 2010” has provided for the following essentials.

1. Well defined structures which ensure Operational Autonomy, along with institutional arrangements to assess performance and enforce Accountability.

2. Clear delineation of role, functions, duties and responsibilities, internally within the police service and externally vis-a-vis of the civilian authorities.

3. High levels of professionalism and leadership qualities, enhanced by regular training and infrastructure comprising effective transport, quality computer databases and communication network, modern weapons, clean & well designed Police Stations and other work places.

4. Focus on Core Police Functions and Duties, viz. Crime Investigation, Maintenance of Law & Order, Intelligence and Internal Security, while gradually transferring non-core functions to State & local institutions in accordance with the intent and provisions of the Constitution.

5. Transparent procedures for Recruitment, Promotion, Disciplinary action and Grievance Redressal.

6. Welfare Measures for the lower ranks of police personnel, which constitute the vast majority of the strength of police organizations.

7. Operational transparency to the maximum extent feasible and effective mechanisms for co-ordination and co-operation between the police service and the civil authorities and between the police service and common citizens.

Common Cause, CHRI and FRNV have transmitted their proposal to the Union Home Secretary on May 3, 2010 along with an Executive Summary of the proposed bill. The signatories to the forwarding letter include Shri Vikram Lal, Shri BG.Verghese and Dr. E. Shreedharan.

It is hoped that the enactment of the proposed “Delhi Police Bill, 2010” would lead to a significant improvement in the effectiveness of policing, raise the morale of the members of the police service in Delhi and motivate other states in the country to reform their police laws on the same lines.