Funding Law Enforcement Infrastructure
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

An American criminologist once told me, that the American media is cautious about criticising or exaggerating inadequacies in the law enforcement machinery; lest this criticism becomes the basis for concerned enforcement authorities to clamour for more personnel, more equipment, vehicles and technology – basically, more infrastructure. Thereby pinching the pockets of a people who have to pay more to the local administration who provide these services.

In most developed countries, people pay for their policing through the local bodies. Police departments function under the local city administration, under a Mayor or whatever other designation the local administrator is called, who hires and fires the person/s employed to satisfy the particular needs of its citizens according to requirement and performance. So a non-performing policeman gets the immediate boot, and a force less provided for gets the additional infrastructure needed without much ado.

So people are also wary of demanding indiscriminately for additional infrastructure, since in the end it is they who have to pay for it through hard cash collected at the local level, and not through indirect or phantom central taxation systems that do not touch or impact most and pinch only a fraction of the citizenry, leaving the majority non-payers of tax also as the major votaries for infrastructural demands. Under the circumstances, it is for the discerning populace to understand and decide which is better, and what they want.

In our own existing system where police as a State Subject for areas of governance is under the control of the State machinery and its budget, supplemented by the Central budget – the onus of deciding whether or not the police infrastructure is adequate, resting solely and I repeat solely on the shoulders of that Ministry or the Secretariat babu, who considers it his birth right to shoot down every new proposal for additional infrastructure that lands on his desk. This, not because there is no merit in the proposal, but because of a carefully cultivated psyche with which he has armed and engulfed himself over decades of sustained brainwashing from the powers that be, to do so!

Hence the perpetual cry of indiscriminate demands, of inadequacies in infrastructure – not only in the police departments, but across the board in all walks of governmental activity. In my opinion, this will continue forever till the present system continues and the burden rests on the vicious babu’s frail and ever burdened frame.

Against this background, comes the Supreme Court’s recent suggestion to the Centre to keep aside a particular sum of money in every law henceforth enacted by Parliament to deal with the financial burden imposed on the judiciary to enforce the legislation. Suggested by the apex court as one of the steps to make the justice delivery mechanism faster and cheaper in matters involving civil disputes, the idea is laudable… and it is hoped the Centre will give serious thought to ensure the judicial impact assessment of every law (being) enacted… Especially to work out in advance it’s financial and budgetary impact, including an estimate of the likely number of civil and criminal cases arising there from – and the courts, staff and infrastructure needed to deal with it!

The court has also urged the Centre, through the Finance Commission, to consider providing funds required to bear conciliation and mediation costs, pointing out otherwise these costs could act as a deterrent to the popularity of the Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms already available.

The apex court’s commendable and path-breaking suggestion actually boils down to, and needs to be viewed in the larger context of the adequacy/ inadequacies in the overall law enforcement machinery – encompassing the entire justice administration system, and not just the judiciary. No doubt judiciary is an important and culminating rung in the State’s criminal justice administration system to render justice to its constituents, but what is important is not to lose sight of the fact that the police and the prosecution wings are also the inevitable and crucial channels which the justice delivery mechanism has to wade through before reaching the judiciary for ultimate delivery of justice. Not only that, not to be ignored too are the prison/correctional services that follow a judicial verdict and are so impacted, needing inclusion in the overall impact assessment of a new law (being) enacted. In this context need one to really spell out the plethora of social legislations that also clutter up our basket of laws crying out for effective enforcement?

The infrastructural adequacy of each of the wings in the overall Criminal Justice Administration System, including the judiciary, is crucial for its health. That the adequacy of the infrastructural health of police departments – the first and the cutting edge rung of the CJAS – is a matter of constant concern needs no elaboration.

What needs to be realised is the fact that by virtue of it being the first rung and the visibly impacting strong arm of the government to enforce laws, the police are saddled with inherent powers to enforce every law and new enactment, and especially the penal provisions therein. This, irrespective of whether or not a separate department is created by the Government for the purpose of enforcing the new law. Consequently, it is this fact that needs to be borne in mind and suitably addressed by the government while sending up any new law for Parliament to enact. It is this fact that also needs to be borne in mind by Parliamentarians both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and ultimately by the President, before finally making any law that needs enforcement.

900 words: 07.08.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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