Singh & Ors Vs. Union of India & Ors  Insc 609 (22 September 2006)
Sabharwal, C.K. Thakker & P.K. Balasubramanyan Y.K. Sabharwal, Cji.
the far reaching changes that had taken place in the country after the
enactment of the Indian Police Act, 1861 and absence of any comprehensive
review at the national level of the police system after independence despite
radical changes in the political, social and economic situation in the country,
the Government of India, on 15th November, 1977, appointed a National Police
Commission (hereinafter referred to as 'the Commission'). The commission was
appointed for fresh examination of the role and performance of the police both
as a law enforcing agency and as an institution to protect the rights of the
citizens enshrined in the Constitution.
terms and reference of the Commission were wide ranging. The terms of
reference, inter alia, required the Commission to redefine the role, duties,
powers and responsibilities of the police with special reference to prevention
and control of crime and maintenance of public order, evaluate the performance
of the system, identify the basic weaknesses or inadequacies, examine if any
changes necessary in the method of administration, disciplinary control and
accountability, inquire into the system of investigation and prosecution, the
reasons for delay and failure and suggest how the system may be modified or
changed and made efficient, scientific and consistent with human dignity,
examine the nature and extent of the special responsibilities of the police
towards the weaker sections of the community and suggest steps and to ensure
prompt action on their complaints for the safeguard of their rights and
interests. The Commission was required to recommend measures and institutional
arrangements to prevent misuse of powers by the police, by administrative or
executive instructions, political or other pressures or oral orders of any
type, which are contrary to law, for the quick and impartial inquiry of public
complaints made against the police about any misuse of police powers.
Chairman of the Commission was a renowned and highly reputed former Governor. A
retired High Court Judge, two former Inspector Generals of Police and a
Professor of TATA Institute of Special Sciences were members with the Director,
CBI as a full time Member Secretary.
Commission examined all issues in depth, in period of about three and a half
years during which it conducted extensive exercise through analytical studies
and research of variety of steps combined with an assessment and appreciation
of actual field conditions. Various study groups comprising of prominent public
men, Senior Administrators, Police Officers and eminent academicians were set
seminars held, research studies conducted, meetings and discussions held with
the Governors, Chief Ministers, Inspector Generals of Police, State Inspector
Generals of Police and Heads of Police organizations. The Commission submitted
its first report in February 1979, second in August 1979, three reports each in
the years 1980 and 1981 including the final report in May 1981.
first report, the Commission first dealt with the modalities for inquiry into
complaints of police misconduct in a manner which will carry credibility and
satisfaction to the public regarding their fairness and impartiality and
rectification of serious deficiencies which militate against their functioning
efficiently to public satisfaction and advised the Government for expeditious
examination of recommendations for immediate implementation. The Commission
observed that increasing crime, rising population, growing pressure of living
accommodation, particularly, in urban areas, violent outbursts in the wake of
demonstrations and agitations arising from labour disputes, the agrarian
unrest, problems and difficulties of students, political activities including
the cult of extremists, enforcement of economic and social legislation etc.
have all added new dimensions to police tasks in the country and tended to
bring the police in confrontation with the public much more frequently than
ever before. The basic and fundamental problem regarding police taken note of
was as to how to make them functional as an efficient and impartial law
enforcement agency fully motivated and guided by the objectives of service to
the public at large, upholding the constitutional rights and liberty of the
people. Various recommendations were made.
second report, it was noticed that the crux of the police reform is to secure
professional independence for the police to function truly and efficiently as
an impartial agent of the law of the land and, at the same time, to enable the
Government to oversee the police performance to ensure its conformity to the
law. A supervisory mechanism without scope for illegal, irregular or mala fide
interference with police functions has to be devised. It was earnestly hoped
that the Government would examine and publish the report expeditiously so that
the process for implementation of various recommendations made therein could
start right away. The report, inter alia, noticed the phenomenon of frequent
and indiscriminate transfers ordered on political considerations as also other
unhealthy influences and pressures brought to bear on police and, inter alia,
recommended for the Chief of Police in a State, statutory tenure of office by
including it in a specific provision in the Police Act itself and also
recommended the preparation of a panel of IPS officers for posting as Chiefs of
Police in States. The report also recommended the constitution of Statutory
Commission in each State the function of which shall include laying down broad
policy guidelines and directions for the performance of preventive task and
service oriented functions by the police and also functioning as a forum of
appeal for disposing of representations from any Police Officer of the rank of
Superintendent of Police and above, regarding his being subjected to illegal or
irregular orders in the performance of his duties.
