The criminal justice system, which includes investigation, must be “insulated from politics”, Union minister R K Singh on Friday said while urging people in policing profession to introspect and reform themselves.
Singh, a former Union home secretary, was speaking at a conference here on police reforms, organised by the Indian Police Foundation.
The 1975-batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre, who joined the BJP after his retirement in 2013, recalled his experiences in Uttar Pradesh in the run up to the state Assembly polls there to emphasise his point while taking a dig at the then Akhilesh government.
“The feeling then about the incumbent government, about the law and order (situation), was that politicians and goons controlled the police and could beat up anybody and FIRs won’t be lodged. So, people won’t get any redress,” Singh alleged, and claimed, it was one of the reasons why the party (BJP) won the UP elections.
People react against unfavourable system. One can not have a system where justice delivery mechanisms are “hijacked by some goons and a conglomerate of goondas” in various political parties, therefore it (the system) needs insulation, he said.
“I believe the criminal justice system, which includes investigation, must be insulated from politics,” Singh said.
The former home secretary, who is known for his contributions to schemes for modernisation of the police and prisons, and laying down a framework for disaster management, however sounded a word of caution for officers serving in the policing profession.
Before joining the IAS, he was selected to the Indian Police Service, where he had served for one year.
“Yes, reforms are needed but, we (police officials) need to reform ourselves too. We should look at ourselves and what we have done. Why people have lost faith in the system? Yes, politicians are responsible, but we are more responsible,” said Singh as he pointed out that casteism and corruption were also adding to the “malaise”.
“So, to bring reform we need to segregate investigation from law and order domain, and people in the profession should have a stronger moral fibre and greater commitment,” he said. Singh, however, said, the police cannot be left without oversight, as they have so much power and can encroach upon the rights of the people. CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, former Union minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi, and former Supreme Court judge G S Singhvi also addressed the gathering, which included senior officers from the Uttar Pradesh Police, Delhi Police and paramilitary forces.
Yechury said police reforms “cannot happen in isolation” and pitched for parallel “political and judicial reforms”.
Ramesh highlighted the issue of shortage of police staff and other challenges, but cautioned about the “absolute insensitivity” police have shown at times in dealing with tribals.
“Just because people (referring to Naxalites) are behaving in a certain way, doesn’t mean the police should also behave in the same way. This moral equivalence I do not agree with,” said Ramesh, a former Union environment minister.
Chairman of Indian Police Foundation Prakash Singh said unless the police is not freed from political pressure, other smaller reforms would only address “micro issues and not the macro problem”.
Singh, a former DGP of Uttar Pradesh, is considered a leader in police reforms movement, whose PIL led to the landmark Supreme Court verdict in 2006, giving specific directions to the central and state governments to carry out structural changes in the police with a view to insulating it from extraneous pressures and making it accountable to the people.
Tulsi, a Senior Supreme Court advocate, suggested bringing in mobile forensic vans so that scientific evidence is collected within time, and for recording of all telephone calls made by complainants to police, besides provisioning of CCTV-equipped investigation rooms at local police stations.
Singhvi, a former chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, flagged that the police system has not been able to reform itself because people largely have not shed the “colonial mindset” of superiority that has bred inequality and demoralised people at the bottom of the social pyramid.