The role of police in free India has been very dubious. Even after decades of freedom the police have not been able to throw off the legacy of the British times. During the British rule police force was organized to crush the people who opposed the foreign rule.
Naturally the police force was tyrannous. They dealt with the patriots and revolutionaries as if they were hard core criminals. The process continued even in free India unchecked, unabated. The climax was reached by the time Emergency was declared in 1975 when one could see the brutal dance of police oppression for two and a half years-Emergency in the North nicknamed as 'Police Raj'. The south was not free from the atrocities. The case of Rajan an engineering student in Kerala is not a solitary example.
Even after Emergency the high handedness of police personnel continued in the whole country. The Tyagi episode at Baghpat in Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh where a lady belonging to a respectable family was paraded naked in the streets by a police party in May, 1980 was unparalleled in world history and brought to memory only the cruel episodes of Lahore during partition. It would be difficult to find incidents similar to that of blinding young men by police officers in Bihar by pouring acid in and poking the eyes with spokes. Cases of mass rapes by police personnel in the rural areas and of individual cases even in Delhi are common.
Gujarat cannot be proud of the part played by the policemen in humiliating women after entering their houses both in the backward areas and in the heart of the city. It is difficult to say where the police would not go on rampage. To be silent spectators and even to aid the people who indulge in loot, arson and massacre has been in the nature of police force and could be witnessed in Delhi immediately after the cruel murder of Mrs. Gandhi when innocent people were burnt alive in their presence. Super cop Gill of Punjab fame slapping the bottom of Mrs. Deol Bajaj is an extreme example of the audacity and arrogance of an important member of Indian Police Force.
Bribe is rampant in the police force throughout the country. It can be pleaded that bribe and corruption have become a part of Indian society. How can police remain untouched? But police is meant not to perpetuate the crime, but to stop it. If police too indulges in crimes that can the people approach to when they are in trouble.
Ties between policemen and dacoits in the Chambal Valley, with mafias during elections, with eve teasers in cinema complexes and with student mafias during examinations are not unknown.
It can hardly be said that police force is mainly responsible for it. Since police has been nicknamed for atrocious and immoral activities since the days of British rule good people do not opt for police jobs. It is only the higher jobs that they apply for. That is why the higher ranks in the police force are comparatively better. CBI is developing into a healthy organization. It goes corrupt only when it is politicized as it was in 1989 when it was implicated in Thakkar Commission Report and Bofors case. But it earned Credit when on the orders of the Supreme Court it unmasked a number of Ministers and spiritual dignitaries like Chandraswamy in Lakhubhai Pathak case. In 1996 the CBI sleuths procured 3.68 crore from the house of big fish Sukh Ram, Communication Minister in Narsimharao's cabinet.
Lack of better training to the police ranks too has been responsible for their feudal methods. The lower ranks are generally picked up from the rural areas where hatred for the lower classes is on the increase. Thus the police force has a prejudice against certain down-trodden people. It is against these poor scheduled castes and tribes that more cruelties are done. The caste malady has affected police too.
In the beginning of 1984, after Deng came to power in China all police ranks were sent back to take better training so that they may serve the nation and the society better in the changed circumstances. It is advisable to have such refresher courses for the police force in India too.
Moreover, even after the recommendations of many Police Commissions, the salaries of policemen in the lower non-gazette ranks have remained comparatively and considerably low. These do not attract good men, and compel those who join to indulge in activities derogatory to the status of the saviours of the society. Since policemen have to take risk in many an operation their salary should be comparatively more than the people in other services.
Like many other fields of public life political alliances and pressures too bring a bad name to the police force as it does to the bureaucracy. Using police for personal or party ends should be immediately stopped so that the police force may serve as a respectable body of responsible people to maintain law and order in the country. A bad name was brought to the police when it was atrociously used by the then Chief Minister of U.P. in the Ayodhya episode. The role of police again has not been justified in the fake encounters in U.P. and Bihar. The political imbalance in Punjab and the North Eastern states has of course made police a hardcore or partisan force.
Julio Rebeiro, a well known retired IPS officer wrote in an article that "India is fast becoming a soft State where laws are not enforced. It is very easy to get bail, even after committing murder, and it is very difficult to get murderers and rapists convicted in a court of law." According to him "Democracy at work in our country has subordinated efficiency and professionalism in politics. Moreover the material expectations of the general public for better performance from the guardians of law and order have synchronized with the material expectations of officers and men in the police."
As the police force is drawn from the society itself it is necessary that the 'societal attitude' should change. "Expecting the police to change when society itself is chained to a set of deep-rooted beliefs is like putting the cart before the horse." Rebeiro firmly believes that if the society is corrupt, the police will be corrupt.
It has now become imperative to stop the politicization of the police. To meet this end the National Police Commission had recommended the formation of State Security Commissions. They should replace the present political control over police functioning and performance. These Commissions, besides the State Home Minister, should have the leader of the opposition, another representative of the government and should include some apolitical citizens of 'unquestioned integrity'. This Commission would be responsible for making all senior police appointments while the internal administration of the units would be left to professionals.
The police would be accountable to the law. It would enforce the laws as enacted by the legislature. The Commission would monitor their performance. Here lies a silver streak. These recommendations, if seriously implemented, may change the police scenario in the country. Even then if the society itself remains hooked to corruption it would provide corrupt police officers as it would in any other field.