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Justice Verma Committee report on Police Reforms

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JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE REPORT IMAGERajul Jain, Legal Research Officer,  Shakti Vahini

Making stringent laws alone will not take the society to a pedestal better than the one we find it at now. It is in recognition of this fact that the Justice Verma Committee report in a separate chapter deals with the proposition of bringing about police reforms. Such reforms are necessary not only to curb gender based violence but also to deliver justice effectively.

The report notes various Supreme Court judgments where the court has made observations in favour of ushering in police reforms. One such example is that of Prakash Singh & Ors. Vs Union of India & Ors, (2006) 8 SCC 1, whereby the court noted that National Police Commission, National Human Rights Commission, Law Commission, Ribeiro Committee, Padmanabhaiah Committee and Malimath Committee had all broadly come to the conclusion of urgent need for police reforms with agreement on the key areas of focus that cover the following aspects:

  1. State Security Commission at State level;
  2. Transparent procedure for the appointment of Police Chief and the desirability of giving him a minimum fixed tenure;
  3. Separation of investigation from law and order; and
  4. A new Police Act which should reflect the democratic aspirations of the people.

Also cited is State of U.P v Chhoteylal, a 2011 judgment where the court has specifically observed the failure to bring about police reforms despite the 2006 Supreme Court judgment.

 The report reproduces the directives of the Apex Court given in Prakash Singh Case to bring home the relevant areas of concern and action. The same are as below:

  1. State Security Commissions: The State Governments are directed to constitute a State Security Commission in every State to ensure that the State Government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the State police and for laying down the broad policy guidelines so that the State police always acts according to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the  country. This watchdog body shall be headed by the Chief Minister or Home Minister as Chairman and have the DGP of the State as its ex- officio Secretary. The other members of the Commission shall be chosen in such a manner that it is able to function independent of Government control. For this purpose, the State may choose any of the models recommended by the National Human Rights Commission, the Ribeiro committee or the Sorabjee Committee.…The recommendations of this Commission shall be binding on the State Government. The functions of the State Security Commission would include laying down the broad policies and giving directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and  service oriented functions of the police, evaluation of the performance of the State police and preparing a report thereon for being placed before the State legislature.
  2. Selection and Minimum Tenure of DGP: 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 to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force. And, once he has been selected for the job, he should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of superannuation. The DGP may, however, be relieved of his responsibilities by the State Government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission 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.
  3. Minimum Tenure of I.G. of Police & other officers: Police Officers on operational duties in the field like the Inspector General of Police in-charge Zone, Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge Range, Superintendent of Police in-charge district and Station House Officer in-charge of a Police Station shall also have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years unless it is found necessary to remove them prematurely following disciplinary proceedings against them or their conviction in a criminal offence or in a case of corruption or if the incumbent is otherwise incapacitated from discharging his responsibilities. This would be subject to promotion and retirement of the officer.
  4. Separation of Investigation: The investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people. It must, however, be ensured that there is full coordination between the two wings. The separation, to start with, may be effected in towns/urban areas which have population of ten lakhs or more, and gradually extended to smaller towns/urban areas also.
  5. Police Establishment Board: There shall be a Police Establishment Board in each State which shall decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Establishment Board shall be a departmental body comprising the Director General of Police and four other senior officers of the Department. The State Government may interfere with decision of the Board in exceptional cases only after recording its reasons for doing so. The Board shall also be authorized to make appropriate recommendations to the State Government regarding the posting and transfers of officers of and above the rank of Superintendent of Police, and the Government is expected to give due weight to these recommendations and shall normally accept it. It shall also function as a forum of appeal for disposing of representations from officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above regarding their promotion/transfer/disciplinary proceedings or their being subjected to illegal or irregular orders and generally reviewing the functioning of the police in the State.
  6. Police Complaints Authority: 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. Similarly, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the State level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above. The district level Authority may be headed by a retired District Judge while the State level Authority may be headed by a retired Judge of the High Court/Supreme Court. The head of the State level Complaints Authority shall be chosen by the State Government out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice; the head of the district level Complaints Authority may also be chosen out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice or a Judge of the High Court nominated by him. These Authorities may be assisted by three to five members depending upon the volume of complaints in different States/districts, and they shall be selected by the State Government from a panel prepared by the State Human Rights Commission/Lok Ayukta/State Public Service Commission. The panel may include members from amongst retired civil servants, police officers or officers from any other department, or from the civil society. They would work whole time for the Authority and would have to be suitably remunerated for the services rendered by them. The Authority may also need the services of regular staff to conduct field inquiries. For this purpose, they may utilize the services of retired investigators from the CID, Intelligence, Vigilance or any other organization. The State level Complaints Authority would take cognizance of only allegations of serious misconduct by the police personnel, which would include     incidents involving death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody. The district level Complaints Authority would, apart from above cases, may also inquire into allegations of extortion, land/house grabbing or any incident involving serious abuse of authority. The recommendations of the Complaints Authority, both at the district and State levels, for any action, departmental or criminal, against a    delinquent police officer shall be binding on the concerned authority.
  7. National Security Commission: 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 (CPO), who should also be given a minimum tenure of two years. The  Commission would also review from time to time measures to upgrade the effectiveness of these forces, improve the service conditions of its personnel, ensure that there is proper coordination between them and that the forces are generally utilized for the purposes they were raised and make recommendations in that behalf. The National Security Commission could be headed by the Union Home Minister and comprise heads of the CPOs and a couple of security experts as members with the Union Home Secretary as its Secretary.

