Analysis Of The Police Act, 2007
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, having visualized the long-felt need to replace the 146 year o ld Police Act 1861, set up a Committee of Experts, under the Chairmanship of Dr. Soli J. Sorabjee, , former Attorney General, Government of India. in September 2005 to draft a new Police Act that could meet, inter alia, the growing challenges to policing and to fulfil the democratic aspirations of the people.The Committee had been tasked to draft a new Police Act in view of the changing role/responsibility of police and the challenges.
The Preamble to the new Act stresses that "the police has a paramount obligation and duty to function according to the requirements of the Constitution, law and the democratic aspirations of the people", and requires it "to be professional and service-oriented and free from extraneous influences and yet accountable to the people." This means that the police should not work in violation of the constitution and service to the people of this country should be there main motive.
Chapter I deals with the extent and definitions. The terms defined in this chapter are exhaustive and give a clear understanding of the sections preceding section 2.
Chapter II talks about organisation of the police force. It includes the selection and terms of offices of various police officers. It says that the Director General of Police of the State or the Inspector General shall be selected by the State Government and his term of office will be of four years.
The DGP/IG may, however, be relieved for his responsibilities by the State Government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission (which has been dealt with in Chapter III) consequent upon any action taken against him under the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules or following his conviction in a court of law in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption, or if he is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his duties. This chapter takes into consideration the scientific advancements which have taken place and how they are useful foe the police by mentioning the maintenance of forensic laboratory and organisation of research. In addition to this, the appointing of police wireless and deputy inspector general of police for police wireless system directly points towards the use of technological advancements for the efficient working of the police. All in all, chapter II of the new Act helps in the systematic distribution of power within the police machinery under the supervision and control of the state government.
According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), 442 DSPs and 78 range DIGs were transferred in less than two years, in 2004, with UP leading the pack at 138 and 26 respectively. On the basis of recommendations made by various commissions, the SC has issued directions to states for transparent recruitment, appointment, promotion and transfers for below-DSP rank officers through a Police Establishment Board
Taking these directions into consideration, the Act recognises that the superintendence of the police must vest with the state government. But to counter the existence of undue dominant influence, it suggested the creation of a statutory body called the State Security Commission in chapter III .The State Security Commission would be under the chairmanship of the Minister in charge of the police, two members from the State Legislature, one from the ruling party and the other from the opposition; and four members to be nominated by the Chief Minister after approval by the State Legislature from amongst retired judges of the public standing and eminence. The State Security Commission is responsible for laying down broad policy guidelines and directions for the performance of various functions of the police and also for the evaluation as well as keeping under review the functioning of the police. The Commission is also mandated to be a forum of appeal for police officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police for disposing representations from them about being subject to illegal or irregular orders in the performance of their duties. The Police Act, 1861 does not put in place any mechanism to ensure external accountability unlike police legislation in the U.K, South Africa, Canada and Northern Ireland. The new police Act limits itself to prescribing as functions of the State Security Commission, evaluation of the performance of the police and generally keeping in review, the functioning of the police.
Under sec. 38, The Act provides for a Director of Inspection to evaluate the performance of the police and report to the State Security Commission. In the U.K, the performance of different forces is measured and compared by a Police Standards Unit, which grounds its evaluation in the Police Performance Assessment Framework (PPAF) prepared each year by the Home Office. The PPAF assesses police performance on a number of factors, including: satisfaction of victims of domestic burglary, violent crime, vehicle crime and road traffic collisions with respect to police handling of their cases; people’s perception about their local police doing a good job in the British Crime Survey; satisfaction of victims of racist incidents to the service provided by the police; representation of women and minorities in the force; incidence (per 1000 population) of domestic burglaries, violent crime, robberies, vehicle crime, life threatening and gun crime; number and percentage of offences brought to justice; action taken in domestic violence incidents; statistics regarding fatalities or serious injuries in road accidents; people’s perception about the fear of crime, time lost due to sickness of police officers. etc
Chapter IV of the Act talks about duties, responsibilities and powers of the police. This Chapter on the whole is a welcome change moving on from Power and Authority to Role and Functions; Duties; Social responsibility as well as Emergency duties . The items in the Code of Conduct for police officers issued by the home ministry can be incorporated in a suitable manner. It describes in detail the general duties of the police like promoting and preserving public order, investigating crimes, identifying problems and situations that are likely to result in commission of crimes, reducing opportunities for commission of crimes through preventive patrolling and other prescribed police measures, creating and maintaining a feeling of security in the community, etc. In addition to these, duty of police towards the weaker sections, poor persons and public is also included. Sec.44 says that it shall be the duty of every police officer to guide and assist members of public, particularly the poor and indigent, disabled or physically weak and children who are either lost or find themselves helpless on streets or other public places.