the 8th and final report, certain basic reforms for the effective functioning
of the police to enable it to promote the dynamic role of law and to render
impartial service to the people were recommended and a draft new Police Act
incorporating the recommendations was annexed as an appendix.
the recommendations of National Police Commission were not implemented, for
whatever reasons or compulsions, and they met the same fate as the
recommendations of many other Commissions, this petition under Article 32 of
the Constitution of India was filed about 10 years back, inter alia, praying
for issue of directions to Government of India to frame a new Police Act on the
lines of the model Act drafted by the Commission in order to ensure that the
police is made accountable essentially and primarily to the law of the land and
first writ petitioner is known for his outstanding contribution as a Police
Officer and in recognition of his outstanding contribution, he was awarded the
"Padma Shri" in 1991. He is a retired officer of Indian Police
Service and served in various States for three and a half decades. He was
Director General of Police of Assam and Uttar Pradesh besides the Border
Security Force. The second petitioner also held various high positions in
police. The third petitioner Common cause is an organization which has brought
before this Court and High Courts various issues of public interest.
first two petitioners have personal knowledge of the working of the police and
also problems of the people.
been averred in the petition that the violation of fundamental and human rights
of the citizens are generally in the nature of non-enforcement and
discriminatory application of the laws so that those having clout are not held
accountable even for blatant violations of laws and, in any case, not brought
to justice for the direct violations of the rights of citizens in the form of
unauthorized detentions, torture, harassment, fabrication of evidence,
malicious prosecutions etc. The petition sets out certain glaring examples of
police inaction. According to the petitioners, the present distortions and
aberrations in the functioning of the police have their roots in the Police Act
of 1861, structure and organization of police having basically remained
unchanged all these years.
petition sets out the historical background giving reasons why the police
functioning has caused so much disenchantment and dissatisfaction. It also sets
out recommendations of various Committees which were never implemented. Since
the misuse and abuse of police has reduced it to the status of a mere tool in
the hands of unscrupulous masters and in the process, it has caused serious
violations of the rights of the people, it is contended that there is immediate
need to re-define the scope and functions of police, and provide for its
accountability to the law of the land, and implement the core recommendations
of the National Police Commission. The petition refers to a research paper
'Political and Administrative Manipulation of the Police' published in 1979 by
Bureau of Police Research and Development, warning that excessive control of
the political executive and its principal advisers over the police has the
inherent danger of making the police a tool for subverting the process of law,
promoting the growth of authoritarianism, and shaking the very foundations of
commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the
Rule of Law. The supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that
the police serves the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and
position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive
measures. Its approach has to be service oriented, its role has to be defined
so that in appropriate cases, where on account of acts of omission and
commission of police, the Rule of Law becomes a casualty, the guilty Police
Officers are brought to book and appropriate action taken without any delay.
petitioners seek that Union of India be directed to re- define the role and
functions of the police and frame a new Police Act on the lines of the model
Act drafted by the National Police Commission in order to ensure that the
police is made accountable essentially and primarily to the law of the land and
the people. Directions are also sought against the Union of India and State
Governments to constitute various Commissions and Boards laying down the
policies and ensuring that police perform their duties and functions free from
any pressure and also for separation of investigation work from that of law and
notice of the petition has also been served on State Governments and Union Territories. We have heard Mr. Prashant Bhushan for the petitioners,
Mr. G.E. Vahanvati, learned Solicitor General for the Union of India, Ms. Indu Malhotra
for the National Human Rights Commission and Ms. Swati Mehta for the Common
Welfare Initiatives. For most of the State Governments/Union Territories oral
submissions were not made. None of the State Governments/Union Territories
urged that any of the suggestion put forth by the petitioners and Solicitor
General of India may not be accepted.
the report submitted to the Government of India by National Police Commission
(1977-81), various other high powered Committees and Commissions have examined
the issue of police reforms, viz.
Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System.
addition to above, the Government of India in terms of Office Memorandum dated
20th September, 2005 constituted a Committee comprising Shri Soli Sorabjee,
former Attorney General and five others to draft a new Police Act in view of
the changing role of police due to various socio-economic and political changes
which have taken place in the country and the challenges posed by modern day
global terrorism, extremism, rapid urbanization as well as fast evolving
aspirations of a modern democratic society. The Sorabjee Committee has prepared
a draft outline for a new Police Act (9th September, 2006).
one decade back, viz. on 3rd August, 1997 a letter was sent by a Union Home
Minister to the State Governments revealing a distressing situation and
expressing the view that if the Rule of Law has to prevail, it must be cured.
