Police Reforms in India

By Fen Mathew


Every society needs to maintain law and order for its betterment and advancement in the world and be worthy to use its resources in a useful manner. Lawless and arbitrary societies spend all their energy and resources to maintain themselves leading to interference with the administration of it. Too much arbitrariness in society paves the way for the need for a good police system to keep a check on the subjects and maintain peace, law, and order.

In recent days, the increase in criminal activities has increased the need for an adequate and capable policeman. Data by NCRB showed the increase of crimes by 3% in 2019 which included crimes relating to the Indian Penal Code[1].

The most important factor is not just the need for any policemen but the ones with a sense of responsibility, dignity, truthfulness, and integrity.

In recent, there has been an increase in criminal activities not only among the common people but complaints against the police as well.

The recent case of custodial death of a father-son duo in Tamilnadu[2] or the killing of UP gangsters in the name of encounter[3] or the high-profile case of Param Bir Singh[4] in Maharashtra has attracted criticism from the media and public.

This is where the need for police reform is needed to teach the police force about the importance of their position, their need in the society, truthfulness, etc.

Police reforms aim to change the values, culture, practices of police organizations so that they can perform their duties within the ambit of rule of law, considering human rights, police interaction with other security forces, its relationship with the public, etc.

This article deals with the reforms made to the Police Force in India and the need for more reforms.

History of police reforms in India

The history of police services dates to the 19th century and is not new to the modern world. Several committees and commissions had been formed both post and pre-independence to discuss and deliberate on the need and effectiveness of police governance in the country.

It all started with the 1st Police Commission which was formed after the 1857 revolt to discuss the framework of police governance at that time.

The recommendations of this committee led to the formation of The Police Act in 1861 which has become an age-old law and is still being followed in the country after more than 150 years.

The shortcomings of the Act were discussed in the 2nd Police Commission which was established in 1902. In its report, the commission covered various aspects of policy, governance, training, pay, numbers, the procedure for reporting crime, investigating offenses, adequacy of supervision exercised by the Magistracy over the police, the control of the superior officers over the investigation of crime, and most importantly the crimes of corruption that took place inside the police department.

This did not change till the independence of the country but post-independence with the change in the society, economy, new political set up called out for changes in the governing of police system of the country which was initially regulated by the Britishers.

Post-independence, the first Police Reforms Committee was set up by Kerala in 1959 which was followed by a succession of Police Commissions appointed by different State Governments mainly during the sixties and seventies such as West Bengal in 1960-61, Punjab in 1961-62, Delhi in 1968, Tamil Nadu in 1971, setup, etc.

At the Central Government level, a Working Group on Police by the Administrative Reforms Commission was set up in 1966.

After this, Gore Committee was formed in 1971 to review the training of the state police from constabulary level to IPS level. The committee gave various recommendations on police reforms but none of them were implemented.

Subsequently, National Police Commission was established between 1977-1981 which submitted around 8 reports suggesting various reforms in the existing police system and also the Model Police Act but none of the major recommendations of the commission were implemented by any government across the country.

In 1998, Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms was established on the order of the Supreme Court and the committee proposed five major recommendations related to state security, selection of DGP, and complaints against the police, but all of them were overlooked.

The suggestions given by all the commissioned and committees were being continuously overlooked bringing no change in the police system. Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms was established in 2000 with the exception that it will bring some reformation in the police.

Former Union Home Secretary Shri K. Padmanabhaiah was appointed chairman of the commission. The committee mainly looked at the recruitment to the police force, training, duties, and responsibilities, police officers’ behavior, police investigations, prosecution, etc suggesting changes in them but it was also overlooked like any other committee previously formed.

The intervention of the Supreme Court on police reforms

Since none of the recommendations of the National Police Commission were implemented by any state in the country, it encouraged two former Director Generals of Police (DGPs) in 1996 to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court asking the Court to direct governments to implement the NPC recommendations.

This later became the landmark case of Prakash Singh Vs Union of India[5] which was delivered after a decade in 2006. While the case was pending before the Court, various committees were formed to tackle the incompetency of the police force but no results came of them.

The issues that were brought before the Court were related to police accountability, crime investigation, poor police infrastructure, public police relations, etc.

