Parallel hearings on khaki reforms after cop excesses #policereforms

, TNN | Apr 22, 2013, 12.45 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Even as the police reforms issue has been lying dormant before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir, anotherSupreme Court bench, this one headed by Justice G S Singhvi, has taken up the same matter with visible urgency. Responding to police excesses, Singhvi intervened in the implementation of the 2006 judgment on police reforms, although such monitoring had been done throughout by a succession of CJIs.

Thanks to Singhvi’s activism, all the states and union territories, which have been dragging their feet for years, suddenly find themselves accountable at the same time to two different benches.

Singhvi’s bench is also pushing them harder as it has already held three hearings this month, since it had ordered the states and UTs on March 11 to file affidavits within two weeks on the implementation of the six directions in the 2006 verdict. The next hearing before it is on April 25, when the petitioner in the original police reforms case, former DGP of UP and BSF Prakash Singh, is due to give his assessment on the glitches in the implementation of the first direction, namely, the creation of the state security commission to insulate the police from political interference.

In contrast, Kabir’s bench has heard the case only once ever since he had assumed office as CJI in September 2012. In that solitary hearing which took place in October, Kabir, however, steered clear of the contempt proceedings which had been initiated against four major states by his predecessor, Justice S H Kapadia. Rather than building on the progress made in the case by earlier CJIs, Kabir’s bench issued fresh notices to all the states and UTs for their status reports. The matter has since been listed thrice (the last time being on April 16) but Kabir’s bench never got around to hearing it on any of those occasions.

Meanwhile, the provocation for the entry of Singhvi’s bench into this case was a couple of police excesses in March on successive days: Punjab police beat up a woman in public in Taran Taran while their Bihar counterparts lathi-charged a procession of contractual teachers. On March 6, Singhvi’s bench took cognizance of the press reports on those two incidents and appointed senior advocates Harish Salve and U U Lalit as amicus curiae. Five days later, this suo motu intervention into two specific instances of police highhandedness enlarged into parallel proceedings on police reforms. Besides giving notices to all the states and UTs, the bench comprising Justices Singhvi and Kurian Joseph appointed two more amicus curiae: Prakash Singh and attorney general G E Vahanvati.

This unforeseen development has raised expectations that the Supreme Court would at last pursue the police reforms implementation with the seriousness it deserved. Given the difference individual judges could make, civil society activists hope that Singhvi would help break the deadlock on police reforms before his retirement by this year-end. Since Kabir himself is due to retire in July shortly after the summer break, it remains to be seen if he would formally transfer the police reforms case to Singhvi’s bench, to end the anomaly of parallel proceedings.


Surrendering naxals to get a red carpet: Fast trials, legal aid and more money for weapons laid down by Maoists

12 Apr, 2013, 0551 hrs IST, Aman Sharma, ET Bureau

Surrendering naxals to get a red carpet

NEW DELHI: The home ministry has asked state governments to consider not prosecuting surrendering Naxalites and set up fast-track courts for speedy trials as part of a strategy to woo extremists to lay down their arms and join the mainstream.

The Centre has also asked states to consider providing free legal aid or the services of an advocate to surrendered Naxal cadre to help them with court trials. These measures are part of the ministry’s surrender guidelines for Naxals, which kicked in from April 1 and in which the monetary incentives for surrenders of cadres and weapons was sharply increased.

These guidelines seek to advise states on how to deal with pending court cases of surrendering Naxals. “Trial of heinous crimes committed by the surrendered Naxal may continue in the courts. The states may also consider withdrawal of prosecution on a case to case basis depending upon the antecedents and merits of the individual surrendered person. For minor offences, plea bargaining could be allowed at the discretion of the state authorities,” say the guidelines that have been sent to Naxal-affected states.

The ministry, which has been encouraged by a sharp rise in the numbers of Naxal surrenders in the last few years, also wants the states to consider providing free legal aid or an advocate to those who have surrendered “Fast track courts may be constituted by states for speedy trials against the surrendered Naxals,” the guidelines say.

This is part of the carrot and stick policy of the ministry, which has been spearheading the offensive against Naxals in various parts of the country.

Under it, it aims to provide gainful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to the surrendered Naxals so that they are encouraged to join the mainstream and do not return to the Naxal fold.

“The objective is to wean away the hardcore cadres who have strayed into the fold of the Naxal movement and now find themselves trapped in that net,” the norms said.

Surrender cases involving Naxals hit 440 last year, up from 394 the year before and in line with a general trend that has seen a steady rise since 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in the past called the Naxalite threat one of the most serious internal security threats facing the country, with vast swathes of the hinterland in several states outside government control.

The ministry has said that along with making it easier for Naxals to lay down arms, it should also be ensured that those who surrender do not find it attractive to rejoin the movement. It has told the states that “tactical surrenders” should not be permitted at any cost. The guidelines therefore stipulate that surrendering Naxals must make a “clear confession” of all criminal acts committed by them, including the names of Naxal planners, financiers, harbourers, couriers and the details of organisations they are familiar with.

Experts also caution against adopting too lenient a strategy against the Naxals. “A naxalite must not be allowed to have the best of both worlds. I do not think we should become too liberal and the surrendering Naxal must face the music for his criminal acts. Giving legal aid is fine but prosecution should not be dropped,” said Prakash Singh, a former BSF chief and an expert on leftwing extremism. Enthused by the sharp increase in surrenders in the last few years, the home ministry has also sharply raised the monetary incentive for surrendering Naxals from April 1.


#India – Innocent and unarmed people were beaten up,this is animal behaviour: SC

March 24, 2013

States drag their feet

J. Venkatesan, The Hindu , march 24,2013


The Sunday Story

On March 11, the Supreme Court again issued notice to the Centre through the Secretary, Home Department, on police reforms. This was at the suo motu hearing of the case relating to the assault of a woman by Punjab constables and brutal beating up of women teachers in Bihar.