strong expression of opinions by various Commissions, Committees and even a
Home Minister of the country, the position has not improved as these opinions
have remained only on paper, without any action. In fact, position has
deteriorated further. The National Human Rights Commission in its report dated 31st May, 2002, inter alia, noted that:
drew attention in its 1st April 2002 proceedings to the need to act decisively
on the deeper question of Police Reform, on which recommendations of the
National Police Commission (NPC) and of the National Human Rights Commission
have been pending despite efforts to have them acted upon. The Commission added
that recent event in Gujarat and, indeed, in other States of the country,
underlined the need to proceed without delay to implement the reforms that have
already been recommended in order to preserve the integrity of the investigating
process and to insulate it from 'extraneous influences'.
above noted letter dated 3rd April, 1997 sent to all the State Governments, the
Home Minister while echoing the overall popular perception that there has been
a general fall in the performance of the police as also a deterioration in the
policing system as a whole in the country, expressed that time had come to rise
above limited perceptions to bring about some drastic changes in the shape of
reforms and restructuring of the police before the country is overtaken by
unhealthy developments. It was expressed that the popular perception all over
the country appears to be that many of the deficiencies in the functioning of
the police had arisen largely due to an overdose of unhealthy and petty
political interference at various levels starting from transfer and posting of
policemen of different ranks, misuse of police for partisan purposes and
political patronage quite often extended to corrupt police personnel. The Union
Home Minister expressed the view that rising above narrow and partisan
considerations, it is of great national importance to insulate the police from
the growing tendency of partisan or political interference in the discharge of
its lawful functions of prevention and control of crime including investigation
of cases and maintenance of public order.
the Home Minister, all the Commissions and Committees above noted, have broadly
come to the same conclusion on the issue of urgent need for police reforms.
is convergence of views on the need to have
Commission at State level;
procedure for the appointment of Police Chief and the desirability of giving
him a minimum fixed tenure;
investigation work from law and order; and
a new Police Act
which should reflect the democratic aspirations of the people.
been contended that a statutory State Security Commission with its
recommendations binding on the Government should have been established long
before. The apprehension expressed is that any Commission without giving its
report binding effect would be ineffective.
than 25 years back i.e. in August 1979, the Police Commission Report
recommended that the investigation task should be beyond any kind of
intervention by the executive or non-executive.
separation of investigation work from law and order even the Law Commission of
India in its 154th Report had recommended such separation to ensure speedier
investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people without
of-course any water tight compartmentalization in view of both functions being
closely inter-related at the ground level.
Committee has also recommended establishment of a State Bureau of Criminal
Investigation by the State Governments under the charge of a Director who shall
report to the Director General of Police.
most of the reports, for appointment and posting, constitution of a Police
Establishment Board has been recommended comprising of the Director General of
Police of the State and four other senior officers. It has been further
recommended that there should be a Public Complaints Authority at district
level to examine the complaints from the public on police excesses, arbitrary
arrests and detentions, false implications in criminal cases, custodial
violence etc. and for making necessary recommendations.
and undisputedly, the Commission did commendable work and after in depth study,
made very useful recommendations. After waiting for nearly 15 years, this
petition was filed. More than ten years have elapsed since this petition was
filed. Even during this period, on more or less similar lines, recommendations
for police reforms have been made by other high powered committees as above
Committee has also prepared a draft report. We have no doubt that the said
Committee would also make very useful recommendations and come out with a model
new Police Act for consideration of the Central and the State Governments. We
have also no doubt that Sorabjee Committee Report and the new Act will receive
due attention of the Central Government which may recommend to the State
Governments to consider passing of State Acts on the suggested lines. We expect
that the State Governments would give it due consideration and would pass
suitable legislations on recommended lines, the police being a State subject
under the Constitution of India. The question, however, is whether this Court
should further wait for Governments to take suitable steps for police reforms.
The answer has to be in the negative.
the gravity of
the urgent need
for preservation and strengthening of Rule of Law;
pendency of even
this petition for last over ten years;
the fact that
various Commissions and Committees have made recommendations on similar lines
for introducing reforms in the police set-up in the country; and
uncertainty as to when police reforms would be introduced, we think that there
cannot be any further wait, and the stage has come for issue of appropriate
directions for immediate compliance so as to be operative till such time a new
model Police Act is prepared by the Central Government and/or the State
Governments pass the requisite legislations. It may further be noted that the
quality of Criminal Justice System in the country, to a large extent, depends
upon the working of the police force. Thus, having regard to the larger public
interest, it is absolutely necessary to issue the requisite directions. Nearly
ten years back, in Vineet Narain & Ors. v. Union of India & Anr. [(1998) 1 SCC 226], this Court noticed
the urgent need for the State Governments to set up the requisite mechanism and
directed the Central Government to pursue the matter of police reforms with the
State Governments and ensure the setting up of a mechanism for selection/appointment,
tenure, transfer and posting of not merely the Chief of the State Police but
also all police officers of the rank of Superintendents of Police and above.
