The Maharashtra Police (Amendment) Ordinance came into effect on February 3, 2014. Police Reforms Watch and the Commonwealth Human Rights regret that despite a delay of 8 years since the judgment in the Prakash Singh case was delivered, the Ordinance goes against the letter and spirit of the Court’s intention. The Ordinance must be extensively reviewed before it can be passed into law.
Objecting to initiating wide ranging changes that impact so greatly on the public at large:
Maja Daruwala, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, says, “Laws last a long time. Good laws lead to improvements and bad ones perpetuate bad policing practices. We cannot let this happen. Police reforms are just too urgent now. The public cannot hope to be safe if policing does not become responsive, service oriented and efficient in investigating crime without fear or favour. The police must answer only to the law and not to individual power. The new ordinance does not change the relationship between police and politician and it does not make the police more accountable when it does wrong nor does it equip them to provide overall better performance. It will be a colossal mistake to hurriedly pass it into law”.
Reacting to the sudden Ordinance, Dolphy Dsouza, Convenor of Police Reforms Watch said, “How the police function is something that concerns everyone. Government can’t make laws this way without consulting the people most affected by it – the general public. This is a moment for government to listen to what the people feel about the police and its functioning. The government must hold town hall meetings all across Maharashtra, district by district to hear what the people want from their police. The police rank and file must also have their say. And the Assembly must have the benefit of specialist opinion and strong debate before a new law is passed. Today people feel the police belong to the politician and the powerful. People have to feel that the government has a genuine intention to improve policing. That is the only way the government can win the trust of the people. In an election year this is very important for political survival as well”.
Below is a short summary of the Ordinance provisions:
The State Security Commission (SSC) is dominated by the political executive rather than being diverse and representative. While 5 non-official members are included, there is no independent panel for their selection and removal. The government has diluted its own order of July 2013 setting up a SSC which had a selection panel for independent members made up of a retired High Court judge, Chair of the state Human Rights Commission and Chair of the state Public Service Commission. This needs to be brought back or the so-called independent members are at the mercy of the state government. The Court's directive says SSC recommendations are to be binding, not "advisory in nature" as in the Ordinance.
Needed checks and balances in the selection and tenure of the police chief are diluted. The Ordinance omits the short-listing of candidates when selecting the DGP as required by the Supreme Court. Tenure for the DGP is to be irrespective of the date of superannuation, not subject to superannuation as in the Ordinance.
Retains the political executive’s control on decisions on postings and transfers, defeating the Court’s scheme of trying to bring some part of these decisions back into the hands of the police
Does not create new and specialized crime investigation units, only divests investigation to existing branches and cells.
Sets up Police Complaints Authorities that are dominated by serving government and police officers, defeating their independence and very purpose. Provisions which could unduly penalize complainants are included.