Notices were also issued to all the State governments and the Union Territories through the Chief Secretaries, the Home Secretaries, the Directors-General of Police, the Administrators and the Police Commissioners, requiring them to file affidavits on the implementation of court directions in what is now famous as the Prakash Singh case. The case has been listed for further hearing on April 1.

The National Police Commission was set up in 1979 to suggest measures on police reforms. The Commission recommended a Model Police Act to replace the outdated Police Act, 1861. However, none of the recommendations was implemented. On a writ petition filed in 1996 by Prakash Singh, former Director-General of the Border Security Force (see accompanying story and graphic), the Supreme Court on September 22, 2006, issued comprehensive directions.

They include: The Director-General of Police should be selected by the States from among the three senior-most officers on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience. Police officers on operational duties like the Inspector-General of Police in charge of a zone, Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of a range, Superintendent of Police in charge of a district and Station House Officer in charge of a police station should have a minimum tenure of two years. The Centre and the States were to set up Security Commissions for selection and appointment of personnel and ensure complete autonomy in police administration.

The investigating police should be separated from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. There should be a Police Establishment Board in each State to decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of officers. A District Level Police Complaints Authority headed by a retired district judge will look into complaints against officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police .


Police must be a public Service, not a political Force

Jan 06, 2013 – Maja Daruwala | , ASIAN age

In totalitarian states, police serves the regime and suppress es the population. In a democracy, the purpose of policing is fundamentally different. Before you can reform our police, you need a vision of what the purpose of police is.
In a democracy, its purpose is to be able to ensure the safety and security of life and property, prevent and detect crime and, most of all, create an environment in which people could enjoy their Constitutional rights. The work of the police, therefore, is to protect and enable. They must be a service, not a force, much like the fire or ambulance service. When in difficulties, people should be able to call on their services without any hesitation. That is not so now.
Police have not only to enforce the law, they have to uphold it. There is a difference. To uphold the law, you must always work within its four corners. Police has to be the role model for the public. Today, it is not.
A policeman is just a citizen in uniform. So the composition of the police must reflect the diversities within the communities they serve. For example, the national average of women in police is not even 5 percent. There is no reason why efforts should not be made very early on to have all-women recruitment drives.
Police cannot be apart from the communities they serve. How can they be invested in securing the safety of the community if they don’t live amongst it. How can they understand their fears, their worries, the risks they have to bear, if the police are deliberately isolated in quarters. That separation forces them into an unhealthy subculture that creates mutual suspicion. Their isolation from the public ensures that their reactions are defensive, impervious and often violent. This has to be removed.
The police leadership often says that the police come from society and therefore cannot be expected not to share society’s biases and prejudices. But we all have our prejudices, our likes and dislikes. We also have a duty not to act on them to the detriment of others. That, in fact, is why we are policed. The collective identity of the police cannot be based on defensiveness and isolation from the public, it has to be based on pride at providing admirable public service.
Merit, not patronage and pull, must be the criterion for career advancement in the Police. Promotions, and punishment for dereliction of duty or criminal wrongdoing, cannot be in the gift of patrons outside the police force. It must be part of the system. In Prakash Singh vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had directed that the police shall have a Police Establishment Board and four senior-most police officers will sit in the Board on promotions and transfers of officers. This gives the police leadership an opportunity to clean up its house and put in place clear criteria and transparent process, where the fairness of its choices will be very evident. This is also one way to break the circle of outside patronage and create a cohort loyal to the institution.
But in many cases, the leadership has chosen to be supine and continue to wait for the recommendation list to come from outside authority. If politicians are assured that only their recommendations will work, then their friends will pedal influence and effect positive outcomes for their favourites.
Police should be given operational autonomy. And with full control over management, administration and operations of the police, must come full responsibility. Giving operational responsibility to the police does not mean that the political executive and legislature don’t control or supervise the police. It just means that powers and functions need to be clearly defined, with police, politician and bureaucrat each understanding the limits of the other. This division of powers and functions is essential to found good policing.
A system of reporting and reviewing police performance every year to an attentive legislature is also part of the changes that will make for better policing. Today, serious discussions about police — the adequacy of their budgets, numbers, composition, infrastructure, capabilities, training, skills, specialisations, annual goals and performance — is seriously missing from legislative bodies and from public knowledge. Instead, the discourse is dominated by the need for tenure, the inconvenience of transfers and handwringing about the ‘plight of the poor constable’.
The proof of good policing lies in its performance. Today, the critic judges police only by its misbehaviour and illegality. The politician, by how low the crime registration is. To keep crime figures low, police simply don’t register cases.
Police performance must be measured against realistic goals set after wide public consultation with local communities and understanding what the police needs to be able to fulfill expectations. The most important measure of policing is how safe people feel, especially the weak and vulnerable; how peacefully we can all go about our business; how willing people are to assist and cooperate with the police.
The consequences of poor policing are there for all to see. We see around us the ascendance of the criminal from petty thief to politician. We see more and more brutality, more oppression of the weak and vulnerable, and no place to go when there is damage and danger. Police practice itself is too often imbued with illegality and institutional bias.
Police have to cleanse themselves. This doesn’t require us to wait on brand new laws. It just requires highminded leadership. But all too often, its bad apples are protected and impossible to bring to book. It is this breakdown that fuelled the public resentment and anger, which we saw erupt on the streets of Delhi last December. We were angry. Now, we need to be better informed about how we are policed, and work out with the police, policy makers and our communities how we can break through resistances and change the police that we have, into the police that we want.

Maja Daruwala is executive director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (As told to Bala Chauhan)



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