Court expressed its shock that in some States the tenure of a Superintendent of
Police is for a few months and transfers are made for whimsical reasons which
has not only demoralizing effect on the police force but is also alien to the
envisaged constitutional machinery. It was observed that apart from
demoralizing the police force, it has also the adverse effect of politicizing
the personnel and, therefore, it is essential that prompt measures are taken by
the Central Government.
Court then observed that no action within the constitutional scheme found
necessary to remedy the situation is too stringent in these circumstances.
than four years have also lapsed since the report above noted was submitted by
the National Human Rights commission to the Government of India.
preparation of a model Police Act by the Central Government and enactment of
new Police Acts by State Governments providing therein for the composition of
State Security Commission are things, we can only hope for the present.
Similarly, we can only express our hope that all State Governments would rise
to the occasion and enact a new Police Act wholly insulating the police from
any pressure whatsoever thereby placing in position an important measure for
securing the rights of the citizens under the Constitution for the Rule of Law,
treating everyone equal and being partisan to none, which will also help in
securing an efficient and better criminal justice delivery system. It is not
possible or proper to leave this matter only with an expression of this hope
and to await developments further. It is essential to lay down guidelines to be
operative till the new legislation is enacted by the State Governments.
32 read with Article 142 of the Constitution empowers this Court to issue such
directions, as may be necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or
authorities are mandated by Article 144 to act in aid of the orders passed by
this Court. The decision in Vineet Narain's case (supra) notes various
decisions of this Court where guidelines and directions to be observed were
issued in absence of legislation and implemented till legislatures pass
the assistance of learned counsel for the parties, we have perused the various
reports. In discharge of our constitutional duties and obligations having regard
to the aforenoted position, we issue the following directions to the Central
Government, State Governments and Union Territories for compliance till framing of the
Security Commission (1) The State Governments are directed to constitute a
State Security Commission in every State to ensure that the State Government
does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the State police and for
laying down the broad policy guidelines so that the State police always acts according
to the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country. This watchdog body
shall be headed by the Chief Minister or Home Minister as Chairman and have the
DGP of the State as its ex-officio Secretary. The other members of the
Commission shall be chosen in such a manner that it is able to function
independent of Government control. For this purpose, the State may choose any
of the models recommended by the National Human Rights Commission, the Ribeiro
Committee or the Sorabjee Committee, which are as under:
Committee Sorabjee Committee
Minister/HM as Chairman.
Police as Chairman
Police (ex- officio Chairperson)
Lok Ayukta or,
in his absence, a retired Judge of High Court to be nominated by Chief Justice
or a Member of State Human Rights Commission.
A sitting or
retired Judge nominated by Chief Justice of High Court.
or retired, nominated by Chief Justice of High Court.
Opposition in Lower House.
non-political citizens of proven merit and integrity.
DG Police as
recommendations of this Commission shall be binding on the State Government.
functions of the State Security Commission would include laying down the broad
policies and giving directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and
service oriented functions of the police, evaluation of the performance of the
State police and preparing a report thereon for being placed before the State
and Minimum Tenure of DGP:
General of Police of the State shall be selected by the State Government from
amongst the three senior-most officers of the Department who have been
empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission on
the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience
for heading the police force. And, once he has been selected for the job, he
should have a minimum tenure of at least two years irrespective of his date of
superannuation. The DGP may, however, be relieved of his responsibilities by
the State Government acting in consultation with the State Security Commission
consequent upon any action taken against him under the All India Services
(Discipline and Appeal) Rules or following his conviction in a court of law in
a criminal offence or in a case of corruption, or if he is otherwise
incapacitated from discharging his duties.
Tenure of I.G. of Police & other officers:
on operational duties in the field like the Inspector General of Police
in-charge Zone, Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge Range,
Superintendent of Police in-charge district and Station House Officer in-charge
of a Police Station shall also have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years
unless it is found necessary to remove them prematurely following disciplinary
proceedings against them or their conviction in a criminal offence or in a case
of corruption or if the incumbent is otherwise incapacitated from discharging
would be subject to promotion and retirement of the officer.
investigating police shall be separated from the law and order police to ensure
speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
must, however, be ensured that there is full coordination between the two wings.
The separation, to start with, may be effected in towns/urban areas which have
a population of ten lakhs or more, and gradually extended to smaller
towns/urban areas also.
