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Analysis of Yojana Magazine : ”Police Reforms”


  • The history of Police in India is characterised by trials, errors, vicissitudes, imperatives of an imperial government, changing priorities, and changing context.
  • India, after Independence, retained the basic structure of police organisation, though the nature of policing did change.
  • Police as an institution, as it exists today, has evolved over several centuries, tracing its roots to the long-gone period.
  • It acts as an independent administrative institution in India, however, developed only during the British colonial period, which to a great extent was an amalgamation of various features prevalent during the Medieval ages and some borrowed from the British structure of law and order.
  • The present Police System structurally and functionally owes its existing structure to the various Acts and Enactments promulgated by the colonial rulers.

Policing in Ancient Period

  • Policing in the ancient period in India was intricately concurrent with the institutions of religion, community, and ethics.
  • There are several references in ancient texts of India which indicate the existence of a specialised unit to deal with the detection of crime and offences against the State.
  • We get glimpses of a city police organisation in the Arthashastra of Kautilya.
  • The police was an important functionary for the maintenance of peace which was a necessary pre-condition for the general welfare.
  • The indigenous Police System in India was organised on the basis of land tenure and also on the collective responsibility of the village community.

Policing in Medieval Period

  • Under the Muslim rule in North India in the twelfth century, the Police System evolved slowly but steadily.
  • The centre of power and political activity was the Sultan. Faujdar, being the head of the criminal justice delivery system at the provincial level, was entrusted to maintain peace and security.
  • Kotwal was the magistrate, head of the police, Chowkidar was responsible for the village peace and order under the local landholder or the village headman.
  • The chowkidars were maintained by the villages themselves and were paid remuneration out of the share of the crops.

Policing in Colonial Period

  • As the grip of the British tightened over the Indian territory, issues of security of trade and property necessitated some kind of police arrangement.
  • Through various trials and errors, the British perfected a Police System that served them throughout their colonial rule in India.
  • Warren Hastings, in 1772, established criminal courts as a measure to suppress and prevent violent crime.
  • In 1792, Lord Cornwallis, took police administration out of the hands of the large landowners (the zamindars) and established in their place a police force responsible to agents of the Company.
  • Districts were divided into parts and over each, a police official, known as a Darogha, was placed.
  • The kotwal remained in charge of police administration in the towns.
  • These reforms however did not yield desired results.

Police Reforms during the colonial period

  • It was the great widespread movement against the British rule by many sections of the Indian society in 1857 that made the British realise the imperative need for a regularised institution to control the vast lands that they had conquered.
  • The formation of ‘civil’ police forces was intended to lessen somewhat by the l850s to be seen as a dangerous reliance on the army for internal policing.
  • A Police Commission was appointed in 1860.
  • The purpose of the Commission was to reorganise the police department, to make it more effective and efficient.
  • The Commission recommended the abolition of the military police and the establishment of a single uniform civil police force, which would be under the provincial government.
  • It resulted in the enactment of the Police Act (Act V) of 1861. It is the basic foundation of the present-day Indian Police.

The Police Act, 1861

  • A bill passed on 16 March 1861, came into force as the Indian Police Act on 22 March 186l.
  • The Police Commission of 1860 established the following principles of police organisation: “(1) military police were to be eliminated and policing was to be entrusted to a civil constabulary; (2) civil police were to have their own separate administrative establishment headed by an inspector-general in every province; (3) the inspector[1]general was responsible to the provincial government as the superintendent was to the civilian collector; and (4) the superintendent was to supervise village police.
  • The Inspector-General was assisted by District Superintendents of Police who were in turn assisted by several Assistant Superintendents of Police.
  • The Subordinate Police service was also reorganised and the officers were designated as Inspectors, Head Constables, Sergeants, and Constables.
  • An organisational hierarchy was reinforced for the first time in the Indian Police with a clear command and control.
  • The higher ranks of officers were, to begin with, exclusively European, and it was in the subordinate ranks of police that Indians were recruited, although not in entirety.
  • Another feature of the Act was the emphasis to improve village policing which was to be under the supervision and control of the local magistrate.
  • It was also recommended that the salaries and remuneration of the police should be improved and made more equitable with that of the military forces.
  • In 1892, the Provincial Civil Service was created.

