Indian Penal Code 1861:
- The main objective of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1861 was to ‘use the police as a weapon of repression’ and to strengthen the British hold on India.
- Prevention and investigation of crime was never the priority of the British. Most of the British police constables were illiterate and were not even paid a ‘living salary’.
- The reforms suggested by the Fraser Commission (1902-03) were not accepted.
However, the Indian Penal Code has undergone several changes since independence:
With reference to women:
Prohibition of social evil of dowry:
- The Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in 1961.
- Section 498A (cruelty by husband and his relatives) and section 304B (dowry death) were included in the ‘Evidence Act’ by some amendments.
- Custodial harassment and sexual harassment have been considered as a violation of fundamental rights.
With reference to children:
- The definition of rape has been broadened and offenses related to sexual assault have been made more stringent.
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act’2012 i.e. ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 – POCSO’, and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 have been enacted.
In terms of business:
Ease of Doing Business:
- Electronic documents and signatures have been given legal recognition under the Information Technology Act 2000 to facilitate online transactions and to investigate cybercrime.
- The ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act’, was enacted in the year 1989.
- Some provisions of IPC section 377 have been removed, giving relief to the LGBTQ+ community.
- The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was set up in 2008 (after the deadly 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai) to investigate and prosecute crimes affecting national security.
- The ‘right to privacy’ has been recognized as a fundamental right.
- The ‘Sedition’ (Section 124A) Act, is currently under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.
Moving to the Inquisitorial System:
- By making judicial inquiry into custodial death and custodial rape mandatory, an attempt has been made to merge some elements of the interrogation system into the prevailing hostile system.
- Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Lucknow and Noida ‘Police Commissionerate System’ has been implemented.
Reform instead of retaliation:
- The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, has been enacted with the aim of reforming the offenders rather than punishing them.
- The power to arrest has been reduced, the use of handcuffs has been banned.
- The presence of a lawyer is allowed during the interrogation.
- CCTV cameras have been installed in police stations.
- ‘Human rights bodies’ have been allowed to keep a constant watch.
Limitations of Reforms:
- The police are still accused of being ‘brute force’.
- The ‘lack of faith’ doesn’t seem to end.
- Guidelines on police reforms were issued by the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh v Union of India (2006) but their implementation has been poor.
- Despite ‘Police’ being a state subject, so far no state government has given due attention to police reforms.
- The directive to separate investigation from law and order has not been implemented in the true sense by the states and union territories.
- Any State or Union Territory has declared ‘Soli J. The Model Police Act prepared by ‘Sorabji’ has not been adopted.
Comprehensive Power of District Magistrate:
- In Uttar Pradesh, ‘District Superintendent of Police’ is not able to transfer his station in-charge without the permission of the District Magistrate.
- Despite the directions of the Supreme Court, the performance assessment report of a Superintendent of Police is still written by the District Magistrate.
- Additional funding and training.
- Improving soft skills and ensuring fair investigation.
- There is a need to prevent unwanted and mechanical arrests.
- To reduce the burden on prisons, more offenses can be made bailable and more offenses can be brought under the purview of ‘crime mitigation’.
- Use of technology and forensic techniques should be encouraged to enhance the quality of evidence.
- There is a need to set up a special wing to deal with new types of crime.
- The police should be accountable to its constitutional goal of establishing the rule of law.