September 23, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Police Act of 1861 needs to be reformed. We also look at the warning to school teachers in Himachal Pradesh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is It Time To Revisit The Police Act Of 1861?
With the new naval ensign, replacement of army bands with Indian musical instruments, and even the renaming of the Kartvya Path, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ventured on a journey to shed the country’s colonial inheritance. However, a lesser acknowledged colonial legacy, the Police Act of 1861, has not come to the forefront of this venture.
The origins of the problematic Act put into perspective the urgent need to reform it. While there have been some steps to do just that, is it enough?
The foundation of the Indian police was set way back in 1793 under Governor-General Charles Cornwallis. Initially, the responsibility of law and order was snatched from Zamindars and awarded to Darogas or police-station chiefs. Following the 1857 war of independence, British authorities felt the need to have a civilian police force.
The Police Act of 1861 was designed in such a way that the police were not accountable to the people. They reported only to the British officers, who were in turn answerable to imperial authorities. The main objective of the police back then was as a weapon of repression and a way to strengthen the British hold over India.
Following independence, the country inherited an anaemic police force that only terrorized, dissipating the old fear that governed criminals. In 1971, a paper by David H Bayley noted that the relatively low level of reported crime was misleading. He argued, “Crime statistics reflect as much about the organisation collecting them as they do about the real world.”
Not much has changed since the colonial British rulers laid the foundation for the functioning of the police force in the country. Deprived of sufficient autonomy, the police force’s focus shifted from appeasing colonial masters in the pre-independence era to pleasing political masters to gain more benefits and higher positions.
VIEW: Not much has been done about the Police Act
While many attempts have been made to break free from the shackles of the 1861 act, there have been negligible results. IPS officers remain dependent on politicians for their postings and transfers, resulting in the entire police hierarchy becoming a personal army of politicians. Due to this, police organisations across the country will not hesitate to use sedition charges against all kinds of incidents.
An example of this is the incident in West Bengal, where the police turned a blind eye as workers of the state’s ruling party resorted to violent means during the 2021 state elections. This is not an isolated incident. Even recently, the police cracked down on protesting BJP workers in Kolkata in order to suppress the opposition demonstrations.
The system is built in such a way that if police officers choose to take on a demanding politician, they risk jeopardizing their careers, inviting either suspension or being pushed into an irrelevant position. Due to this, police organisations across the country do not flinch before imposing the harshest laws under the command of their political bosses. This is evident in the Bhima Koregaon case, where the Pune police exonerated an accused belonging to a Hindu organisation from the charges of inciting riots.
COUNTERVIEW: Reforms have been made to the Police Act
There have been many notable phases of police reforms in India, beginning as soon as the country received independence. A Police Reorganisation Committee was appointed by the government of the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) in 1947. By 1971, numerous states, including Punjab, Kerala, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, set up Police Commissions. They outlined the existing issues in the system, such as corruption, brutality, inadequate training and so on.
Following the Emergency imposed in 1975, the National Police Commission (NPC) was set up by the Janata Party government in 1977. This Commission, chaired by Dharam Vira, stressed issues that had already been highlighted many times and suggested remedies, including a draft of the Model Police Act. The Congress government led by Indira and Rajiv Gandhi at the time did not accept any of the NPC’s recommendations.
In 2006, however, due to a PIL filed in the Supreme Court by two former Directors General of Police, the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement that touched upon many reforms. Some of these included the separation of investigative and law and order wings, institutional mechanisms to make the police accountable and responsive to people, and mechanisms to reduce political interference.
- PM Modi wants India to shed its colonial past. He should begin by reforming the police (The Print)
- Police have to come out of 1861 Act’s shadow to shed negative image (The Free Press Journal)
- Lust for rewards, fear of punishment guide cops (News Nine)
- Police reform via new legislation should not dilute state role (The Wire)
- The good cop (The Indian Express)
- The shackles of 1861 need to go (The Hindu)
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Police Act of 1861 needs to be reformed.
b) The Police Act of 1861 need not be reformed.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Attempt To ‘Indianise’ Army Is Insulting. Don’t Reduce It To Just Its Colonial History
For the Left:
Why Have Sedition Cases Spiked In Andhra Pradesh?
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Warnings against school teachers (Himachal Pradesh) – The state department of higher education has warned employees and teachers who run news portals on social media. A memo outlined allegations that some of them run online news portals and oppose government decisions. In the memo, the department’s Director, Amarjeet K Sharma, said schools should instruct all staff and teachers to stop the activities and not interact with the media without permission.
Why it matters: The education department said some teachers who run these news portals cause confusion among the public with misinformation. The department said it violates the Central Civil Services Conduct Rules. Due to these news portals, employees and others are unable to make informed decisions about government policies.
Raids of PFI (Kerala) – As part of a country-wide crackdown, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided properties linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI) in Kerala. 22 PFI members were arrested in the state. The riads were in connection with individuals allegedly supporting terrorists, including terror funding, organising training camps, and radicalising people to join their cause. More than 50 locations were raided across the state. Some PFI activists protested at the residence of PFI Chairman OMA Salem.
Why it matters: The raids were a part of a series of others in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Assam, to name a few. The PFI spoke out against the raids calling the BJP government a fascist regime that uses investigative agencies to silence dissenting voices. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been investigating the PFI’s alleged financial links to help fuel protests against the CAA and other activities.
Maoist stronghold liberated (Jharkhand) – CRPF Director General Kuldeep Singh announced Budha Pahad, a Maoist stronghold for three decades, was now clear as they had been successfully cleared from the area. In these strongholds, they found a huge number of arms, ammunition, foreign grenades, and IEDs. At this location, the CRPF carried out three operations – Operation Octopus, Operation Double Bull, and Operation Thunderstorm to establish their camps and regain control of the area.
Why it matters: Since April this year, the security forces have been carrying out operations against Left Wing extremism, including in some inaccessible areas of Chakrabandha and Bhimabandh in Bihar. Singh also spoke of the reduction in Left Wing Extremism by 77% from the highest levels in 2009. He also said the area under their influence and control has reduced.
State withdraws stray cattle Bill (Gujarat) – The state government withdrew the urban stray cattle Bill five months after the assembly passed it. It aimed to reduce the movement of stray cattle on roads and public spaces in urban areas. It comes in the wake of the Governor returning the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill to the state for amendments. The Bill was opposed by Maldharis, who weren’t happy with the method of impounding cattle and the penalty involved.
Why it matters: The Maldhari community began large-scale protests after the Bill was passed. In April, state BJP Chief CR Paatil assured the community that he requested Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel to reconsider it. Last month, the high court asked the state about the Bill’s status. The court has repeatedly asked urban civic bodies and the government to do something about the stray cattle menace.
Good economic growth (Nagaland) – The state Department of Economics & Statistics released some economic indicators detailing how the state’s economy was doing. As of July 30, the state’s GSDP increased to 8.98% in 2021-22 from -2.63% in 2020-21. The data revealed showed the state’s economy was shifting towards the tertiary sector. The contribution of the primary sector declined over the past decade while the contribution from the secondary sector was hovering around 9-12%.
Why it matters: Based on the estimates, the state’s economic growth has surpassed the pre-pandemic average growth of 5.38%. The tertiary sector’s contribution shows that it has become more robust. The pandemic’s impact was felt the most in the trade and hospitality sectors. Economic data also showed the state’s per capita income increased from ₹53,010 in 2011-12 to more than ₹1.3 lakh in 2021-22.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
300 – The number of employees Wipro fired after finding out they were moonlighting for its rivals. The company said it wouldn’t tolerate moonlighting. The employees sacked had fewer than three years of experience.