Police Administration in India: An Analytical Audit of the Issue and Approaches

        Dr. Mudasir Bhat*


Police as a conscience keeper of the society is considered as an important constituent of the criminal justice system entrusted with the duty of maintaining law and order as well as detection and prevention of crimes. Police is considered to be the largest organised force which is taken from the community to serve and operate in our social milieu. However, because of misuse of power by the police personnel, there is police public trust deficit. The police force in our country is functioning under the British enacted Indian Police Act of 1861 which is outdated as in most of the cases it is unable to effectively tackle the problems of modern developing society. In this direction even National Police Commission in 1977 has suggested draft of new Police Act. Number of States appointed commissions to suggest police reformation but nothing concrete and substantial has been achieved. Recommended action includes exhaustive police training, management of police force and trustworthy police public relationship.

Keywords: Crime Prevention; Crime Detection, Law Enforcement; Police Public Relationship, Police Training; Police Management.


Police force is the creation of society. It has existed in one form or the other wherever and whenever society existed. Police in almost all parts of the world is considered as the most visible manifestation of the government. Police is known to influence public attitudes towards law, government, and civic responsibilities. Moreover, the police reflects the social setting in which they operate. Policing policies and their activities and methodology adopted by them are often shaped by major forces of the National and State politics. Therefore, police cannot be seen in isolation from the changes and developments taking place in the society. They influence and are in turn influenced by such changes. A well organised, well motivated and well equipped police force is an asset and benign influence in grappling with the problems of a changing society.

Conceptual Dimensions 

The primary purpose of a police force is the maintenance of law and order, preservation of  peace and protection of life and property against the attacks by criminals and injuries caused by the careless and inadvertent offenders. It, therefore, plays an important role in criminal justice system. Of late, police duties have increased enormously and are becoming more and more diversified. The modern police force must protect the public against the physical dangers, rescue people, regulate traffic and preserve law and order in the society. The word ‘police’ originally was used in a wider sense to connote the management of internal economy and the enforcement of governmental regulations in a particular country. With the passage of time, the term ‘police’ began to be used in a much narrower sense to connote an agency of the state to maintain law and order and enforce the regulations of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The term ‘police’ is derived from the Greek word Politeia or its Latin equivalent Politia. The term Politia stands for the ‘State’ or ‘administration’. The term police, according to oxford dictionary, means “a system of regulation for preservation of order and enforcement of law: the  internal government of a State”. In the present context, the term ‘police’ connotes a body of civil servants whose primary duties are preservation of  law and order and detection of crimes.

Police is considered as an indispensable appendage of State organisation in almost all the societies. Only the person of proven ability and those having thorough knowledge of local regions and its subjects were recruited in the police force so that they could tackle the problem of law enforcement effectively. However, with the progress of civilisation and development of knowledge, the dimensions of police functions have extended beyond limits. Now it has assumed the role of a social service organisation in the modern welfare states and has no longer remained a mere watch-dog agency of the state.

Historical Background 

The beginning of civil protection against crime and disorder in England came with the promulgation of the Edict West Minister in 1285 by King Edward I. Under this system, local groups of property owners numbering about hundred each were responsible for maintenance of peace in their districts. By the advent of eighteenth century United Kingdom witnessed a considerable increase in crimes of violence. Therefore, a police force of 126 constables was set up by the Middlsex Justice Act, to arrest the growing crime and violence. However, for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in Ireland, a regular system of constabulary was established in England by the Act of British parliament in 1787.  This system could not prove efficient therefore Sir Robert Peel (the then Home Secretary of England) pleaded for a change in constabulary system. This led to the passing of Metropolitan Police Ac of 1829, which provided for a separate police force for Metropolitan city of London.

Similarly, before the United States came under the influence of the Britain, the civilians performed the functions of night-watchman by rotation. Eventually, in 1844 a regular police force was established in New York. However, regular force was setup in America by the Dougan Charter of 1886.

In India the Police force has been in existence in one form or another from the very ancient times. There are references to the existence of police system in epics, namely Mahabharata and Ramayana. Manu, the great ancient law-giver also emphasised the need of police force for the maintenance of law and order. The history of ancient India further reveals that there was a well organised police force during the reigns of ancient Hindu rulers. The Gupta dynasty in ancient India was particularly known for its excellent  law and order situation through a well organised system of police.

