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Police Reforms in India

Incidents like an outbreak of communal violence in Delhi region and violence in Manipur’s Imphal Valley raises concerns..


Incidents like an outbreak of communal violence in Delhi region and violence in Manipur’s Imphal Valley raises concerns over the role of law enforcement.

Key Points

  • The Vice President emphasised that a progressive, modern India must have a police force which meets the democratic aspirations of the people.
  • Skill up-gradation with modern requirements: There is a need to upgrade the skills of our policemen to effectively tackle 21st century crimes such as cybercrimes and economic offences which require special investigative expertise due to their sophisticated and often transboundary nature.

History of Policing in India

  • After the revolt of 1857, the British created a police force with the prime aim of upholding their imperial interests.
  • They used the police to mainly suppress and oppress freedom fighters and revolutionaries during the freedom struggle.
  • Over the years following Independence, the police force was seen as being elitist and power-friendly, instead of being seen as a people-friendly force. 
  • Misuse of Policing: 
    • During the emergency, it was used with impunity to suppress human rights and imprison thousands of people, including all the political opponents of the ruling dispensation. 
  • National Police Commission:
    • Subsequently, a National Police Commission was set up in 1977, which submitted reports with detailed multi-dimensional proposals for police reforms.
    • Not much headway has been made in bringing reforms in police forces at the individual and institutional level.

What are the Challenges Related to Policing in India?

  • Low Police-Population Ratio: State police forces had 24% vacancies (about 5.5 lakh vacancies) in January 2016. Hence, while the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police. Note that the United Nations recommended 222 policemen per lakh population.
    • As a result of understaffing, policemen are overburdened with work, which not only reduces their effectiveness and efficiency (resulting in poor investigations), but also leads to psychological distress and leads to pendencies of cases.
  • Political Superimposition: According to police laws, both the Central and State police forces are under the control of political executives. Police priorities are frequently changed by political leaders according to the political mood of the state.
    • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission noted in 2007 that politicians unduly influenced police personnel for personal or political reasons.
  • Colonial Legacy: To streamline the country’s police administration after the revolt of 1857, the British enacted the Police Act of 1861. This act does not correspond with the democratic aspirations of the population after 75 years of Republic India.
  • Public Perception: The Second ARC has noted that police-public relations are unsatisfactory in India because people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, and unresponsive, and often hesitate to contact them.
  • Infrastructural Deficit: Today’s police forces require strong communication support, modern weapons, and high mobility. CAG audits for 2015-16 have found shortages in weapons among state police forces.
    • Also, the Bureau of Police Research and Development has also noted a 30.5% deficiency in stock of required vehicles with the state forces.
  • Changing Technology, Challenging Policing: In the next decade, digitalizationhyperconnectivity, and exponential growth of data are expected to accelerate.
    • There is a threat to effective policing from the convergence of different domains like bioweapons and cyberattacks.

Way Ahead

  • Police reforms should be done with the mandate to uphold law and order in the country and to sustain India’s economic growth.
  • Policing is a state subject and it is the states that have to lead this drive towards police reforms. 
  • Strengthening the police infrastructure in tune with the requirements of modern age policing. The housing facilities of police personnel to be improved.
  • Strengthening the police force at the grassroots, who are the first responders in most cases. 
  • There is a need for speedy disposal of criminal cases against politicians and civil servants to retain people’s trust in the system. 
  • The behaviour of policemen towards the common man should be courteous and friendly, open-minded, sensitive and receptive to each individual citizen’s concerns.

FAQs About Policing Challenges and Reforms in India

1. What is the role of the police in a progressive, modern India?

The Vice President highlighted the need for a police force that aligns with democratic aspirations and upholds law and order. Policing should adapt to 21st-century challenges like cybercrimes and economic offenses.

2. What was the historical context of policing in India under British rule?

Post the 1857 revolt, the British established a police force mainly to serve imperial interests. The police were often used to suppress freedom fighters and revolutionaries during the freedom struggle.

3. What was the impact of policing during the emergency period?

During the emergency, the police were used to suppress human rights and detain political opponents. This raised concerns about the misuse of policing power.

4. What is the National Police Commission, and what did it propose?

Established in 1977, the National Police Commission recommended comprehensive police reforms. However, these reforms have not been effectively implemented at both individual and institutional levels.

Read also:- What is ‘General Consent’ for CBI, now Withdrawn by Meghalaya?

Police Reforms in India

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