Minding the police

What are the possible solutions? First, the force should be divested of all the non-core police functions and only be concerned with the core police functions. It is worth noting that in its judgment on the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi versus Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy and Others, the Supreme Court observed that the Delhi Police should only be concerned with law and order; the responsibility of licensing was too much of a burden on the police force. Upon consideration of the judgment, the ministry of home affairs considered revoking the Delhi Police Act, 1978, and replacing it with a new act in which reforms were incorporated. The draft bill available on the ministry's website envisages the outsourcing of non-policing functions. But much of the bill flies in the face of the Supreme Court judgment. It seems to have been drafted to arrogate more powers for the police instead of limiting them to core functions, and even seeks to expand its licensing functions.

Second, the Centre may not be in a position to hand over the control of the Delhi Police to the state government. But the latter needs to constructively engage in policing. The draft legislation contains no such provision, seeking, instead, to limit the police's accountability to the Centre and the civil administration. By vesting all the powers of the district magistrate (under the CrPC) with the commissioner of police and the powers of the executive magistrates with other police officers, the new draft legislation not only encroaches on the domain of the general administration, but also seeks to make the police judge, jury and executioner.

Finally, the issue of grievance redressal has taken a beating in the draft legislation. Although police complaints authority at the state level has been proposed, there is no such provision for the grassroot or district level. There is a need to constitute complaint authorities at the sub-divisional and district level, under the district administration and independent of the police. Their recommendations should be binding on the police.

... contd.

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