The Mughal rulers in India also had a well organised police force for maintaining law and order in society. This system was, however, different from the earlier one. The police official called the Fauzdar was in charge of the entire police force with a number of subordinate officials called Darogas or Kotwals working under him. The policeman called the Sipahi  was the official of the lowest rank in the Moghal police constabulary. During this period detective branch of the police force which assisted in criminal investigations was known as Khuphia. Nizam or Subedar was the chief police administrator of  the province. 

When the British took over the government of the provinces in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, they adopted the system of administration that they found in each locality and made as few changes as possible. The history of Police in British India prior to 1860 was largely a series of experiments with the old system of fauzdars and the introduction of new system such as the appointment of a superintendent of police in 1808 in Bengal. At the initiative of Sir Charles Napier, who was appointed  as the Governor of Sind (184347), the police in Sind was organised in the pattern of the Royal Irish Constabulary and was made a separate  and self-contained organisation under the supervision of its own officers. In 1847, Sir George Clerk, Governor of Bombay, on his visit to Sind, found the policing so efficient that he decided to introduce a similar pattern in the Deccan. In 1853 a superintendent of police was appointed in Bombay. A change in Madras was effected soon after in 1859. In Lucknow the force was constituted on the lines of the London police. Thus, by the time the commission of 1860 was setup to recommend the pattern of policing in India, the stage had been set and the solution was in place in bits and peices, for a policing system to be adopted for the entire country.

First attempt to introduce a law-enforcing agency with a uniform structure in the greater part of India was the Police Act of 1861. The Act was a major departure from the old system, although it retained some of the features of the old system. The darogha, for example was retained but with a new name, the Sub-Inspector of police. The Police system created by the Police Act of 1861 has been retained in independent India.However, this act was not made applicable to Bombay Presidency which continued to function under Bombay Regulation XII of 1872. In the year 1866 Railway Police was constituted, and the responsibility for prevention, detection and prosecution and maintenance of the order on railway platforms were entrusted to the Railway Police, on the recommendation of the Railway Committee. In order remove certain defects in the Police Act of 1861, the Police (Amendment) Act, 1895 was enacted. After that Lord Curzon appointed another commission called the Police Commission of 1902 to suggest various measures for reforms in police working. Unfortunately, the Commission instead of suggesting any reformative measures highly recommended the prevailing setup.

In 1912 the Royal Commission known as “Islington Commission” on the police services in India was appointed and it submitted a report in August 1915. It recommended various changes including that not less than 10% of the Superintendents should be filled by promotion from the Provincial Services and that this should be gradually raised to 20%. In the year 1922 the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act was enacted to punish those causing disaffection against government. In 1923 another Royal Commission known as the “Lee commission” was appointed. This Commission recommended that the superior post for the Indians in the Indian Police Service cadre were to be filled at 50% to be achieved by 1939. There were hurried expansion of the force in all Provinces during and immediately after the World War II, but substantial increase was effected after Independence and merger of the Princely States in 1948-49.

Consequent to the Indian independence in 1947, the colonial police setup was hardly suited to the radical changes in the Indian community, but unfortunately, the same set up with little modifications still continues despite more than seventy years after the end of the colonial rule in this country. In 1949 the Central Reserve Force Act was passed constituting an armed police force under the control of the central government. In 1951 the All India Services Act was enacted constituting an All India Services known as the Indian Administrative Services and the Indian Police Services. Rules were framed regulating the recruitment and conditions of services, pay etc of the members of the Indian Police Service.

