Joint Submissions to Justice Verma Commission by Organisations Working on Police Reforms

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Hon’ble Justice J. S. Verma
Former Chief Justice of India
Chairperson of the Committee constituted to give report regarding changes in law for faster trial and proper punishment in case of sexual offence of extreme nature against women.

Re: Submission on Police Reform by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Common Cause, Foundation for Restoration of National Values and MANUSHI         

Hon’ble Justice Verma and Committee Members,

This submission represents the views of the above mentioned NGO’s that have for long years worked tirelessly on the issue of police reforms. Though the submission may not directly fall within the mandate of your Commission we strongly believe that any proposal and effort to change laws around sexual assault will yield no results until police organisations that are the first port of call for every victim of sexual abuse are reformed. Fundamental and core changes in policing are the need of the hour and we hope that the Commission pays serious note to this.

The incident in the closing phase of the year 2012 which led to setting up of the Committee under Justice J.S. Verma and the events following it has put the spotlight on State’s inability to fulfil its most fundamental responsibility; to provide its citizens a safe and secure ambience in which they can go about their normal life and channelize their energies into socially beneficial activities.

Worse still, the events during the year 2012 have also made glaringly visible the fault-lines which have developed between the State and the citizens resulting in rapidly deepening mutual distrust. These fault lines need urgent repair for survival of our nation. It needs to be understood that merely passing of yet another law is not going to make much difference nor lead to an improvement in the feeling of security and safety unless the agencies charged with the enforcement of the legislation are made to become much more sensitive, efficient and effective. The root cause is non-implementation of the laws by the executive, in this case the police.

The widest and most critical of these fault-lines is between the police and the people. The interaction between the police and the people requires improvement. This interaction most commonly takes place at police stations and between people and the policemen and policewomen posted at the Police stations. The quality and training of Policemen and Policewomen, starting from recruitment process itself needs attention. Improvements in facilities and infrastructure at Police Stations is required to make the place people-friendly as also to improve the functional efficiency and morale of the police personnel.

It is not as if efforts have not been made and inputs have not been given to the govt. Six year earlier, in 2006, a Committee set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs and chaired by eminent jurist, Soli Sorabjee prepared a new and comprehensive Model Police Act. In the same year, The Supreme Court issued seven directives to the Union and State govt. for improving police performance and its accountability to common citizens. Even the directives of the Supreme have remained on paper till today while Sorabjee Committee’s Model Police Act, 2006 gathers dust in Govt. files.

In 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI, posted a draft Delhi Police Act, 2010 on its website (it is still available on its website) after a prolonged persuasion by three NGOs, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Foundation for Restoration of Human Values (FRNV). These three NGOs worked together and submitted their joint recommendations on the Delhi Police Act to the Union Home Secretary with copies to the Union Home Minister, Chief Minister of NCT, Lt. Governor of NCT and others, on 3rd May, 2010. No action on the part of the Govt is visible yet. Had the govt. passed and earnestly implemented the proposed Act, we would have a much safer Delhi and may be Nirbhaya and many others would not have suffered loss of life and dignity which is their right in a free, democratic India.

Some suggestions to this end, largely derived from the above mentioned proposals which included the provisions of the Model Police Act, 2006 drafted by the Soli Sorabjee Committee and the recommendations of the 2ndAdministrative Reforms Commission, are given below. These measures, if legislated, would help improve information channels and hence effectiveness of Police, thereby improving the trust in Police Departments and sense of security among all, especially among women, children and senior citizens.

We request the Committee to give us an opportunity, either individually or jointly with partner NGOs [Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Foundation for Restoration of National Values (FRNV) and Manushi] to present our views in greater detail to the Committee.

We also sincerely hope that no far reaching legal amendments are passed without wide public consultation.

Sincerely

Maja Daruwala(CHRI), Kamal Jaswal(Common Cause), 
Bharat Wakhlu
(FRNV), Madhu Kishwar (Manushi)

What Do We Want for India?

