//Expert committee suggests major police reforms

Expert committee suggests major police reforms

Mon Oct 30, 2006

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A government-appointed panel suggested sweeping changes to laws that govern the country's police on Monday to help make the gigantic force more efficient, accountable and professional.

Police in India has traditionally been considered an inefficient and corrupt government agency which experts say is due to a heavy workload, lack of adequate training and poor work conditions.

Some of the blame has also been laid on the 145-year-old Police Act which was drafted during British colonial rule to govern the force, making it what critics call a tool of political masters that is unable to deal with modern challenges.

Last year, the home ministry appointed a committee of experts to draft a new police act and the panel submitted its draft to the government on Monday.

"The (new) act … emphasises that the police will be governed by the principles of impartiality and human rights norms, with special attention to protection of weaker sections including minorities," a home ministry statement said.

In an attempt to give functional autonomy to police, the new act proposes the creation of a bipartisan police board, selection of chiefs on merit and provide security of tenure.

It suggests earmarking dedicated personnel for investigating crime and dealing with civilians to encourage professionalism and enhance its credibility.

It also recommends a system of evaluating performances, creation of accountability commissions to investigate complaints against police and introduces criminal penalties for some common faults the police is regularly accused of.

Besides, the new act suggests improved compensation and working conditions for policemen.

The draft would be forwarded to a home ministry panel and then introduced to govern central police agencies after approval by the government and parliament, a spokesman said.

Separately, it is up to individual states to adopt it as policing is a provincial responsibility under the Indian constitution.

"It is earnestly hoped that legislation of a new act based on this model act will help each state government to provide an efficient, effective and yet people-friendly police," the home ministry statement said.

© Reuters 2006.