Need for Police Reforms in India

Police Reforms in India

All social, human and economic development depends on the rule of law and maintenance of law and order is a critical function of the government. In this backdrop, the need for police reform is ever more imperative because of the pace with which our society is moving. 

There is need to upgrade the skills of our policeman to effectively tackle challenges of 21st century such as cyber-crime and economic offences.

Need for Police Reforms in India?

The Colonial Legacy

Even at present Indian Police is based on colonial law, we all know that most of time British rule used police as their instrument to suppress the voice of freedom fighter and for their personal gain. Our police still functions on feudal style and is still governed by the Police Act 1861 of British times which was authoritarian in nature as it was made in the aftermath of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.

Vacancies and an overburdened force

Currently, there are significant vacancies within the state police forces and some of the central armed police forces.  As of January 2016, the total sanctioned strength of state police forces across India was 22,80,691, with 24% vacancies (i.e. 5,49,025 vacancies).  Vacancies have been around 24%-25% in state police forces since 2009.

A high percentage of vacancies within the police forces exacerbates an existing problem of overburdened police personnel.  Police personnel discharge a range of functions related to:  crime prevention and response and maintenance of internal security and law and order etc .  While the United Nations recommended standard is 222 police per lakh persons, India’s sanctioned strength is 181 police per lakh persons. After adjusting for vacancies, the actual police strength in India is at 137 police per lakh persons.  Therefore, an average policeman ends up having an enormous workload and long working hours, which negatively affects his efficiency and performance.

Crime Investigation

Crime investigation requires skills and training, time and resources, and adequate forensic capabilities and infrastructure.  However, the Law Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have noted that state police officers often neglect this responsibility because they are understaffed and overburdened with various kinds of tasks. They also have insufficient legal knowledge and the forensic and cyber infrastructure available to them is both inadequate and outdated. 

In India, crime rate has increased by 28% over the last decade, and the nature of crimes is also becoming more complex (e.g., with emergence of various kinds of cybercrimes and economic fraud). Conviction rates (convictions secured per 100 cases) however have been fairly low.  In 2015, the conviction rate for crimes recorded under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was 47%. The Law Commission has observed that one of the reasons behind this is the poor quality of investigations. 

Police infrastructure 

Modern policing requires a strong communication support, state-of-art or modern weapons, and a high degree of mobility.  The CAG and the BPRD have noted shortcomings on several of these fronts.

Weaponry:  The CAG has found that weaponry of several state police forces is outdated, and the acquisition process of weapons slow, causing a shortage in arms and ammunition. 

Police vehicles:  Audits have noted that police vehicles are in short supply. New vehicles are often used to replace old vehicles, and there is a shortage of drivers too.  This affects the response time of the police, and consequently their effectiveness.  As of January 2015, state marking a 30.5% deficiency against the required stock of vehicles.

Police-public relations

Police requires the confidence, cooperation and support of the community to prevent crime and disorder.  For example, police personnel rely on members of the community to be informers and witnesses in any crime investigation.  Therefore, police-public relations is an important concern in effective policing.  The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has noted that police-public relations is in an unsatisfactory state because people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive.

Custodial Death

A total 4,484 death in custody have been in the last two years and 233 in alleged in police encounter across India, Stated Minister of State for Home, Custodial death is perhaps one of the worst crimes in a civilized society governed by the Rule of Law. It is a crime against humanity and violation of human rights, so there is need of reforms for much more accountability.

Important steps taken in India on Police Reforms

  • Gore Committee on police training (1971-73)– recommended enlarging the content of police training from law and order and crime prevention to greater sensitivity and understanding of human behaviour.
  • National police commission 1977 – recommended insulating the police from illegitimate political and bureaucratic interference.
  • Padmanabhaiah Committee 2000 – recommended that constables, and the police force in general, should receive greater training in soft skills (such as communication, counselling and leadership) given they need to deal with the public regularly.
  • The Police Act Drafting Committee (or Soli Sorabjee Committee)– drafted a new Model Police Act to replace the colonial 1861 Police Act.
  • Malimath Committee (2003)
    The Malimath Committee suggested the setting up of state security commission , to insulate the police from political pressure. The Malimath Committee was given mandate to review the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1973.

Prakash Singh Judgement – 2006

Supreme Court directed states and UTs to comply with seven binding directives on police reforms.

1. Constitution of a State Security Commission – as a watchdog body to oversee the functioning of the police, with its recommendations being binding on the State Government.

2. Selection of State DGP from out of a panel prepared by UPSC, and provision for a minimum tenure of two years for the DGP so selected, irrespective of his date of superannuation.

3. A minimum two-year tenure for other police officer, except under specified circumstances.

4. Separation of investigation from law and order, duly ensuring full coordination between the two wings.

5. Creation of Police Establishment Boards to deal with transfers, postings and other service-related matters of police officers, including disposal of their appeals on being subjected to illegal or irregular orders.

6. Constitution of Police Complaints Authorities at the State and District levels to look into complaints against police officers.

7. Constitution of a National Security Commission at the Union level to prepare panels for selection of Chiefs of Central Police Organisations and to review measures to upgrade their effectiveness, etc.

Supreme court also set up three member K.T. Thomas committee (2008)

• To implement decisions of Prakash Singh, Supreme Court in 2008 set up a three-member Monitoring Committee chaired by former SC Judge K.T. Thomas with a two-year mandate to examine compliance state by state and report back to it periodically.

• The committee submitted in 2010 that no state fully complied with the SC and expressed dismay over the total indifference of police towards reforms in its functioning.

Recent Developments

  • Government has reviewed Model Police Act, 2006 and accordingly has drafted Draft Model Police Bill, 2015. The drafting committee has tried to incorporate the essence for making police more responsive, efficient and citizen friendly.
  • Most of the states passed new laws or amended their existing laws considering Model Police Act, 2006 drafted by Soli Sorabjee Committee.
  • In 2018, Supreme Court restrained state governments from appointing Director-General of Police (DGP) without first consulting the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The State government concerned has to send to UPSC the names of the probable officers to be appointed as DGP three months before the incumbent DGP is to retire. This judgment was in line with the recommendations given in Prakash Singh Judgment.
  • In 2020 – A five-member Committee for Reforms in Criminal Law has been set up by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs chaired by the vice-chancellor of National Law University, Delhi.  The mandate of the committee is to recommend reforms in the criminal laws of the country in a principled, effective and efficient manner, which ensures the safety and security of the individual, the community and the nation and which prioritizes the constitutional values of justice, dignity and inherent worth of the individual. 


At this time, we need an act which can make police friendly to the public. Police play important role for maintain Rule of law in the state. Hence Police reform aims to transforms the old cultures, policies and practices of police organization so that police can perform their duties with respect of democratic values, human rights. 15 years after the Supreme Court judgment in Prakash Singh case, we must ask what’s holding up police reforms? The first priority of the Government should be the reform of the police in India.

PYQ – 2017

Q. Initially Civil Services in India were designed to achieve the goals of neutrality and effectiveness, which seems to be lacking in the present context. Do you agree with the view that drastic reforms are required in Civil Services. Comment (250 words)

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