What happened to Police Reforms in J&K ?

Greater Kashmir

In 2006 as a culmination to all the committee and commission recommendations the Supreme Court laid out a road map for reform.

More than a year ago Government sought some feedback from civil society , NGOs and general public, via State Home Department website, while making the new Police Reforms draft bill public. But till date people are unaware  of what kind of feedback was received by the Government and what all changes the Government made in the draft bill? The irony is that the draft bill was not  introduced in the recent  session of the state legislature and it seems that the Government is hardly bothered to reform its police by enacting a new Police law. The human rights activists, media have also blamed Government for not holding public consultations on the bill.

Background :
The debate around police reform for years has revolved around on how to satisfactorily separate police functioning from undue and illegitimate political control and yet keep the police wholly accountable to civilian authority. The political executive argues that the police must be directly controlled by them and the police argue that the kind of supervision and control that is presently exercised skews the motivation and directions of policing and makes delivering high performance policing impossible.
This is where the key to better policing lies. It lies in defining precisely the powers and functions of political executive and police chief. In this model the political executive retains its supremacy of supervision and control and the police rather than being ‘independent’ or ‘autonomous’ (words that do not have good connotations in a democracy when referring to a coercive force) have ‘operational responsibility’. In other words, by making roles explicit in the statute itself one can achieve the best of solutions; which are on the one hand a civilian executive that lays down policy, provides the means to operationalise it and is able to hold the police chief accountable for good performance, and on the other a police establishment that has clear goals and tasks before it and is left alone to deliver the protection of life, property and liberty without being distracted by discretionary directions from various sources. Such a schema that conditions executive powers without diminishing it makes it even more potent.

A suggested model:
“Responsibilities and independence of State Police Chief”
The supervision, direction and control of the police throughout the state shall be vested in an officer of the rank of Director General of Police (DGP) designated as the state police chief.
The DGP shall be responsible to the Minister (Home Minister) for
i) carrying out the functions and duties of the police;
ii) the general conduct of the police;
iii) the effective, efficient and economical management of the police;
iv) tendering advice to the Minister;
v) giving effect to any lawful ministerial directions.

The DGP shall not be not responsible to, and must act independently of, the Minister regarding:
i) the maintenance of order in relation to any individual or group of individuals; and
ii) the enforcement of the law in relation to any individual or group of individuals; and
iii) the investigation and prosecution of offences; and
iv) decisions about individual police officers.
The Minister may give the DGP directions on matters of government policy that relate to the:
i) prevention of crime;
ii) maintenance of public safety and public order;
iii) delivery of police services; and
iv) general areas of law enforcement.
No direction from the Minister to the DGP may have the effect of requiring the non-enforcement of a particular area of law.
The Minister must not give directions to the DGP in relation to the following:
i) enforcement of the criminal law in particular cases and classes of cases
ii) matters that relate to an individual or group of individuals
iii) decisions on individual members of the police
If there is dispute between the Minister and the DGP in relation to any direction under this section, the Minister must, as soon as practicable after the dispute arises,
i) provide that direction to the DGP in writing; and
ii) publish a copy in the gazette; and
iii) present a copy to the legislature.
There is no merit in rehashing the problems. The solutions as well have laid down, but from the eight reports of the National Police Commission, to the reports of the multiple committees that have deliberated endlessly; to the MHA’s own initiative of drawing up a brand new Model Police Bill to the Supreme Court’s final orders on reform – all have gathered only dust. In 2006 as a culmination to all the committee and commission recommendations the Supreme Court laid out a road map for reform. Its order sought to address the extreme politicization of the police, the complete lack of accountability and the dismal levels of un-professionalism. It’s been five years since the judgment. Every state government has shunned compliance.
According to  Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)  for most states policing continues – business as usual’. Jammu and Kashmir falls within those states that had earlier  chosen to ignore most of the Court’s directives under the garb of security situation of the state. It drafted a new Police Act in complete secrecy without holding any public consultations. It was only after public pressure that the new police draft bill was made public. But after more than a year of making the draft bill public the Government has failed to hold a public consultations on the bill.
The Supreme Court’s directives on police reforms have provided opportunity and impetus for states to institute a legislative framework that can alleviate if not cure the ills afflicting  policing today. The “cure” however must not become worse than the disease, for the consequences of a bad Law are plain to see. It is disgusting that that in-spite of making assurances with people of this troubled state the Government has miserable failed to reform its police and the bill which was prepared never saw the light of the state legislature and instead was sent to deep freezer. It is hoped that the Government will fulfill its  promise of holding public consultations with civil society, media and other stake holders in J&K before the new police bill is introduced in the state legislature .