The beginning of the ‘Indianisation’ of the police

  • In 1902, Lord Curzon constituted another Commission to look into the functioning of the Police System and to suggest effective measures to ensure prevention of torture of police, better magisterial supervision over police, and several other allied matters.
  • The Commission was quite critical of the functioning of the police, however, it did not recommend any major structural reforms in the Police System.
  • It recommended that educated Indians be admitted to police organisations at the officer level.
  • In 1902, a new rank was formed especially for Indian officers-Deputy Superintendent of Police, which was although one rank junior to the Superintendent, belonged to the highest rank of the Provincial or subordinate service.
  • As the years went by, the ‘Indianisation’ of the police service picked up.
  • In 1920, Indians were allowed to enter the higher ranks of the Police through an entrance exam which was to be held in India as well as in England.

Lee Commission

  • It was formed in 1924 through which recruitment shifted in favour of Indians.
  • Indianisation of police service continued to be very slow, however, Police reforms were undertaken during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did create a uniform and highly hierarchical police which was made subordinate to the needs of the colonial State.
  • As the nationalist movement gathered momentum and ferocity in the twentieth century, Indian police were increasingly used to suppress and control these movements.
  • Herein lay the dilemma of the Indian police: Indians were very cleverly utilised against the Indians.
    It was “an agonising time of trial”.
  • India after independence in 1947, built up its administrative and police structure primarily based on what the British had established.

The history of Special Police Forces

  • The twentieth century ushered in a period of renewed and more persistent nationalist agitations throughout the country.
  • The existing district police, though expanded over a period, was not enough to enforce control.
  • Therefore, it was decided to constitute armed ‘striking forces’.
  • Two major striking forces were formed in the Madras Presidency- the Malabar Special Force and the East Coast Special Force.
  • Both the forces were specialised, well trained, disciplined, and armed with the latest weapons.
  • They may be called the harbingers of today’s paramilitary forces.
  • With the spread and aggressiveness of the Quit India agitation in 1942 and the onset of the Second World War in 1939, the government perforce had to increase the strength of the police reserves as well as paramilitary forces.

Various Committees/Commissions for Police Reforms

  • National Police Commission (1978-82);
  • The Padmanabhaiah Committee on the restructuring of Police (2000); and
  • The Malimath Committee on reforms in the Criminal Justice System (2002-03).
  • Ribero Committee 1998
  • Directions of the Supreme Court of India (2000-01)
  • Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System(2001-03).
  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission.

Policy towards Police Reforms in Recent Years

  • ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • However, the Government of India, in September 2017, approved the implementation of the umbrella scheme of “Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF)”.
  • This Scheme has two verticals – Police Modernisation & Security Related Expenditure (SRE) & includes central sector sub-schemes such as Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems(CCTNS) project and e-Prisons project, which have been made operational in all the States/Union Territories.
  • The Government also implemented Special Central Assistance (SCA) scheme to undertake development interventions in Left Wing Extremism(LWE) districts.
  • Additionally, the focus is also laid upon the up-gradation of police wireless and other infrastructure.
  • This scheme also includes central governments’ scheme to assist State Governments in the modernisation of their police forces.
  • The second vertical of SRE comprises sub-schemes for Jammu & Kashmir, North Eastern States, and LWE affected States as well as Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS).
  • One of the major aims of the Scheme was to bolster the Government’s ability to address challenges faced in different theatres such as areas affected by LWE, Jammu and Kashmir and North East effectively, and undertake development interventions that will catalyse in improving the quality of life in these areas and help combat these challenges effectively at the same time.
  • To combat Left Wing Extremism, the Government, in 2015, had approved the ‘National Policy and Action Plan’, which includes a multi-pronged approach covering areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of tribals/local communities, and perception management.
  • The steadfast implementation of the Policy and Action Plan has resulted in the decline of LWE-related violence and the geographical spread of LWE influence.

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