Charade of police reforms begins?
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

Now that the heat and dust generated by the Supreme Court judgment on police reforms consequent to the PIL filed by Mr. Prakash Singh and others is settling down and much discussion and deliberation thereon has appeared in various fora… the likely implications are sinking in on the political and bureaucratic framework across the nation - inevitably affected by the directives aimed at general reform. The hard realities are becoming apparent as the action taken report to be filed by the State Governments with regard to the Court's directives, is being formulated. Consequently, there is gossip in the corridors of power, about State governments planning to water down the provisions, seeking ways and means to bypass the same, and even seek further time for compliance, citing the framing of the new Police Act as one of the reasons for putting off implementation/ compliance. Even though the Soli Sorabjee committee has drafted the proposed new Act to replace the 1861 Police Act and a copy of the draft was placed before the Supreme Court before its judgement in the Prakash Singh case was pronounced, the new Act is yet to become law.

Sources in the police in Delhi's neighbourhood reveal a very interesting situation developing in the state of Haryana, where the current incumbent DGP Nirmal Singh is due to retire on 31st October. The Haryana Government, more so the bureaucracy is said to be in a spin how to go about finding his replacement. Mr Singh himself is said to be claiming that since the orders have to come into force with immediate effect, and since there is no UPSC approved panel, he should continue till either he completes two years in the chair (8 months hence) or till 1st Jan when the UPSC is likely to decide about empanelment and would either approve him or reject him. The state Home department, it is learnt, is referring the matter to the MHA for indicating who are on UPSC panel, as it would be the job of MHA as cadre controlling authority to get empanelment done and evolve norms for that.

The MHA as usual, sources claim, is clueless what to do. Meanwhile rumours are rife through a whisper campaign, mostly among the state's IAS cadre, with also some of their IPS colleagues joining in, that the Supreme Court judgement has directed the Union Government and States to legislate the new Police Act first and till such time as it is not done, to put on hold implementation of the directions in the ruling. The campaign is advocating the promulgation of an ordnance to water down the recommendations of the NPC/ SC judgment ever so subtly that a plain reading does not reveal anything wrong - but with enough loopholes built in to subvert the whole gamut of the reforms and procedures ordered.

Some bureaucrats who fear a loss of turf if the police is granted autonomy are also said to be advising the state political bosses that there are ways of circumventing the fixed tenure promised by the judgement. Earlier, one could just remove an inconvenient DG or SP when they pleased and apart from loss of a post no other harm would come to the officer. But now if an officer has to be removed, the bosses would have to justify the premature removal by either registering a case against him a-la-Madhya Pradesh or at least suspend him on some charges, thus involving double jeopardy and making the threat of transfer more effective. While one can only hope that such sinister designs might not become the general rule, it would be unwise to underestimate the ingenuity of political and bureaucratic shenanigans.

24.10.2006: Copyright © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sector-23, Gurgaon-122017 Tel: 0124-4111026 & 2360568; website: http://www. maxwellpereira.com; email: mfjpkamath@gmail.com

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