Not a single state, nor the Union Territories, is fully compliant with the Directives taken together

September 22, 2021, marks 15 years since the Supreme Court of India laid down seven directives on police reforms in its judgment in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India and Others, 2006. The directives intended to put in place mechanisms to make policing in India more professional and accountable.

On the 15th anniversary of Police Reforms Day, here is a question — why hasn’t the Supreme Court (SC)’s order on police reforms, delivered on September 22, 2006, been implemented yet? What are the impediments to reforms aimed at making the police more efficient, free from extraneous influences, and responsive to people’s needs?

The failure to comply with the directives reveals the extent to which elected governments are resisting police reform across the country. Needed checks and balances that the directives seek to instill to make policing more professional and accountable are being stymied in multiple ways:

  • Only 6 states provide security of tenure for their police chief.
  • Only 7 states provide for independent shortlisting of candidates in the process of appointing police chiefs; everywhere else, the heads of the police continue to be handpicked by the state government.
  • Only 13 states institute an internal mechanism to enable the police leadership to make decisions on transfers and postings of state police officers without political interference.
  • Only 8 states retain an impartial selection process to appoint independent members to state Police Complaints Authorities (PCAs), and only 5 for district PCAs
  • Only Karnataka provides its State Security Commission the power to make binding recommendations
  • Serving police and government officers are adjudicating members on police complaints bodies even though these are to be for the public and independent of the police department.

We urge the Government of India and all states to take immediate corrective measures to address the gaps noted in compliance.

CHRI has regularly monitored steps taken by states to implement the directives and made submissions before the Supreme Court where the matter continues to be heard till date. Our monitoring seeks to highlight gaps in the provisions on the directives against the clear standards provided by the Court.

We believe institutionalizing the directives can be a springboard towards systemic changes needed in policing. If implemented in the letter and spirit of the Court’s scheme, the directives will help strengthen police accountability, and make internal management systems fair and transparent.