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Verma committee returns focus on police reforms, experts divided

The 28-page chapter in the Justice JS Verma committee's report regarding police reforms, that advocates steps like forming a police watchdog and removing the government's influence on the force, has been received with mixed sentiments by experts.

The report has said that full compliance with the police reforms, directed by the apex court in Prakash Singh case, is of utmost priority for safety of women.

“We believe that if the Supreme Court’s directives in Prakash Singh (sic) are implemented, there will be a crucial modernization of the police to be service oriented to the citizenry in a manner which is consistent with human dignity,” the report said.

Will there really be reforms carried out for the police force? AFP

Will there really be reforms carried out for the police force? AFP

The directives include the formation of a police watchdog called National Security Commission to remove the government’s influence in selection of police personnel, a minimum tenure of two years for director generals and inspector generals of police, separation of law and order from the investigation wing in the police and creation of a Police Establishment Board to decide transfers and postings below the rank of deputy superintendent of police.

Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi endorsed the recommendations of Verma committee report, and said the failure of the police to prevent crimes such as the Delhi gangrape was the result of non- implementation of police reforms.

“The committee has rightly noted that law enforcement agencies have become tools at the hands of political masters. Crucial police appointments are in the hands of politico- bureaucratic nexus. They will not let this power go so easily and that is why they have been stalling police reforms,” she said.

Bedi added that a majority of DGPs not making submissions to the Verma committee only showed that they lacked spine.

“The DGPs did not come because they are not leaders in themselves. Their loyalty is not to the common man but to the political masters,” she said.

The Justice Verma panel has criticised the Delhi police’s attitude over news report that the policemen wasted crucial moments over deciding jurisdiction when the gang- rape victim was lying injured on the road in South Delhi. The 23-year-old medical student died in a Singapore hospital on 29 December 2012.

“The events related to 16 December 2012 unmistakably disclose the failure of many public functionaries responsible for traffic regulation, maintenance of law and order, and more importantly, their low and skewed priority of dealing with complaints of sexual assault,” said the report.

The committee has recommended that every individual should be able to register an FIR at any police station, irrespective of the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed. It has also recommended strict adherence to the guidelines issued for the police by the Delhi High Court in 2008. One of the guidelines says that in cases of sexual offences, the duty officer must intimate the rape crisis cell. All police stations and PCR vans should have CCTVs, said the committee.

The three member panel noted that the bystanders did not come forward to help the rape victim and her friend because they did not want to deal with the police, and has said those rendering assistance to accident victims should not be questioned and detained.

Nawaz Kotwal, Programme Coordinator (access to justice programme) at Commonwealth Human Right Initiative, said that while the Verma committee reports places lot of focus on accountability not only on the police officers but also on the superiors, it is silent on the aspects of police planning.

“The Model Police Act talks about police planning. So far, no police organization has a plan to substantiate its budget. Some localities may be in need of more PCR vans. Another area may require more number of beat constables. This is where planning helps,” Kotwal said.

There has been no word from the government on the reforms suggested by the Verma committee for the police force and whether it will incorporate them remains to be seen.

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