The  Constitution of India, 1950 makes policing a State subject and therefore the State governments have the responsibility to provide their communities with a police service. However, even after-independence most States have adopted the British enacted Police Act of 1861 without any change, while other States have passed laws heavily based on the 1861 Act. The need for police reforms in India and the police laws has been long recognised. There has been debate and discussion by the government created committees and commissions on the way forward for police reform, but unfortunately India remains saddled with an outdated old-fashioned law, while report after report gathers dust in government offices without any positive implementation. The National Police Commission began sitting in 1979, in the context of a post-Emergency India, and produced eight reports. In the year 1996, two former senior police officers filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court of India, asking for the Court to direct governments to implement the recommendations of the National Police Commission. The Supreme Court directed the government to set up a committee to review the recommendations of the Commission. Consequent to this a  Committee was set up, headed by J.F. Ribeiro (Former chief of Punjab Police) which sat over 1998 and 1999 and produced two reports. In 2000, the government set up a third committee on police reform under the headship of former union Home Secretary, K. Padmnabhaiah. This committee produced its report in the same year. After that the Malimath Committee Report submitted in March, 2003 has very articulately laid down the foundation of a restructured and reoriented police system. The Committee in its report observed that the success of the whole process of Criminal Justice Administration depended completely on the proper functioning of the police organisation especially in the investigation stage. Apart from the investigation of offences, the police also have the duty of maintaining law and order.  Again in the year 2005, the government under the headship of Mr. Soli Sarabjee put together a group to draft a new Police Act. This committee submitted a Model Police Act in late 2006. At the same time, the Supreme Court made further directions in the long running PIL’s on police reform. The court directed the government of India to implement police reforms, and provided them with a framework within which to begin the reform process. These PIL’s included the one filed in 2007 by  former DIG of Police Prakash Singh. After examining the PIL, the Supreme Court of India issued directions regarding control and structural mechanism of police. Even Justice J.S. Verma Committee constituted in 2012 also recommended the implementation of the directives issued by the Apex Court in Prakash Singh’s casewhich include,  State security commissions in every state to ensure that the State Government does not exercise unwarranted or pressure on the state police, selection and minimum tenure of DGP, I.G and other police officers, investigation police shall be separated from law and order police to ensure speedy investigation, 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, Police Complaints authority and National Security Commission.

The Indian Police Set-up 

The Hierarchy of police officials working in the State police forces include, Director-General of Police, the Inspector-General of Police, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Superintendent of Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Circle Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Assistant Sub-Inspectors, Head Constables and Recruit Constables, etc. However in metropolitan cities of Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Hyderabad etc., the powers of Superintendent of Police and those of District Magistrate are combined in one single official called the Police Commissioner. Though the Constitution of India enumerates police as a State subject in the List, it includes  long list of allied and quasi-police subjects in the Union List. For example, Preventive detention, arms, ammunition, explosives, extradition, passport etc. are the sole responsibilities of the Central Government. It also determines the selection and service conditions of all India Police Services. 

The Women Police Force in India

In India, early history of policing by women is available in the Ramayana, Mahabharata, ‘Arthashastra’ of Kautilya and the Ashokan edits. The Ramayana gives the clear description of how Sita was put under surveillance of the  women police who carried all round vigil. Similarly, the Ashokan edicts frequently speak about the ‘Prativedikas’ who protected  the royal chambers from intruders and kept the king informed about the day to day happenings.

Modern society has evolved from the conflicts between the traditional and the modern, the rational and the irrational. Old relationships and taboos are being broken and new patterns are emerging. The category of people suffering the most, because of this traumatic transformation, women all over the world have had to struggle hard, to make a breakthrough into the police services. At first instance women were first entrusted with a very limited role in cases relating to women and children. By the 1970’s, women had broken the legal and practical barriers to enter into police departments. Despite skepticism and hostility, women police force demonstrated that they were as capable as men in handling routine police tasks. In country like India, the problem of policing has taken an entirely new dimension due to the rapidly changing socio-economic and political conditions. In several States, increasing involvement and participation of women in various political agitations, riots, student demonstrations have become a regular feature. The increasing involvement of women in crime, delinquency, deviancy and agitations stresses the need for developing women police units, suitably trained in the tasks attuned to them. 

It is significant to note that India has the credit of setting up the first women police station in the world. It was set up at Calicut in the State of Kerala on October 27, 1973. Thereafter, the Mahila police stations were set up in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir. With the opening of Women Police Stations, people particularly women feel their complaints will be dealt with faster and that they will get prompt relief. It has been seen, however, non-functioning of the women police stations during night hours is a cause of inconvenience for the genuine complainants as they have to take their complaints to man-manned police station or have to wait till morning.    

Police Image in India 

Public opinion of the police varies from country to country. In some countries police stand as the symbol of security and protection, while in some other countries the police are viewed as an object of terror and hatred. In India, public distrust of the police is very great and police have never enjoyed the same sort of love, respect and friendliness on the part of general public. Relations between the police, public and press in India have been a story of love-hate one, more of the latter. The citizens view the police as the strong arm of the State that harass and not befriends them. Cordial police- public relationship, despite some successful experiments remained a dream, and this is something unprecedented in India and has to be approached in a sincere and serious manner.

