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Don’t clear Police Amendment Bill, delegation tells Gov

India on 01 July 2014
Location : Mumbai, India | Source : Indian Express. Image Source: Flickr User Oscalito

A delegation of citizens led by former police commissioner Julio Ribero met Maharashtra Governor K Sankarnarayan on Monday and requested him not to give his assent to the Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Bill 2014, which they claimed was passed in a hurry without holding proper discussions in the state Assembly.

“The Governor gave us a patient hearing and has assured us that he will take our observations into consideration before taking a final decision,” Dolphy DSouza, convenor of Police Reforms Watch who was part of the delegation, said. DSouza claimed that the Bill was passed in a hurry and many members of the Maharashtra Assembly did not get a chance to debate it.

“In the lower House MLA Vivek Pandit and in the Upper House MLC Ashish Shelar were the only two who managed to get chance to speak out on this bill. Both of them wanted the bill to be sent to the Joint Select Committee, however the government got the bill cleared,” D’souza said.

The delegation that met the Governor comprised of Julio Ribero, Former IPS officer Satish Sawhney, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Director Maja Daruwala and Police Reforms Watch Convenor Dolphy D’souza.

The Citizen’s group have been opposing the state government’s decision to push through the Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Bill 2014 claiming that the bill formalizes political interference into police management. There have also been a demand that the Maharashtra Governor should withhold his assent to the bill and the bill should be sent back to the state legislature for reconsideration.

The opposition to the Bill is being mounted on the assumption that the Supreme Court directive of setting up a State Security Commission has not been complied in spirit. They claim that composition and powers of the SSC are compromised and contrary to the Court’s suggestions, there is no judge and no selection panel for the appointment of the five non-official members.

On the selection of the DGP, the state has been criticized for omitting the Court’s short-listing process and allowing the DGP to be appointed on the sole discretion of the state government.

The Bill in its present form has been criticized on the establishment of the Police Establishment Boards whose rationale was to return day-to-day police functioning back into the police’s hands.
The detractors have however claimed that the state government has given itself the power to order mid-term transfers and excluded the PEBs entirely from these decisions. “Secretary-level officers have been included on the PEBs, which defeats the Court’s design of PEBs being “departmental” bodies, made up only of police officers,” CHRI claims.

On the setting up of Police Complaints Authority there are complains that this Authority is made up of serving police officers which defeats the purpose of setting up a body to take up complaints against policemen. The Bill also allows the state government to reject the final reports of the PCAs this erosion of the binding nature of their recommendations weakens their effectiveness as accountability mechanisms, CHRI claims.

The Maharashtra legislature had earlier this month cleared the bill. The Supreme Court while hearing a petition of retired chief of the UP Police and BSF Prakash Singh in 2006 on police reform had given seven directives for all the states to implement.

A committee headed by Home Minister R R Patil had subsequently come out with a slew of recommendations in September 2013 to implement these directives in Maharashtra. These same recommendations were subsequently diluted further and put forth in the bill which was cleared earlier this month.“The Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Bill 2014 is totally unacceptable. We urge the Governor of Maharashtra to send the Bill back to the state Legislature for reconsideration.

“Policing is a serious business that affects the safety and security of all citizens. This Bill requires fundamental changes if it is to be in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directives and have the possibility of reforming the police in the public interest,” said  Maja Daruwala, Director of Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative said.

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