 

 We are of the view that crimes – including those against women -require an overhaul in the Criminal Justice System, of which the Police is the first critical element. Accordingly, we desire that your esteemed Commission must address the following expectations of Indian Citizens – which apply to ALL states of our diverse country:

  • All the elements of the criminal justice system must be made to understand the extraordinary courage that is required for women to report sexual crimes, deal with the trauma, and persist through the legal process. Ensuring that every police officer treats women victims with respect and understanding, no matter her caste, class, or background.
  • Community participation in policing
  • Vastly Improved police performance andits accountability to common citizens.
  • All cases in India – not just those that require “special treatment” – need to be disposed of speedily for the criminal justice system to be effective.
  • The Criminal Justice system needs to be swift and effective without infringing on the rights of people granted by our Constitution, nor must innocent people – and women victims especially – have to face a burdensome system that demeans them rather than convict the transgressor.
  • Highest standards of police investigation of sexual crimes in terms of collection of evidence (forensic, medical, written), preservation of crime scenes, and collecting statements;
  • Zero tolerance of police collusion or alliances with criminals, black-mailers, crime- suspects or accused persons
  • Prevent the gross misuse of laws by the police, lawyers and their unscrupulous clients to implicate innocent families in false cases with a view of extorting money from them.
  • Bridge the growing gap between what the law prescribes and what actually happens in practice. (When a law fails to deliver what it promises, the tendency in India is to erroneously assume that the law is not stringent enough, that it has too many loopholes which enable the culprits to escape punishment!).
  • Withdrawing the archaic provisions of providing “immunity” to offenders if they are government servants or Members of Parliament or Legislative Assemblies.
  • Disallowing the arbitrary “withdrawal” of criminal cases being investigated by the Police or the CBI, by State Governments and the Central Government
  • Implementation of all directives of the Supreme Courts and the various Commissions of Reform (including yours) by the Executive Arm of the Government, which will strengthen the Criminal Justice System
  • Transparent Recruitment of Police personnelmade through the State-level Police Recruitment Boards without recourse to bribery or political interference
  • Police Stations to be provided with all essential amenities including a “reception-cum-visitors‟room, separate toilets for men and women and separate lock-ups for men and women
  • Regular and systematic training-cum-education for the police, at all levels which is also linked with their career progression
  • Police to have a dedicated team for Criminal Investigation. They must also be freed from regular administrative work which can be done by civilians under the control of the Police
  • Making the Police a Protective Service rather than an intimidating force

How Can these Legitimate Citizens’ Expectations be Met Speedily?

We believe that there is an urgent need for the Executive to honour the recommendations of previous reform commissions, the Supreme Court and your esteemed Commission. Otherwise, the excellent work done by committed individuals, across the country, are dishonoured, recommendations gather dust, and further disheartens citizens who seek remedial action for ameliorating the problems in the criminal justice system. Specifically, in the light of the points above, we think that the following actions need to be implemented forthwith:

  • Have all States of India fully comply with the reform package directed by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case on police reforms. The ground level situation presents a grim picture of compliance, and this must be remedied forthwith.All six directives of the Supreme Court must be immediately complied with (without any tinkering or dilution) immediately. States that fail to do so must be pulled up for contempt
  • The Model Police Act, 2006 drafted by the Soli Sorabjee Committee (set up by the MHA) should be adopted, without dilution, by all states and UTs to replace their existing Police Act.
  • The Police Service needs to be incentivized on the basis Citizen-centric parameters and metrics
  • The touch-points and the interaction between the Police and the people requires urgent improvement.
  • The quality of leadership in all branches of the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislatures has to be improved by making politics the “vocation of the committed and the able” rather than the “last refuge of scoundrels”

How Can our Organizations Help your Commission?

  • As NGO’s that have collectively and individually worked on Police Reforms, Judicial and Administrative Reforms, Human Rights, the strengthening of Ethical standards and Values in all walks of life, among others, we can ensure that the recommendations of the Commission are discussed with a wide cross-section of stakeholders in the country, so that the recommendations have wide approval; thereby, forcing the Executive arm of Government to honour and implement your Commission’s suggestions.
  • We would be happy to depose before you and provide you with countless examples of the symptoms of the problem, their root causes and further insights into the manner in which the problems can be resolved – for better governance, and for the improved safety and security of women and other disadvantaged citizens of our country.
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