Police Training Programme 

Crime prevention and its investigation is the primary and major task of  police force, it has to collect facts, evidence, witness and other materials which  influence the process of truth searching in the establishment of guilt. Police among the law enforcement constituents is the first to reach on the site of crime, it has to play an important role in the administration of justice. Therefore, it becomes important to provide police force exhaustive training and education about the crime prevention and its investigation. Criminals in this modern and developed era use many modern types of techniques to commit crimes. It has thus become need of the time that police forces must be acquainted with the modern scientific knowledge. It is suggested that police personnel at the entry level into the force must be given the exhaustive training of science, law and social work.

The Role and Functioning of Police

The police force is under professional duty demanding from them the highest standards of conduct, at most honesty, impartiality and integrity. It is rather unfortunate that the police in modern Indian Society is looked with fear, suspicion and distrust by the people at large.The role of police after independence of 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 hegemony. Naturally the police force was tyrannous. They dealt with the patriots and revolutionaries as if they were habitual 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 a police oppression for two and a half years-Emergency in the North India nicknamed as ‘Police Raj’. It can be pleaded that bribe and corruption have become a part of Indian society. Even police force which is meant to stop crimes like corruption is deeply indulged in this menace. 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 (like corruption) is like putting the cart before the horse.Even judiciary does not hold police in high esteem. Justice A.N. Mulla of the Allahabad High court characterised police force as the largest single lawless group and held that crimes in India could be reduced half if the police was disbanded.

The severe criticism and hostility towards the police force cannot improve the police efficiency. The major problem for the modern police force in India is to inspire the general public to appreciate the police values. The general impression that every police-man is inefficient, brutal and corrupt must be brushed aside and they should be encouraged to perform their duties with honesty and sincerity.

The main functions of the police force are prevention of crime and maintenance of law and order. These may be also referred to as traditional police functions. However, it would be more appropriate to call these functions as primary functions of the police.The major functions which the police is lawfully required to perform are as under:-

  • Patrolling and surveillance for the purpose of watch and ward.
  • Preventive functions of the police includes preventing law breakers and suspected criminals.
  • The police has the power to release accused on conditional release bond with or without sureties.
  • Investigation by police  for the collection of evidence.
  • Interrogation and frisking of offenders as a measure of safety and security.
  • Search and seizure for the purpose of smooth trial of case.
  • Assist public prosecutor in the court of law.

The Police Problems

After independence India has shown tremendous socio-economic growth. With the development, task of the police force too has become hard. Criminals by the use of new technology always try to outsmart the police force and the police makes efforts to find out the culprit by using scientific means. In this process police are confronted with numerous problems. Firstly, during investigation of crimes job of the police personnel becomes difficult because  of lack of public cooperation and support. People in most of the cases are not willing to assist the police in the detection and investigation of crimes. Secondly, Criminalisation of politicians provide undesirable protection to professional offenders and all sorts of pulls and pressures are exerted on the police to be lenient with the offenders. Thirdly,  in the court of law evidence collected by police during investigation is looked with suspicion. Lastly, the worst problem faced by the police force in India is rioting. Problem of communal rioting depends mainly on the political solution of the problem created by the existing relations between the two communities. In fundamentals, communal rioting is a political rather than a police problem.


The police system in our country is conceived as to serve the interests of the ruling class, even after the 70 years of independence, the condition of the police system is same as left by the British. The respective governments, especially the politicians ruling state governments, want the police force to function like their private army. Enforcement of law, prevention of crimes, establishment of justice, etc, are not important to selfish politicians. So they do not want police establishment to become modernized and function impartially and efficiently. The Indian police is becoming notorious for rights abuse, corruption and lack of efficiency. The police personnel are poorly paid. They do not get proper training. The politicians treat them like private servants. If police force does not sub-serve their interests and ‘somehow’ implement their instructions, they would find it very difficult to carry on their corrupt practices. Despite repeated directives from the Supreme Court State governments drag on the much recognised subject of police reforms in India. 

In the interest of the country and good governance, there is an overdue need for urgent and concrete reformation of police system in India. It is also true that unless the people realize the importance of police reforms and continuously insist upon State governments for the same, none of the selfish political parties at their own is likely to take any initiative in the reformation of the police administration in India.

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