• Recently, fifteen years after the Supreme Court had issued directions for police reforms, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the State Governments to set up Police Complaints Authorities as per the judgment in Prakash Singh vs. Union of India, 2006.



  • Police accounts for about 3% of government spending
    • While state police forces are responsible for maintaining law and order and investigating crimes, central forces assist them with intelligence and internal security challenges (e.g., insurgencies). Expenditure on police accounts for about 3% of the central and state government budgets.
  • Overburdened police force
    • State police forces had 24% vacancies (about 5.5 lakh vacancies) in January 2016. Hence, while the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police.  Note that the United Nations recommended standard is 222 police per lakh persons.
    • 86% of the state police comprises of constabulary. Constables are typically promoted once during their service, and normally retire as head constables.  This could weaken their incentive to perform well.
  • Increased crime rate
    • Crime per lakh population has increased by 28% over the last decade (2005-2015). However, convictions have been low. In 2015, convictions were secured in 47% of the cases registered under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.  The Law Commission has observed that one of the reasons behind this is the poor quality of investigations.
  • Improving police infrastructure
    • CAG audits have found shortages in weaponry with state police forces. For example, Rajasthan and West Bengal had shortages of 75% and 71% respectively in required weaponry with the state police.
    • The Bureau of Police Research and Development has also noted a 30.5% deficiency in stock of required vehicles (2,35,339 vehicles) with the state forces.
    • However, funds dedicated for modernisation of infrastructure are typically not utilised fully. For example, in 2015-16, only 14% of such funds were used by the states.
  • Holding police accountable
    • Police has the power to investigate crimes, enforce laws and maintain law and order in a state. To ensure that such power is only used for legitimate purposes, various countries have adopted safeguards such as making police accountable to the political executive and creating independent oversight authorities.
    • In India, the political executive (i.e., ministers) has the power of superintendence and control over the police forces to ensure their accountability. However, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission has noted that this power has been misused, and ministers have used police forces for personal and political reasons.  Hence, experts have recommended that the scope of the political executive’s power must be limited under law.
  • Qualifications and training
    • The constabulary constitutes 86% of the state police forces.  A constable’s responsibilities are wide-ranging, and are not limited to basic tasks.  For example, a constable is expected to exercise his own judgement in tasks like intelligence gathering, and surveillance work, and report to his superior officers regarding significant developments.  He assists with investigations, and is also the first point of contact for the public.  Therefore, a constable is expected to have some analytical and decision-making capabilities, and the ability to deal with people with tact, understanding and firmness.
  • Crime investigation
    • A core function of the state police forces and some central police agencies like the CBI is crime investigation.  Once a crime occurs, police officers are required to record the complaint, secure the evidence, identify the culprit, frame the charges against him, and assist with his prosecution in court so that a conviction may be secured.
    • Crime investigation requires skills and training, time and resources, and adequate forensic capabilities and infrastructure. However, the Law Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that state police officers often neglect this responsibility because they are understaffed and overburdened with various kinds of tasks.
  • Police-public relations

      Janamaithri Suraksha in Kerala

      This project is an initiative of the Kerala Police to facilitate greater accessibility, close interaction and better understanding between the police and local communities.  For example, Beat Constables are required to know at least one family member of every family living in his beat area, and allocate some time to meet with people outside the police station every week.  Janamaithri Suraksha Committees are also formed with municipal councillors, representatives of residents’ associations, local media, high schools and colleges, retired police officers, etc. to facilitate the process.


      The women of the Manipuri Basti in Guwahati help with improving the law-and-order problem in their area, by tackling drug abuse among the youth.  They light their torches and go around the basti guarding the entry and exit points, to prevent the youth of the area from going out after sunset.

      Police requires the confidence, cooperation and support of the community to prevent crime and disorder.  For example, police personnel rely on members of the community to be informers and witnesses in any crime investigation.  Therefore, police-public relations are an important concern in effective policing.  The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has noted that police-public relations are in an unsatisfactory state because people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive.


  • Burden of Proof – The MHA and the Law Ministry should consider implementing the recommendations of the 113th report of the Law Commission of India to add Section 114 B to the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
    • This would ensure that in case a person sustains injuries in police custody, it is presumed that the injuries were inflicted by the police and the burden of proof to explain the injury lies on the authority concerned.
  • Technology-Friendly Criminally Justice System – The legal framework should be made technology-friendly to speed up the criminal justice system.
    • Presently the legal framework is not suitable for the adoption of technology in the criminal justice system.
  • Ensuring Accountability – The group also recommended that the Supreme Court’s December 2020 order to instal CCTV cameras with night vision in all police stations should be “implemented immediately” to ensure accountability.
  • Community Policing – It also pitched for the involvement of trained social workers and law students with police stations as part of community policing and incorporating community policing in police manuals, laws and advisories.

Directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India

  • Context:  In 1996, a petition was filed before the Supreme which stated that the police abuse and misuse their powers.  It alleged non-enforcement and discriminatory application of laws in favour of persons with clout, and also raised instances of unauthorised detentions, torture, harassment, etc. against ordinary citizens.  The petition asked the court to issue directions for implementation of recommendations of expert committees.

Directions:  In September 2006, the court issued various directions to the centre and states including:

  • Constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
  • Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will decide postings, transfers and promotions for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.
  • Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police personnel.
  • Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP and other key police officers (e.g., officers in charge of a police station and district) within the state forces, and the Chiefs of the central forces to protect them against arbitrary transfers and postings.
  • Ensure that the DGP of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of length of service, good record and experience.
  • Separate the investigating police from the law-and-order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
  • Constitute a National Security Commission to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.

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