Police won’t be free of influence - Draft police act retains govt control over the force

Bangladesh on 02 September 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : The Daily Star

At the fag end of its tenure, the government has prepared a draft police act apparently to retain political influence over the force and further encourage impunity in it.

Prepared by the police headquarters early this year, the draft brought no changes in the government’s authority over recruitment, promotion and posting of the police chief and other top officials, although the force has long longed for this change to free itself from political clutches.

A top official at the police headquarters said they were not satisfied with the draft, particularly because the appointment of the police chief and the posting and transfer of other high officials are not in the force’s hands.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said they were happy at the recent government move to upgrade the post of police inspector and sub-inspector to the rank of class-I and class-II officers.

The home ministry received the draft in the second week of April, a ministry source told The Daily Star yesterday. A six-member committee headed by Home Joint Secretary Humayan Kabir was formed about a month ago to evaluate the draft.

The committee was asked to submit its report to the home secretary within two months, added the source.

Under the draft, the police boss will be called Chief of Police, and will enjoy the rank  equivalent to that of a senior secretary.

At present, the top cop is called Inspector General of Police. But under the draft, there will be several inspector generals, and from among them the government will unilaterally pick one as the Chief of Police.

Appointments, promotions and postings of other officers of the rank of superintendent and above will be done by the government or by the police chief. Under the existing law, it is done solely by the government.

If passed, the law will further encourage the already existing culture of impunity in the force, as no one will then be able to file a case against members of the force without government permission.

Also, the case will have to be filed within six months of the offence committed by the police member concerned.

The Awami League-led government has prepared the draft, brushing aside the much-talked about draft police ordinance, 2007, that sought to curtail the government’s absolute authority over the force and free it from political control.

The 2007 ordinance, prepared during the last caretaker government, had a provision under which a National Police Commission would shortlist three senior most police officers and the government would appoint one of them as the police chief.

The ordinance added: “The government shall post police officers of or above the rank of additional Inspector General of Police recommended by the National Police Commission.”

The 11-member National Police Commission was to consist of, among others, two lawmakers from the opposition party and four non-political persons.

The new draft also dropped from the ordinance the provision for forming a Police Complaints Commission that would take punitive action against the guilty police member being free from the influence of the force.

The five-member commission consisting of, among others, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, was supposed to receive complaints and initiate action on its own or request the chief justice to appoint a District and Session’s Judge for a judicial inquiry.

Asked to comment on dropping this provision, eminent lawyer Shahdeen Malik said all civilised nations had separate and independent mechanisms to deal with complaints against the police.

Under the new draft, the police authority will have powers to appoint any common citizen as a special member of police for not more than two years. It will be a punishable offence if one refuses to join.

It also has a provision for creating a Public Security Fund to be used for developing the quality of the force.

The fund will come from donations and fine money imposed by traffic police, among other things.

The police chief will also have magistracy powers while police members will be able to do part time jobs at private firms with permission from the authorities.

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