With the observations as discussed above the report goes on to make the following recommendations:

The report recommends that when a new Police Act is framed it should conform with the with the Model Police Act, 2006 proposed by the Sorabjee Drafting Committee and the Police Act annexed with the 8th report of the National Police Commission. It must also clearly lay out the duties and responsibilities of the police officers with the prevention of harassment of women and children in public places and public transport as a specific duty. Also that even without the Act this duty should be carried out in letter and spirit by the police officers. The report observes that the Bureau of Police Research and Development of India has issued some guidelines for the training of Sub-inspectors but the same needs to be meticulously imbibed in police personnel through training.

With respect to bringing about a transformation in the interaction of the police with the public and in relation to issue of accountability, the report made the following further specific recommendations to be kept in mind while drafting the new Police Act.

 a) First, in relation to the functions and powers of the  Complaints Authority which is the Police Accountability Commission in Chapter XIII, we take the view that mandatory inquiries into only “serious misconduct” as defined in the Act would be too narrow. This would according to Section 167, Chapter XIII include only any act or omission of a police officer that leads to or amounts to: (a) death in police custody; (b) grievous hurt, as defined in Section 320 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, (c) rape or attempt to commit rape or (d) arrest or detention without due process of law. All other cases may only be the subject of inquiry by the commission if referred to by the Director General of Police and if, in the opinion of the commission, the nature of the case merits an independent inquiry. We take the view that serious misconduct should include the commission of or any attempt to commit any sexual offence by any police officer or the abetment of any sexual offence by a police officer. This must include the turning a blind eye of the commanding police officer to the commission of such offences by his subordinates. The committee also feels that all types of misconduct should require mandatory investigation by the Police Accountability   Commission. This would include:  fabrication of evidence, inordinate delay, death in police action, torture which does not amount to grievous hurt and harassment of a complainant who seeks to register a complaint relating to a sexual offence.

 b) Second, we are concerned that the powers of the Police Accountability Commission in Chapter XIII are too limited. In cases where the complainant alleges bias or is not satisfied with the departmental inquiry process in relation to a complaint, the Police Accountability Commission should be able to call for evidence relating to the departmental inquiry in addition to the police report. The Police Accountability Commission on scrutiny should then have the power to either direct a new inquiry or in cases of inordinate delay order the inquiry to be completed within a reasonable time period or decide to make the inquiry itself in the interests of justice.

c) Third, we suggest that the powers of the Police Accountability Commission should cover the power to search police stations and seize relevant documents if the concerned police officers are not co-operating with the Commission and if it has strong reason to believe that evidence relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found there. This power will have to be subject to the provisions of Section 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as far as applicable and will have to be carefully circumscribed to prevent abuse.

The above recommendations of the Committee if implemented in spirit shall go a long way in solving a number of problems.

Justice-Verma-Committee-Report

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