Since its inception the Indian Police Service has been the subject of several state and central government commissions. Though a successor to the colonial Indian Police, it is still substantially governed by the Police Act of 1861 under which the Imperial Branch of the Colonial Police Service was instituted. Indian Police Service was set up as an All India Service, in tune with the proposals put forward by Sardar Patel in the Constituent Assembly. Throughout the 1960s, many state governments set up commissions to examine the problems of the police and suggest improvements. The central government first woke up to the needs of police reform in the 1970s. In 1971, Government of India set up the Committee on Police Training. Later, in 1977, Government of India instituted the National Police Commission (NPC). This was the first Commission appointed at the national level after independence. The NPC’s terms of reference covered police organisation, its role, functions, accountability, relations with the public, political interference in its work, misuse of powers, evaluation of its performance etc.
The commission recommended that:
* Judicial inquiry should be mandatory in cases of alleged rape of a woman in police custody; death or grievous
hurt caused while in police custody; and death of two or more persons resulting from police firing in the dispersal of unlawful assemblies.
* The basic role is to render impartial service to law, without any heed to wishes, indications or desires expressed by the government which do not conform to the provisions in the constitution.
* Very strict guidelines for making arrests by the police, which should be strictly observed in day-to-day administration by the senior supervisory ranks.
* All police activities, to the extent possible, should be open.
* During communal riots, special-investigating squads under the State CID should be set up comprising officers of proven integrity and impartiality.
In 1998, the Ministry of Home Affairs, set up the Ribeiro Committee on Police Reforms in pursuance of a Supreme Court’s direction of 1996. The committee, headed by J.F. Ribeiro, recommended, among others, that:
* A Security Commission, should be set-up in each State as "The Police Performance and Accountability Commission." (PPAC). The Commission, with advisory and recommendatory powers, would oversee the performance of the Police and ensure its accountability to the law of the land.
* The old Police Act of 1861 needs to be replaced by a new Police Act and the minimum educational qualifications for recruitment to the level of Constable should be Higher Secondary.
* A qualitative change in the training being imparted in police training institutions is imperative to improve performance and behaviour of the police.
In January 2000, the Government of India announced the Padmanabhaiah Committee on Police Reforms. The committee was headed by the former Union Home Secretary and consisted entirely of retired and serving IPS officers. Like the previous committee it recommended that the Police Act of 1861 should be replaced by a new act. It spoke of the need for the police to adopt the philosophy of community policing, and advocated the separation of investigation from law and order work. Addressing one of the persistent problems of the police, it recommended, like the previous commissions, that there should be a mandatory judicial inquiry into all cases of alleged rape of a woman or death of any person in police custody. Reflecting the concerns of the age, it also pleaded that Sections 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act should be deleted and confessions made to police officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above should be made admissible in evidence. In the same vein, it argued that "taking into account the wide ramifications of the terrorist crime, there have to be different norms regarding the burden of proof, degree of proof and the legal procedures in regard to trial of terrorist cases".
It is only a matter of time before the next commission is set up to repeat the same recommendations.