The Supreme Court after a wait of 10 years gave its judgment in 2006 laying the guidelines that had to be followed by central and state governments with regards to police reforms. The seven directives laid down by police were as follows:

  • Constitute a State Security mechanism
  • Selection and Minimum Tenure of the Director-General of Police
  • Minimum Tenure of the Inspector General of Police and Other Officers
  • Separation of investigation
  • Police Complaints Authority
  • Police Establishment Board
  • National Security Commission

Even after this none of the states fully complied with the directives given by Supreme Court 17 years ago.

Only Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh partially complied with the directives for changing their system whereas all the others ignored the implementation of the third landmark judgment in the same way they ignored the reports and recommendations of the committees and commissions.

What is the need for Police Reforms?

The constant need for change in the police system and police reforms is due to many factors that affect the working of the police and the system.

One of the major reasons the nexus between the police and politicians that has affected the efficient working of police. In many states, the police officials at the higher levels are controlled and influenced by politicians which in turn affects the decision-making power of the police.

Many a times they are bound not to arrest famous politicians or their relatives as they are under the pump or they collude with politicians being lenient to them and leaving the opportunity for them to move ahead with their wrong intentions.

The killing of UP gangster Vikas Dubey in an alleged fake encounter was an example of how the connections of politicians with the police or the accused lead to injustice in society.[6]

Overburdening of the police force has also made them ineffective as the police to people ratio is declining day by day. Data released by the Bureau of Police Research & Development on Police Organizations shows that Police per lakh of Population Ratio (PPR) against the total sanctioned Police strength (Civil + DAR + Special Armed + IRB) during the year 2019 is 195.39 as compared to 198.65 in the previous year.

The highest ratiois1,253.27 in A&N Islands.[7]

Police per 100 Sq. Km. of Area Ratio (PAR) against the total sanctioned Police strength (Civil + DAR + Special Armed + IRB) during the year 2019 is 79.80 as compared to 78.95 in the previous year. The highest ratio is 7,808.77 in Chandigarh.[8]

The vacancy in the police has been increasing with very low numbers of filling them. There is a vacancy of (1,09,525+29,371 IRBn) Police personnel in the State Special Armed Police forces, against (5,08,289+163,269 IRBn) sanctioned posts, 56,797 vacancies in the District Armed Reserve Police force, against 2,81,760 sanctioned posts and 3,36,044 vacancies in the Civil Police as against 16,69,907 sanctioned posts.

The overall vacancy comes to 5,31,737 against the total sanctioned strength (Civil, DAR, Special Armed, and IRBn) of 26,23,225 at the national level.[9]


After reading about all the commissions and committees, it can be concluded that the recommendations suggested by them were never implemented and there has been no or very little change in the police system.

To bring about the change, steps and measures should be taken to amend the old Police Act of British time which still governs modern and independent India.

New resources should be allocated to improve the working conditions of the police force and efforts should be made to free the police from the influence ad pressure of politicians and political parties.

Criminal laws such as the Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code, and the Indian Evidence Act should be revised and appropriate changes should be made to them which are in accordance with the present conditions.

The work burden on the force should be reduced by hiring more personnel, fast promotions, better living conditions, proper training, medical and health facilities, education to their children should be provided to them so they can be dedicated and truthful to their service.

They should be trained to deal with the public in a friendly matter so that the common citizens trust them rather than criticizing them for their attitude and behaviour.

When the governments and policies will focus on the overall development of the police from the individual level to the structural level, it will help bring reformation in the Police.


  1. National Crime Records Bureau (Ministry of Home Affairs), “Crime in India” (2019) (Last visited on 10th June 2021)
  2. Arun Janardhanan, “Explained: How Tamil Nadu Police’s brutal act of revenge claimed lives of a father and son”, available at: indianexpress.com(Last visited on 10th June 2021)
  3. Shivendra Srivastava, Vikas Dubey killed in encounter in Kanpur”, available at: indiatoday.in (Last visited on 10th June 2021)
  4. Nishtha Gupta, “Antilia-Sachin Vaze case: The curious tale of a rogue cop and Asia’s richest man”, available at: indiatoday.in (Last visited on 10th June 2021)
  5. 2006 8 SCC 1
  6. Julio Ribeiro, “The creation of Vikas Dubey, who flourished all these years because of political and police patronage”, available at: indianexpress.com (Last visited on 10th June 2021)
  7. Bureau of Police Research and Development (Ministry of Home Affairs), “Data on Police Organisations”, 2020
  8. Bureau of Police Research and Development (Ministry of Home Affairs), “Data on Police Organisations”, 2020
  9. Bureau of Police Research and Development (Ministry of Home Affairs), “Data on Police Organisations”, 2020

Related Post