There shall be a
Police Establishment Board in each State which shall decide all transfers,
postings, promotions and other service related matters of officers of and below
the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Establishment Board shall be a
departmental body comprising the Director General of Police and four other
senior officers of the Department. The State Government may interfere with
decision of the Board in exceptional cases only after recording its reasons for
doing so. The Board shall also be authorized to make appropriate recommendations
to the State Government regarding the posting and transfers of officers of and
above the rank of Superintendent of Police, and the Government is expected to
give due weight to these recommendations and shall normally accept it. It shall
also function as a forum of appeal for disposing of representations from
officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above regarding their
promotion/transfer/disciplinary proceedings or their being subjected to illegal
or irregular orders and generally reviewing the functioning of the police in
There shall be a
Police Complaints Authority at the district level to look into complaints
against police officers of and up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent of
Police. Similarly, there should be another Police Complaints Authority at the
State level to look into complaints against officers of the rank of
Superintendent of Police and above. The district level Authority may be headed
by a retired District Judge while the State level Authority may be headed by a
retired Judge of the High
The head of the State level Complaints Authority shall be chosen by the State
Government out of a panel of names proposed by the Chief Justice; the head of
the district level Complaints Authority may also be chosen out of a panel of
names proposed by the Chief Justice or a Judge of the High Court nominated by
Authorities may be assisted by three to five members depending upon the volume
of complaints in different States/districts, and they shall be selected by the
State Government from a panel prepared by the State Human Rights Commission/Lok
Ayukta/State Public Service Commission. The panel may include members from
amongst retired civil servants, police officers or officers from any other
department, or from the civil society. They would work whole time for the
Authority and would have to be suitably remunerated for the services rendered
by them. The Authority may also need the services of regular staff to conduct
field inquiries. For this purpose, they may utilize the services of retired
investigators from the CID, Intelligence, Vigilance or any other organization.
The State level Complaints Authority would take cognizance of only allegations
of serious misconduct by the police personnel, which would include incidents
involving death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody. The district level
Complaints Authority would, apart from above cases, may also inquire into
allegations of extortion, land/house grabbing or any incident involving serious
abuse of authority. The recommendations of the Complaints Authority, both at
the district and State levels, for any action, departmental or criminal,
against a delinquent police officer shall be binding on the concerned authority.
Government shall also set up a National Security Commission at the Union level
to prepare a panel for being placed before the appropriate Appointing
Authority, for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations
(CPO), who should also be given a minimum tenure of two years.
Commission would also review from time to time measures to upgrade the
effectiveness of these forces, improve the service conditions of its personnel,
ensure that there is proper coordination between them and that the forces are
generally utilized for the purposes they were raised and make recommendations
in that behalf. The National Security Commission could be headed by the Union
Home Minister and comprise heads of the CPOs and a couple of security experts
as members with the Union Home Secretary as its Secretary.
aforesaid directions shall be complied with by the Central Government, State
Governments or Union Territories, as the case may be, on or before 31st December,
2006 so that the bodies afore-noted became operational on the onset of the new
year. The Cabinet Secretary, Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of
State Governments/Union Territories are directed to file affidavits of
compliance by 3rd January,
parting, we may note another suggestion of Mr. Prashant Bhushan that directions
be also issued for dealing with the cases arising out of threats emanating from
international terrorism or organized crimes like drug trafficking, money laundering,
smuggling of weapons from across the borders, counterfeiting of currency or the
activities of mafia groups with trans-national links to be treated as measures
taken for the defence of India as mentioned in Entry I of the Union List in the
Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India and as internal security measures
as contemplated under Article 355 as these threats and activities aim at
destabilizing the country and subverting the economy and thereby weakening its defence.
The suggestion is that the investigation of above cases involving inter-state
or international ramifications deserves to be entrusted to the Central Bureau
suggestion, on the face of it, seems quite useful.
unlike the aforesaid aspects which were extensively studied and examined by
various experts and reports submitted and about which for that reason, we had
no difficulty in issuing directions, there has not been much study or material
before us, on the basis whereof we could safely issue the direction as
suggested. For considering this suggestion, it is necessary to enlist the views
of expert bodies.
therefore, request the National Human Rights Commission, Sorabjee Committee and
Bureau of Police Research and Development to examine the aforesaid suggestion
of Mr. Bhushan and assist this Court by filing their considered views within
four months. The Central Government is also directed to examine this suggestion
and submit its views within that time.
suggestion regarding monitoring of the aforesaid directions that have been
issued either by National Human Rights Commission or the Police Bureau would be
considered on filing of compliance affidavits whereupon the matter shall be
listed before the Court.