India's police are governed by archaic and colonial police laws harking back to 1861. Under the Indian Constitution, policing is a state power, which means that state governments have the responsibility to provide their communities with a police service (the national government has the responsibility for policing in union territories). Most state governments have a police law that adopts or reflects the basic ideas of the 1861 legislation.
There has been almost 30 years of debate on policing and reform in India, with commission after commission submitting reports and recommendations to governments. Each report has gone unimplemented. At the end of 2006, there was a shift in the reform process, with a Supreme Court decision that required Indian governments to ensure police accountability and the release of a draft Model Police Act by a national Police Act Drafting Committee.
The Supreme Court directives
In 1996, two former Director Generals of Police asked the Supreme Court to direct central and state governments to address the most glaring gaps and bad practice in the functioning of the police.
On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court of India delivered a historic judgment in Prakash Singh vs. Union of India, instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives that laid down practical mechanisms to kick-start police reform. The Court's directives sought to achieve functional autonomy for the police (through security of tenure, streamlined appointment and transfer processes, and the creation of a "buffer body" between the police and the government) and enhanced police accountability (both for organisational performance and individual misconduct.)
The Supreme Court required all governments, at centre and state levels, to comply with the seven directives by 31 December 2006 and to file affidavits of compliance by the 3rd of January 2007. State government responses varied tremendously, ranging from complying in time with the directives through executive orders, to expressing strong objections to the directives and asking the Court to conduct a review.
For more information on the directives and on compliance with the directives, click here.
Police Act Drafting Committee
In October 2005, the central government set up a Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC) - commonly know as the Soli Sorabjee Committee - and asked it to draft a new model bill to guide state government's adoption of new police laws. The PADC was required to take into account the changing roles, responsibilities and challenges of policing. The PADC submitted its Model Police Act to the Home Ministry on 30 October 2006.
For more information on the PADC, click here. Click here to access a copy of the Model Police Act.
Police organisation and structure
Click here to read more about police organisation and structure in India.
Police reform initiatives
Click here to find out about police reform initiatives in India. Click here to download a copy of CHRI's report Police reform debates in India.
The aim of CHRI's India police programme is to develop and disseminate police reform and accountability expertise, build civil society capacity to advocate for police reform and advise on police accountability, catalyse demand for police reform, particularly around the Supreme Court directives and the Model Police Act and to monitor government compliance with the Supreme Court directives.
In 2006, CHRI facilitated a series of civil society consultation workshops across India, bringing the police reform debate to the community. Also in 2006, the programme sat on the government Police Act Drafting Committee, providing a critical human rights and civil society voice as a model law was drafted for India. CHRI also intervened in the Supreme Court case Prakash Singh.
CHRI continues to monitor compliance with the Supreme Court directives and to advocate for police accountability and reform around the Model Police Act and the directives.
A list of past conferences and workshops is set out below. Click on the relevant link for more information or background material.
A people's campaign for better policing - India national workshop (Delhi, April 2007)
People's Participation in Police Reform: A Consultation for the North East of India (Guwahati, February 2007)
Roundtable on policing and public order in India (Delhi, June 2006)
Media on police reform (Delhi, March 2005)
Roundtable conference on police reforms (Delhi, October 2002)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill workshop (Bhopal, May 2002)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill workshop (Jabalpur, January 2002)
Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance - Eminent group discussion (Delhi, November 2001)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill - Public meeting (Itarsi, October 2001)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill - Public meeting (Vidhisha, October 2001)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill - Public meeting (Raisen, October 2001)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill - Media workshop (Bhopal, September 2001)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill - Workshop (Bhopal, August 2001)
Madhya Pradesh Police Bill - Workshop (Indore, July 2001)
Police reform workshop (Gwalior, April 2001)
Police reform workshop (Shimla, March 2001)
Police reform workshop (Hyderabad, August 2000)
Police reform for police officers (Delhi, July 2000)
Police reform workshop (Delhi, May 2000)
Police reform for police officers (Delhi, February 2000)
Police reform workshop (Bhopal, December 1999)
Police reform - Southern regional workshop (Hyderabad, August 1999)
Police reform workshop (Delhi, May 1999)
Police reform workshop (Delhi, August 1998)
CHRI's publications on policing in India are listed here. Electronic copies are available for download, or request a hardcopy of a particular publication by clicking
The next Supreme Court hearing in Prakash Singh is currently set down for 31 August 2007.
The people take on police reform: Peoples' campaign for better policing begins with national roundtable - Friday 27 April 2007.
Laws and standards
National laws are available here.
For more information on CHRI's work in India, contact