Politician-police-criminal nexus makes governance challenging in India

The implementation of apex court-suggested police reforms including creation of state level security commission is required immediately to break politicians-police-criminal nexus that has created a crisis of governance in India.

Kushal Jeena Apr 09, 2021

The implementation of apex court-suggested police reforms including creation of state level security commission is required immediately to break politicians-police-criminal nexus that has created a crisis of governance in India.

The reluctance on the part of India’s political class irrespective of parties in power to implement much-awaited police reforms has created a crisis because politicians decide posting of police officers.

If the reforms are put in place, the politicians will not decide posting of police officers as the security commission will be authorized to take a decision in this regard and they would be given fixed terms.

The creation of state police commissions will have proper representation of the society as it would have on board members from ruling and opposition parties, expert and credible members from civil society.

This revolutionary administrative measure would not only help rescue police from the clutches of power hungry politicians but also help in breaking the back of the notorious nexus that suits politicians during election time to fix their rivals.

Criminalization of politics

The criminalization of politics has often been debated in different platforms and all including politicians, experts, lawyers and influential members of civil society have always stressed the need for the implementation of police reforms. However, it remains confined to debates. The political class of the country always stands united whenever the issue of implementation of police reforms comes up because if the reforms were put in place it would wrest the power of politicians to decide the postings and terms of police officials, which is key to the formation of a politicians-police-criminals nexus.

This nexus has seen an upward trend from the 80's onward. Earlier the politicians used criminals but now there is a trend where criminals have become politicians and entered into the parliament. The Supreme Court and the Election Commission of India have since undertaken some commendable steps to reform the electoral process.

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court had asked the political leadership to explain reasons for selecting candidates having criminal records and had advised the government to implement it. However, politicians decided otherwise as they never would like to be answerable for criminalization of politics.

There has been an alarming trend of increased criminalization of politics during the last four elections. In 2004, 24 percent of the Members of Parliament (MP's) had criminal cases pending against them. In 2009, it went up to 30 percent; in 2014 to 34 percent; and in 2019 as many as 43 percent of MP's had criminal cases pending against them. The first test of implementation of this judgment was in the Bihar elections, although successive judgments barring criminals have done little good.

Under the current law, only people who have been convicted at least by two counts can be debarred from becoming candidates. What is needed are urgent judicial reforms, police reforms and electoral reforms, which are long overdue. For instance there have been a number of reports on electoral reforms, including the Dinesh Goswami committee, that are lying unimplemented. The Election Commission needs to be provided with more powers.

The criminals entering politics and becoming lawmakers is not new in India. Nearly half of the newly-elected Lok Sabha members in 2019 have criminal charges pending against them, a 26 percent increase as compared to 2014, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms, an Indian non-partisan, non-governmental organisation which works in the area of electoral and political reforms.

Many Governments have talked about these reforms but nothing concrete has been done. What is lacking is the political will and the support of parties to bring legislation to address these issues. The public, too, should not elect criminals. If we don’t stop electing criminals then we are just getting the government we deserve.

Transforming police stations

Corruption is the most serious systemic issue. It affects all citizens but poor and marginalized sections suffer the most. The erratic and irrational working hours which transform even well-intentioned police officers into ‘insensitive and mechanical’ human beings? The technology deficit for prevention and detection of crime or crowd control is another factor that impacts efficiency of police force.

Rationalization of police working into three shifts and separation of crime investigation from law and order will reduce the workload of officers. Technology in the form of improved forensic laboratories and equipment would make police efficient and accelerate its response to citizens in distress. Creation of state security commissions and police complaint authorities, as mandated by the Supreme Court, will reduce unwanted political interference and enhance professional policing.

Transforming the basic environment of police stations all over the country is one initiative that the government, if serious, should immediately take. It’s here that a citizen in distress comes. Most of their complaints are non-cognizable and minor in nature. If trained social workers and counselors are inducted in police, they can attend to it and do full justice to them. This will allow police officers to concentrate on crime and law and order issues. Inducting more women police officers in police stations will also demystify police and increase the comfort level of citizens.

A series of studies have proved that the more citizens interact with police, the less fearful they become. Encouraging this interaction through formal and informal forums like Mohalla Committees, Students’ Internship Programmes, and Mahila Dakshta Samitis should help. And of course training of policemen to treat a citizen as a valuable asset and to show respect to women’s rights is essential.

Transparency in police systems

Honest and transparent police processes, for example police verification for different purposes like passport and issuing of various licences, will also reduce the fear factor. Technology can add to the speed and reduce chances of corruption.

Mutual cooperation and trust between the political class and police administration are considered to be important to achieve the objectives of a democracy like India. Such cooperation would result in an ideal state where no individual is at distress.

Currently, things are going wrong because politicians get administrative authority and tend to dictate terms to police. As a result police fail to perform their duties. The notorious politicians-police-criminal nexus has hit the rule of law, which is the primary pillar of a democracy.

Time has come for the apex court to mount pressure on the governments at the centre and states to ensure that all seven directives of police reforms are implemented in their spirit and are monitored on a regular basis (IFS).

(The writer is a veteran journalist. The views are personal)

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