Chapter V of the new Act exclusively deals with the disciplinary proceedings. The old Police Act, 1861 authorises the Inspector General, Deputy Inspectors General, Assistant Inspectors General and District Superintendents of Police to dismiss, suspend or reduce any police officer of the subordinate ranks whom they think remiss or negligent in discharge of their duty or is unfit for the same. The new Act of 2007 increases the number of disciplinary penalties that may be imposed on police officers. Some of them are: Out right dismissal, removal from service, reduction in rank, forfeiture of approved service, reduction in pay, etc.
Chapter VI talks about police regulations. Some distinctly new features of the police role can be identified in this chapter The preventive role of the police has been enlarged and given a more positive proactive shape than the one envisaged in the 1861 Police Act. The police have been given the power to make regulation for regulation traffic, to give directions to the public, to prevent disorder at various public places, etc. In short, this chapter requires the police to identify problems and situations that are likely to result in commission of crimes, and to reduce the opportunities for such commission through appropriate measures. The need for the police to maintain effective working relationship with other sub-systems of the Criminal Justice System and with community services has been emphasized upon in this chapter. The Police Reforms Act, 2002 of the UK allows exercise of police powers by civilians. It enables the chief officers of police to appoint suitable support staff from amongst citizens to function as community support officers and gives them powers to deal with anti-social behaviour. Community support officers may also have powers to confiscate alcohol and tobacco in defined circumstances, seize vehicles used to cause alarm and direct traffic for certain specific purposes among other things.
Chapter VII deals with special measures for maintenance of public order and security of state. It basically deals with deployment of extra police force as and when required.
Chapter VIII is the smallest chapter of the Act, but nevertheless it is very important. It says that the state government may authorise the commissioner/ superintendent of police and certain other officers to exercise the powers of the district magistrate and executive magistrate under the code of criminal procedure .It also talks about the powers of the police under other Acts.
Chapter IX deals with taking charge of unclaimed property and further disposing it off.
Chapter X talks about offences and punishments. It talks in length about offences which may occur anywhere and everywhere and the punishment imposed for these offences. It takes into consideration penalties which may be imposed for petty offences like failure to keep cattle confined, for cruelty to animals, for false alarm of fire or to fire brigade, for unauthorised use of police uniform, etc. It seems that the only important section in this chapter is Sec.132 which talks about prosecution of officers. It says that no court shall take cognizance of any offence under this Act when the accused person or any one of the accused is a police officer except on a report in written of the facts constitution such offence by, or with the previous sanction of an officer authorized by the State Government in this behalf. According to Shri S.R .Sankaran, convenor of committee of concerned citizens in Andhra Pradesh and a member of PUCL, “chapter X, while welcome, deals with matters of detail. It is not appropriate that they should form part of law. Normally they are incorporated in police manuals.”
Chapter XI contains miscellaneous provisions. It contains 17 sections, all dealing with different issues. However, the last section of the chapter, and also of the Act, Sec.156, seems to be the most important section of this chapter. It says that if any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make such provisions as appear it to be necessary or expedient for removing the difficulty. A proviso is added to the section which says that no such notification shall be issued after the expiry of two years from the commencement of this Act. The second part of the section says that every notification issued under this section shall, as soon as may be after it is issued, be laid before the State Legislative Assembly.
All in all, the new Act includes measures for attitudinal changes of police including working methodology to elicit cooperation and assistance of the community. It also reflect the expectations of the people regarding the police in a modern democratic society. The use of scientific investigation methods to strengthen the criminal justice system, enabling the police to tackle futuristic trends and organized crime including cyber crime and technological additions in the hands of the criminals etc. also have been properly incorporated in the new Act. Besides, the concern for human rights, weaker sections, women and the people belonging to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes have been addressed.
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org