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The deliberate emasculation of the police vis-à-vis the political executive is a harsh reality now. (Photo: The Quint)

OPINION | 6 min read

Politician-Police Nexus: Appointments, Transfers Explain It All

R K Raghavan

Today, 4 hours ago

0129more

In my 38-year-long stint with the Indian Police Service, there were both highs and lows. Even as a head of the CBI, one of the highest positions that an IPS officer can aspire for. This was, however, not before many moments of frustration, as well as those of satisfaction, pride and joy.

There was indeed a measure of politics in policing when I began my career in the mid-1960s. I got a taste of it very early, when as an Assistant Superintendent of Police – the first rank given to an IPS officer, at the end of training – I was shifted out of my jurisdiction abruptly. I had caught a Congressman with pants down literally, and had proceeded as per law. Within days, however, the order of shifting me to a God-forsaken place was cancelled, because of a local representation to the Chief Minister mentioning that I had been treated unfairly despite good work done for the local community.

The northern states, especially Bihar and UP, take the cake for the politicisation of the police force. (Photo: iStockphoto)

The northern states, especially Bihar and UP, take the cake for the politicisation of the police force. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Humiliation by the Political Class

A few decades later – after being promoted as a Superintendent of Police, I was once again upbraided by the then Chief Minister’s Personal Assistant. I was at that time heading the police in an important district in southern Tamil Nadu. The provocation for that rude admonition came from arresting a ruling party MLA without seeking the Chief Minister’s approval!

I promptly brought this to the notice of my IG, (there was no DGP then) Mr Eric Stracey (an Anglo-Indian IPS officer), known for his uprightness. He responded to it swiftly by saying the next time when the CM’s office speaks to me, I could politely tell them that the arrest in question was under his (IG’s) orders. This could now sound apocryphal, but it was true. Can you imagine any DGP in the country now standing up to a Chief Minister in the manner Stracey did?

The stories I now hear across the country are those of horror. The DGP has become a handmaiden of the Chief Minister doing the bidding for the latter, legal and illegal. Or else he can’t survive. The northern states, especially Bihar and UP, take the cake for the politicisation of the police force. The deliberate emasculation of the police vis-à-vis the political executive is a harsh reality now.

There is a promise of a quid pro quo that leads to the willingness of a senior officer to bend and compromise in order to occupy a coveted position. (Photo: Reuters)

There is a promise of a quid pro quo that leads to the willingness of a senior officer to bend and compromise in order to occupy a coveted position. (Photo: Reuters)

Political Nexus

I would principally blame the police leadership for this rot. In the police, there are only a few important positions which include – State DGP, Addl. DGPs Intelligence and Crime and Commissioner of Police in the State capital. The rest are all lower in public esteem and less significant in terms of workload and profile. As a result, there is a scramble for the few positions of consequence within the police, a situation exploited by our politicians.

There is a promise of a quid pro quo that leads to the willingness of a senior officer to bend and compromise in order to occupy a coveted position. This is how the politicisation of the police began in this country.

Many policemen, both in the lower and higher rungs, do not consider it unethical to approach political functionaries to get posted to a place of their choice. (Photo: Reuters)

Many policemen, both in the lower and higher rungs, do not consider it unethical to approach political functionaries to get posted to a place of their choice. (Photo: Reuters)

Keeping a Check on Irregularities

This cannot go away until three elements of police administration change. First is the process of recruitment at the Constable and Sub-Inspector levels. Strict procedures and standards of eligibility no doubt exist, and thanks to Recruitment Boards (like the one set up by Tamil Nadu), there is also a system in place that can be adhered to without difficulty.

But then, before being released, the final list of recruits has to be approved by the Chief Minister’s office. It is at this stage that irregularities take place. Apart from undeserving candidates replacing the worthy ones on grounds of political affiliation or backing, money also changes hands. Most of the vacancies are sold at a prescribed rate.

It is equally true that a Constable or Sub-Inspector, who has paid his way through, can hardly be honest while discharging his duties. He invariably tries to recover whatever money he has spent to get into the force in the first few years itself. This is the genesis of all police corruption.

SnapshotClick here to collapse

Rot In Indian Police

Corruption in police owes its origin to the scramble for a few influential positions within the force, a situation exploited by our politicians.

A quid pro quo arrangement, inspired by petty gains, leads to various compromises on part of a senior officer.

An officer tries to recover money he has spent to get into the force in the first few years itself, which is the genesis of all forms of corruption.

Intervention by the executive that allows favour for those who are close to it encourages the practice of graft in the police force at all levels.

Transfer as a Political Tool

The second factor which facilitates politics in policing is the enormous power that ruling parties enjoy in the placement of officers. In many states, transfers are a cottage industry. Many policemen, both in the lower and higher rungs, do not consider it unethical to approach political functionaries to get posted to a place of their choice.

They become indebted to the political class, and thereby lose the objectivity expected of them in day-to-day law enforcement. States have gone to the extent of flouting the Supreme Court of India’s direction in the Prakash Singh case (2006) that crucial operational officers in the field (including SHOs and District Superintendents of Police) should be assured of a fixed tenure of at least two years.

The numerous cases of torture and corruption involving the police are often cited as the reason why autonomy to the latter is a dangerous proposition. (Photo: Reuters)

The numerous cases of torture and corruption involving the police are often cited as the reason why autonomy to the latter is a dangerous proposition. (Photo: Reuters)

Executive Messes it Further

The third factor is the police’s subordination to the executive in legal matters. The executive still plays a large role in crime investigation. This is despite the fact that the law permits registration of an FIR by the SHO without seeking anybody’s permission, including that of the executive. In respect of the Prevention of Corruption Act, in many states, even a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) cannot be conducted without government’s permission. Also, a sanction for prosecuting a ‘public servant’ (which by definition includes a minister) under any law can be accorded only by the executive, which can even deny a request. Finally, an appeal against the acquittal of any accused (including those who are not public servants) requires permission of the executive.

All these provisions are used by the executive to favour those who are close to it, politically unmindful of the fact that the latter are guilty of crime or graft. The stern observation not so long ago by the Supreme Court of India that the CBI is a ‘caged parrot’ is relevant in this context.

In sum, there is no political will in the country to lend any independence to the police. The numerous cases of torture and corruption involving the police are often cited as the reason why autonomy to the latter is a dangerous proposition. This explains the unwholesome politicisation that has affected the image of the police in the country.

(The writer is a former CBI Director.)

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