There are numerous Police Acts in force in India, at the central and state levels. Each state and union territory of India has its own separate police force. State governments are responsible to frame the Police Acts, rules and regulations that govern each police force. If a state government does not pass a Police Act, the central law automatically applies in that state. There is also central legislation in place – the police forces of India’s seven Union Territories fall under this.
The Police Act of 1861 remains in force at the centre. It is a colonial-era law, enacted by the British to cement their rule over India. The advent of independence, a new political order and a progressive rights-based Constitution did not prompt government to pass a new Police Act. Two government-appointed Commissions have drafted models of new police legislation, but these have not moved beyond being drafts.
At the state level, new Police Acts were passed post-independence in Bombay, Kerala, Karnataka and Delhi. However all these Acts were essentially modelled on the 1861 law. Following a 2006 Supreme Court judgment which ordered police reform, there has been a small spurt of new state Police Acts passed at different points from 2007. As of 2013, 15 states and one union territory have passed new Police Acts. These are Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand. The Punjab Police Act extends to the union territory of Chandigarh. Many aspects of these new Acts are not in compliance with accepted legislative models and standards and are cause for serious concern.
In addition, different aspects of police work and procedure are governed by a multiplicity of laws and policies, as with any country. Detailed rules and regulations, which set out duties, internal policies and processes, and operational procedures, are contained in state Police Manuals. The central criminal laws of India also provide detailed legal standards, guidance, and procedures to be followed by the police.
Police reform in India
India has had a slew of official, government-appointed Commissions and committees tasked to examine police reform specifically, dating from even before Independence. In fact, there have been so many it is difficult to give an exact figure. State-level police reform commissions have also deliberated through the years. The most comprehensive recommendations came from the National Police Commission (NPC), which completed eight reports and drafted a model Police Bill from 1979-81. None of the recommendations have been implemented. In fact, the Supreme Court’s 2006 directives on police reform are distilled from the NPC’s recommendations – the latest effort to get these recommendations implemented on the ground. States are either not complying at all or complying by moving away from the Court’s framework (link to compliance chart). There is little willingness on the part of any government to put sufficient emphasis on human rights protection and strengthened accountability in the police reform trajectory, and in many respects, police accountability is being further destabilised through “reform”.
Police Organisation and structure
The head of the police force in each state is the Director General of Police (DGP), who is responsible to the state government for the administration of the police force in each state, and for advising the government on police matters. The DGP represents the highest rung in the police hierarchy.
The hierarchical structure of the police in India follows a vertical alignment consisting of senior officers drawn, by and large, from the Indian Police Service (IPS) who have charge and supervision over specific jurisdictions, the "upper subordinates" (inspectors, sub-inspectors, and asst. sub-inspectors) who work generally at the police station level and do much of the crime investigation work, and the police constabulary who are delegated the patrolling, surveillance, guard duties, and law and order work. The constabulary accounts for almost 88% of total police strength.
Police Structure of India
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