Feb 26, 2022

5 things the Supreme Court said about Police Reforms

The Supreme Court has said that its 2006 judgement of Prakash Singh v. Union of India, which dealt with police reforms, is used only periodically to suit the occasion, and the directions in the judgement have not been implemented seriously.


In this context, let us look at the Supreme Court’s directions in the 2006 judgement, and how they addressed police reforms:


  1. State Security Commission   

State Governments should constitute a State Security Commission to ensure that the State Government does not unnecessarily influence or put pressure on the police. The Chief Minister or Home Minister will head the Commission as Chairman, with the State’s Director General of Police (DGP) as Secretary.  


The Commission’s functions include establishing broad policies and giving directions to the police for performing their duties, evaluating the police’s performance and preparing a report for the State legislature. The State Government needs to follow the Commission’s recommendations. 


  1. Selection and tenure of police officers

The State Government should select the State’s DGP from amongst three senior-most officers promoted to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission, based on their length of service, good record and range of experience for heading the police force. 


The following police officers’ minimum tenure should be two years:

  • Director General of Police (irrespective of retirement date)
  • Inspector General and Deputy Inspector General of Police 
  • Superintendent of Police
  • Station House Officer in charge of a police station 


However, the State Government can discharge a police officer in case of: 

  • Disciplinary action against the police officer;
  • Legal conviction in a criminal offence or corruption; or 
  • Inability to perform their duties.


  1. Separation of Duties – Investigation and Law and Order

Police officers who investigate crimes should be separate from officers who maintain law and order (like traffic police), to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved relationship with the people. However, the two wings must coordinate with each other.


  1. Police Establishment Board

Every State should have a Police Establishment Board which will decide all transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of officers till the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Board will be a departmental body composed of the Director General of Police and four other senior officers. The State Government can interfere with the Board’s decision only in exceptional cases, after recording the reasons for the interference. 


The Board can also make appropriate recommendations to the State Government about the posting and transfers of officers ranked Superintendent of Police and above. The Board will also act as a forum of appeal for disposing of representations from such officers regarding their promotion/transfer/disciplinary proceedings, or if they face illegal/irregular orders. The Government should properly consider the Board’s recommendations, and usually accept them. 


  1. Police Complaint Authority

A Police Complaints Authority should be established to look into complaints against police officers at the District as well as State level.


Level Type of Police officers Headed by Kind of complaints
District  Inquiry of complaints against officers ranked up to Deputy Superintendent of Police  Retired District Judge Inquiry of allegations of extortion, land/house grabbing, serious abuse of authority, and other grave allegations such as death in police custody, etc.
State Inquiry of complaints against officers ranked Superintendent of Police and above Retired Judge of High Court/Supreme Court Inquiry of allegations of serious misconduct by police, involving death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody, etc.