Background: In 1996, two retired Director Generals of Police (DGPs), Prakash Singh and NK Singh, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking orders to the central and state governments to implement the National Police Commission (NPC) recommendations. From 1979-81, the NPC was tasked to give recommendations for police reform. The Commission produced eight reports, containing dozens of topic specific recommendations, and also a Model Police Bill. More than a decade after the NPC released its recommendations, the two DGPs approached the apex Court as the recommendations were not adopted by any government.
In 1998, the Ministry of Home Affairs set up a Committee headed by retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, directed by the Court in the ongoing PIL. The Committee handed in two reports in 1999. This was followed by the Padmanabhaiah Committee report in 2000. The drafting of legislative models, towards replacing the colonial 1861 Police Act, also progressed, with the Police Act Drafting Committee 2006 (PADC or Soli Sorabjee Committee) releasing new model police bill in October 2006; and a further revision of the Model Police Act 2006 in 2015 by another specialist Committee. Meanwhile very little was ever done on the ground to improve policing or implement recommendations put forth by any of these committees or commissions between 1996 and 2006. The Court delivered its judgment with directions for reform only in 2006.
The Court’s directions: On September 22, 2006, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India and Others 2006 (8) SCC 1, instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kick-start reform. These directives distilled priority areas of police reform generated since 1979. As the Court stated, these directives were binding on central and state governments until they frame “appropriate legislation”. Initially, the Court itself monitored compliance of all the directives by the States and Union Territories. However, in 2008 it set up a three member Monitoring Committee (MC) with a two year mandate to examine compliance by states and report back to it periodically. CHRI regularly made submissions to the Committee. The Committee issued its final report in 2010 which indicated an overall lack of compliance.
What are these directives? The Court’s directives are practical efforts to initiate reform. Briefly the directives puts in place mechanisms to ensure that: the police have functional responsibility with the appropriate oversight by the political executive; internal management systems are fair and transparent; policing efficiencies are increased in terms of their core functions; and public complaints are addressed through an independent mechanism.
CHRI’s continuing role:
i. Monitoring compliance by states /UTs on each of the directives:
CHRI regularly made submissions to the Supreme Court appointed MC headed by Justice KT Thomas on compliance of the directives by the states/UTs from 2008-2010. Following the submission of the final report of the MC in 2010, CHRI has consistently monitored the compliance of the directives all over the country. To learn more about each of the directives and the issues linked to their implementation, please view latest charts and compliance note.
ii. Tracking State Security Commissions
The State Security Commissions (SSC) were to act as buffer body that would shield the police from the undue interference of politicians and ensure appropriate policy directions to the police. CHRI has monitored the status of SSCs, with analysis of the composition, mandate and where possible, actions of SSCs across the country in three reports. The latest study on State Security Commissions (SSCs) titled “The State Security Commissions: A study of Police Oversight in India” was published in 2019. As per our 2019 report, we found that 26 states and all Union Territories have constituted an SSC on paper, but not a single commission complies with the standards laid down by the apex court.
iii. Monitoring the functioning of Police Complaints Authorities
Police accountability is the central cog of democratic police reform for CHRI. There is an urgent need to empower and improve accountability processes and mechanisms for both police performance as well as misconduct in India. An independent, locally accessible police complaints body could be a cornerstone for police accountability, particularly for the public. CHRI has given focused attention to monitoring Police Complaints Authorities (PCAs) in states and UTs. PCAs are mandated to inquire into police misconduct, including the most serious of custodial death, custodial rape, and torture. CHRI has undertaken rapid studies and research, published reports, developed model Rules of Procedure for PCAs, brought them under one platform to facilitate sharing of knowledge, and also developed pamphlets and User Guides on the PCAs. Some details follow.
CHRI’s publications relating to the Supreme Court Directives on Police Reforms are provided below.
