Essay: Policing in India: the system, inadequacies and impediments


The rank and administrative structure of the Police organizations are based on vertical pyramid.

The state forces which largely function under the Police Act of 1861 are headed by Director General of Police, who is responsible to the state government for the administration of the police force throughout the state and also for giving advice on police matters.

The states are divided into districts, which are headed by Superintendents of Police. A group of districts form a range, which is looked after by a Deputy Inspector General Police. In some bigger states, there are police Zones comprising of two or more ranges, headed by officers in the rank of Inspector General of Police.


The administration of police throughout the local jurisdiction of the Magistrate of a district is, under the general control and direction of such Magistrate, vested in a District Superintendent and such Assistant/Deputy Superintendents as the state government considers necessary.

Each district is divided into sub-divisions in-charge of Assistant or Deputy Superintendent of police. Generally, these sub-divisions are further divided into police circles in charge of Inspectors.

The circles are sub-divided into number of police stations, which in turn, have urban/rural out posts under them.

The police station is the basic and key unit of police administration. It is the crime investigation center and under the Cr. PC. All crimes have to be recorded here from where all preventive, detective and law and order work of the police are carried on. The main characteristic of district police administra­tion is the system of dual-control. The legal framework under which police functions is Police Act of 1861. Section 4 of this Act vests the police administration of the district in the District Superintendent of Police, subject to the “general control and direction” of the District Magistrate.


As a result of this provi­sion the district police have been closely associated with the District Magistrate, who functions as the Chief Executive in the district. In several state manuals, the District Magistrate is referred to as the Head of the criminal administration in the district. This has resulted in the exercise of dual control over the work of the police.

In the metropolitan cities i.e. Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai as well as some big cities like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Bangalore, Pune, Nagpur, the city police is placed under Commis­sioner of Police, who is assisted by joint commissioners, additional commissioners, deputy and assis­tant Commissioners. They are empowered to exercise many regulatory and licensing powers and even magisterial powers. Unlike districts, the chain of command here is one.

All states have criminal investigation departments, intelligence departments, and training and modernization wings. Policing on the railways within the states is the responsibility of the state government for which they have government railway police.

Although, under the Constitution, ‘police’ and ‘public order’ are included in the state list, the Central Intelligence Bureau and the Investigation Bureau are listed in the Union List in the 7th schedule of Article 246. Also included in the Union List are subjects such as the training of police officers, scientific or technical assistance in the investigation or detection of crime, and extension of powers and jurisdic­tion of members of the police force of any state to, any area outside the state.


The Central government thus has very clear responsibility for coordination amongst states, in investigation by the CBI, police training and scientific investigation and intelligence gathering. For assisting the central government in coordinating the efforts in the field of training, research and modernization of police forces, there is a Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) which undertakes systematic studies of police problems and is responsible for promoting the application of science & technology to the police works, improving and development of training program of police forces at the Centre and states.

Under entry 2 & 2-A in list 1 of Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, for assistance to states and guarding borders, the Centre maintains armed forces, such as Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force etc.

Recruitment into police organizations, both at the central as well as state levels, is made in three ranks namely (1) Constable, (2) Sub Inspector and (3) Assistant Commandants and Deputy Superintendent of Police. Recruitment and training of IPS officers, who are supposed to provide leadership to police forces both in states and central police organizations, are done by the government of India. The service is known as an all-India service.

Inadequacies and Impediments: Constitutional Safeguards and the Police


In keeping with democratic principles, the Indian Constitution guarantees to its citizens fundamental rights, which are justifiable, i.e. legally enforceable.

This Constitution also provides for “safeguards” against encroachments on their life, liberty and freedom and vexatious actions by enforcement agen­cies, including the police.

According to Article 20, for instance, no person can be compelled to be a witness against himself; Article 21 guarantees that no person can be deprived of life and liberty except according to procedure established by the law. Article 22 lies down that any person taken into custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such an arrest.

Article 14 binds the state from denying to any equality before the law or equal protection of the laws. In other words, everyone has been made equal before the law.


There was departure from this principle in 1950 when Preventive Detection Act was passed, which in some form or other has remained a permanent feature, although preventive detection by nature is repugnant to democratic idea. Needless to say, the police forces in the country are strictly bound by these provisions of the constitution.

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