Deep-Rooted Problems in India’s Police System

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow


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The Indian police system, while being an integral part of the country’s governance structure, has been mired in criticisms and controversies. Despite its critical role in maintaining law and order, the system has struggled to evolve and adapt to the demands of a modern democratic society. This post delves into the deep-rooted problems plaguing the Indian police system.

Political Interference: Perhaps the most crippling issue is political interference in police operations. The control that politicians exert over the police force inhibits its ability to function impartially. Whether it’s influencing the appointment of officers, dictating how cases should be handled, or using the police to quash dissent, political interference has severely undermined the autonomy and integrity of the police system.

Lack of Accountability: India’s police system suffers from a stark lack of accountability, which in turn breeds impunity. While mechanisms exist on paper to hold police accountable, their implementation is often weak, leading to violations of law and human rights. Instances of police brutality, extrajudicial killings, and custodial deaths are stark reminders of this problem.

Inadequate Resources: In a country as large and diverse as India, the police force is woefully understaffed and under-resourced. The police-population ratio is significantly below the United Nations recommended level, leading to overworked personnel and inefficient operations. Furthermore, the lack of modern equipment and technology hampers their effectiveness.

Outdated Laws and Practices: The Indian police system operates under the Indian Police Act of 1861, a colonial-era law that’s ill-suited to a modern democratic society. The law, coupled with outdated practices, not only inhibits the transformation of the police system but also fails to address contemporary challenges like cybercrime, human trafficking, and organized crime.

Lack of Community Engagement: A fundamental issue is the wide gap between the police and the communities they serve. Trust and cooperation are crucial for effective policing, but public perception of the police in India is often negative, driven by experiences and narratives of police corruption, brutality, and insensitivity.

The Prakash Singh vs Union of India case (2006) was a significant attempt to address these systemic issues. The Supreme Court issued several directives aimed at initiating police reforms, including measures to curb political interference, improve accountability, and ensure better resources. However, their implementation remains inconsistent and incomplete.

Despite these challenges, the path to reform isn’t inaccessible. It requires a concerted effort from the government, judiciary, civil society, and the police system itself. Measures could include stricter adherence to the Supreme Court directives, new legislation to replace outdated laws, investment in better training and resources, and initiatives to bridge the gap between police and community.

Change is a slow and arduous process, especially when dealing with deeply entrenched systems. However, for the sake of India’s democracy and its people, the journey towards a reformed, modern, and citizen-centric police system is not just necessary; it is imperative.