The decision of the Uttar Pradesh Government to introduce commissionerate system in the State, initially in Lucknow (State capital) and Noida (financial capital), thereby giving greater powers to the police, is significant and timely.
In terms of the archaic Indian Police Act, 1861 which is still in vogue across the country, a police commissionerate system ought to be implemented in urban areas having a population of more than 10 lakh. As per the 2011 census, Lucknow which had a population of 29 lakh, has now increased to 40 lakh. Similarly the population of Gautam Budh Nagar which was 16 lakh, as per the 2011 census, has now increased to more than 25 lakh.
Overall, spread over 2,40,928 SQ KM, Uttar Pradesh is the fifth largest State in terms of area and the most populated one in the country. Well, during 2016, 2017 and 2018, number of crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code in Uttar Pradesh according to the National Crime Records Bureau was 2,82,171, 3,10,084 and 3,42,355 respectively.
Although the twin cities of Noida and Greater Noida (with a population of over 8 lakhs and growing) seemingly offer better infrastructure, even more impressive residential, educational and commercial facilities, due to which it is a preferred destination for many, a growing worry is the rising crime graph.
More recently, on 6 January this year, the murder of 39-year-old Gaurav Chandel in Greater Noida West sent shockwaves across the city. Gaurav, returning from work, barely few minutes away from his home by car was shot dead by some miscreants. According to media reports, during the last conversation that Gaurav had with his wife at around 1030 PM, he had told her that some policemen have stopped his car for checking and would be home within 10 minutes.
As he did not return, the family members along with neighbours approached the local police and visited at least three police stations in the dead of the chilly night but except passing the buck none offered help citing jurisdiction. Finally after 6 hours of searching, the dead body of Gaurav was located by the family members and his car, laptop, wallet and mobile phones were missing. Blaming inaction on the part of local police after thousands of residents of the locality took to the streets demanding action, Senior Government Officers visited the family of the deceased and assured of action. Even as Gaurav’s car was located almost a week after the incident, his killers are still at large and the case is being investigated by a special task force. Five policemen including an inspector, a SHO and three sub-inspectors have been suspended for dereliction of duty.
Now that a Police Commissioner has taken charge at Noida along with a team of senior police officers, the law and order system in the city is set to improve. Nonetheless, the men at the lower rungs of the police system, especially their attitude towards the public has to change for the better. The most unprofessional manner in which the police handled the Gaurav Chandel’s case has a lot to do with reforming their colonial mindset. Despite several committees were set up by successive governments to look into police reforms nothing has happened actually.
In this context it is important to revisit relevant parts of the Supreme Court judgement of 22 September 2006 in Prakash Singh & Others vs Union of India & Others. The Bench observed that the commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the Rule of Law. The supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that the police serve the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures. Its approach has to be service oriented; its role has to be defined so that in appropriate cases, where on account of acts of omission and commission of police, the Rule of Law becomes a casualty, the guilty Police Officers are brought to book and appropriate action taken without any delay.
Similarly, we can only express our hope that all State Governments would rise to the occasion and enact a new Police Act wholly insulating the police from any pressure whatsoever thereby placing in position an important measure for securing the rights of the citizens under the Constitution for the Rule of Law, treating everyone equal and being partisan to none, which will also help in securing an efficient and better criminal justice delivery system.
The Director General of Police of the State shall be selected by the State Government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the Department who have been empanelled for promotion. The investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. There shall be a Police Establishment Board in each State shall decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. There shall be a Police Complaints Authority at the district level to look into complaints against police officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Central Government shall also set up a National Security Commission at the Union level to prepare a panel for being placed before the appropriate Appointing Authority, for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations, who should also be given a minimum tenure of two years.
Since law and order is a state subject, beyond establishing police commissionerate systems in urban areas having a population of over 10 lakh, it is important for those in the corridors of powers to give a thought to the policemen at the lower rungs. A lot needs to be done for bringing about a change in the way they deal with the public. No one is above the law irrespective of his/her rank and position.(Published on 20th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 04)