1. Charts, Compliance Notes, Chronology of Events
State Security Commissions:
Police Complaints Authorities:
4. User Guides
Prakash Singh & Others vs. Union Of India And Others 2006 (8) SCC 1
The Seven Directives
Directive One: The State Governments are directed to constitute a State Security Commission in every State to ensure that the State Government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the State police and for laying down the broad policy guidelines so that the State police always acts according to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country. This watchdog body shall be headed by the Chief Minister or Home Minister as Chairman and have the DGP of the State as its ex-officio Secretary. The other members of the Commission shall be chosen in such a manner that it is able to function independent of Government control. For this purpose, the State may choose any of the models recommended by the National Human Rights Commission, the Ribeiro Committee or the Sorabjee Committee [.] The recommendations of this Commission shall be binding on the State Government. The functions of the State Security Commission would include laying down the broad policies and giving directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police, evaluation of the performance of the State police and preparing a report thereon for being placed before the State legislature.
Directive Two: The Director General of Police of the State shall be selected by the State Government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the Department who have been empaneled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force. And, once he has been selected for the job, he should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation. The DGP may, however, be relieved of his responsibilities by the State Government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission consequent upon any action taken against him under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules or following his conviction in a court of law in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption, or if he is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his duties.
Directive Three: Police Officers on operational duties in the field like the Inspector General of Police in charge Zone, Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge Range, Superintendent of Police in-charge district and Station House Officer in-charge of a Police Station shall also have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years unless it is found necessary to remove them prematurely following disciplinary proceedings against them or their conviction in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption or if the incumbent is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his responsibilities. This would be subject to promotion and retirement of the officer.
Directive Four: The investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police to ensure
speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. It must, however, be ensured that there is full coordination between the two wings. The separation, to start with, may be effected in towns/urban areas which have a population of ten lakhs or more, and gradually extended to smaller towns/urban areas also.
Directive Five: There shall be a Police Establishment Board in each State which shall decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Establishment Board shall be a departmental body comprising the Director General of Police and four other senior officers of the Department. The State Government may interfere with decision of the Board in exceptional cases only after recording its reasons for doing so. The Board shall also be authorized to make appropriate recommendations to the State Government regarding the posting and transfers of officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police, and the Government is expected to give due weight to these recommendations and shall normally accept it. It shall also function as a forum of appeal for disposing of representations from officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above regarding their promotion, transfer, disciplinary proceedings or their being subjected to illegal or irregular orders and generally reviewing the functioning of the police in the State.
Directive Six: There shall be a Police Complaints Authority at the district level to look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. Similarly, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the State level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above. The district level Authority may be headed by a retired District Judge while the State level Authority may be headed by a retired Judge of the High Court/Supreme Court. The head of the State level Complaints Authority shall be chosen by the State Government out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice; the head of the district level Complaints Authority may also be chosen out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice or a Judge of the High Court nominated by him. These Authorities may be assisted by three to five members depending upon the volume of complaints in different States/districts, and they shall be selected by the State Government from a panel prepared by the State Human Rights Commission/Lok Ayukta/ State Public Service Commission. The panel may include members from amongst retired civil servants, police officers or officers from any other department, or from the civil society. They would work whole time for the Authority and would have to be suitably remunerated for the services rendered by them.
The Authority may also need the services of regular staff to conduct field inquiries. For this purpose, they may utilize the services of retired investigators from the CID, Intelligence, Vigilance or any other organization. The State level Complaints Authority would take cognizance of only allegations of serious misconduct by the police personnel, which would include incidents involving death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody. The district level Complaints Authority would, apart from above cases, may also inquire into allegations of extortion, land/house grabbing or any incident involving serious abuse of authority. The recommendations of the Complaints Authority, both at the district and State levels, for any action, departmental or criminal, against a delinquent police officer shall be binding on the concerned authority.
Directive Seven: The Central Government shall also set up a National Security Commission at the Union level to prepare a panel for being placed before the appropriate Appointing Authority, for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO), who should also be given a minimum tenure of two years. The Commission would also review from time to time measures to upgrade the effectiveness of these forces, improve the service conditions of its personnel, ensure that there is proper coordination between them and that the forces are generally utilized for the purposes they were raised and make recommendations in that behalf. The National Security Commission could be headed by the Union Home Minister and comprise heads of the CPOs and a couple of security experts as members with the Union Home Secretary as its Secretary.