“Police stations should not be a stall in an exhibition ground. Lathies, boots, lock-ups, canes, handcuffs cannot please people who come there. It is the pleasant behavioural tactics and manners which may make the people happy in a police station”- James Vadackumchery
The problems of Indian Police are too subtle to comprehend by a layman. A look into die various State Police Commissions demonstrate that there is no dearth of creative ideas and even empirical research about police reform. It is a fact that the Indian Police remains thoroughly a stagnant organization, governed by die century old Police Act of 1861 and the statutes of post-mutiny era. The reasons are not far to seek and the most of the reasons for not allowing the obvious to happen lie in the professional, political, and social-cultural arenas of public life in India. The functional constraints of the police profession warrant a cautious and slow moving approach, which when spelled out in operational terms, fixes a very low priority for police reforms. The police, being the buffer or a shock-absorber of social changes, permit the political rulers of the democratic system to consolidate and legitimize their power positions and naturally, they cannot afford to take the risk in the field of policing at their own peril.
In addition to this, the socio-cultural system in the developing world treats their police forces with callous apathy and hostility because of which the police profession does not get its due share of attention and credit for the stability and the development at the hands of popular representatives in the democratic forums. “The vested interests in society and in the political system generally tend to join hands in maligning die police and frustrate change and growth by exploiting the functional nature of the police job and the disciplined character of the uniform.”
CRISIS IN POLICE – POLITICAL STRONGHOLD OVER POLICE
It is generally recognized that India is facing a grave crisis of governance today. The manifestation of this crisis-the all pervasive, inefficient state, increasing lawlessness, competitive populism, criminalization of polity, ever-growing nexus between money power, crime, and political power, excessive centralization, serious erosion of legitimacy of authority and extremely tardy and inefficient justice systems-all these are only too evident to all of us. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of this crisis is the failure of police in enforcing rule of law, maintaining public order or controlling crimes. For a variety of reasons collapse of public order, ineffective policing and delay in giving justice, affect society in an extremely adverse way. Police, by the very nature of their functioning are the most visible arm of the state. While we keep complaining against the police forces for many acts of commission or omission, the fact is that we cannot do without an efficient and well-functioning police force even for a short period of time. In a fundamental sense, the first and most vital function of the state is the maintenance of public order and peace in society and ensuring protection of life and property of the citizens. The role of the police is critical from this point in any society. When police abuses power the weak tend to be more oppressed. Whether it is corruption in the police forces or indeed in the general run of the administration, or criminalization of politics, it is always the poor, under-privileged, weak, and disadvantaged sections of society that are at the receiving end. Willing compliance with the law, respect for authority, and governance by consent are the foundation of any democracy. Rule of law essentially means equality before law, and all individuals being subject to the same laws in the same measure. The ultimate test of rule of law is the way the police and criminal justice system enforce law, protect innocent citizens, and use coercive power to ensure compliance of law. The fear of police force is extremely common in most parts of India, particularly in the middle and lower strata of society. A policeman is seen as a symbol of state power and as an agent of coercion and retribution; and not as a friend and protector. This image was largely a creation of the colonial legacy, when the police force was used essentially to protect the empire from within and to suppress all rebellion or even dissent. This situation is further complicated by an increasingly illegitimate political and electoral system, which is largely based on abuse of unaccountable money power, regular deployment of criminal muscle power and many distortions in the electoral arena. Obviously, such an illegitimate political system is inclined to use the police force illegally to buttress itself. The general public therefore perceives the police as the ultimate agency of coercion, instrument of oppression and abuse of power. As religion and other agencies of social control have weakened, an increasing need for law enforcement came into being. On the other hand, the police forces are largely ineffective, based on primitive methods and antiquated laws, their capacity to enforce public order or to control crime has significantly eroded. As the political executive largely controls the police, the tendency to abuse the police force for partisan and personal ends is irresistible. In a society in which power is always regarded as a personal attribute, abuse of power is the norm rather than the exception In addition to these systemic problems, the resources, technology, weapons and procedures available to the police have not kept pace with the need of the hour. Today the criminals and crime syndicates have access to too much power, faster transport, better communications, and in general far superior technology and speed in decision-making. The police forces are not in a position to match them with so many inadequacies. Given the fact that our justice system is archaic, ponderous, excruciatingly slow and inefficient and the conviction rate in criminal cases is as low as 3 to 6%, the pressure on the police forces to produce results by hook or crook is always mounting. With most cases taking abnormally long time for adjudication, the police are seen as ineffective and incompetent. Worst still, in order to produce short-term results, the police are often compelled to resort to third degree and extra-judicial tortures and punishments.
Developing societies, more so, post-colonial independent states that have adopted the liberal democratic form of government and institutional arrangement for a diverse social setting like India face basic problems of change, transition and growth. Expansion of democratic consciousness and the process of socio-economic change within a welfare democratic polity in a plural society produce complexities and contradictions that acquire different forms and dimensions. Social change, inevitable in developing societies, brought about by socio-economic policies of the government, set-off new aspirations and new identities that impact on the old exploitative social relationship bringing into fore competing and contending social groups with increased demands that is bound to create social tensions and generate strain on the socio-political system. The legitimacy of the state, which has emerged as the chief organiser of the society, depends on its capacity not only to perform tasks expected of it by different strata of society but also its ability to play an effective interventionist role in resolving social conflicts, that give rise to public disorders and violence, through a network of institutions for a smooth and peaceful social change and economic development. Neither all police personnel neither are bad nor police is to be blamed only for finding loopholes in law and order loopholes. Police has to work within the parameters established by law of the land. And strictly speaking, police is to be treated as most important arm of the judicial system, the other functionaries of the system being courts, prosecutors and public. Unfortunately for every failure, police is blamed and the controlling agencies jerk away their responsibility. In such situations police find itself on a very fragile pitch and always suffers. Police organizations have remained static and no machinery could be evolved to have their purposeful interference on terms of equality with other functionaries of governance, with the result that it is made accountable even for the lapses of others.