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Assam Police Act: Advantage politicians
May, 28th 2008

Though the Government of Assam has enacted the Assam Police Act last year following a directive from the Supreme Court, it has diluted several clauses of the draft Police Act prepared by the Government of India and even a ruling of the Supreme Court in matters of transfer of officials has been violated. This has been done apparently to keep the hold of the political leaders on police.

The Government of India prepared the draft model Police Act in 2006 following a directive from the Supreme Court and circulated the same to the states to enact their own police Acts on the basis of that. The Assam Government enacted the Assam Police Act last year, but dilution of the provisions of the draft Act started right from the preamble. Interestingly, even the opposition legislators also did not try to stop the Government from clearing the Bill in the State Assembly with such drawbacks.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, former Director General of Assam Police, HK Deka pointed out that while preparing the State Police Act, the very first lines of the preamble of the draft Act were deleted. The preamble of the draft Act said that respect and promotion of human rights of the people and protection of their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights is the primary concern of the rule of law. But these vital lines were missing from the preamble of the State Police Act. Deka raised doubts as to why such vital lines of the draft act concerning the protection of human rights were omitted from the Assam Police Act.

The Draft Model Act called for establishing State Police Boards with four specific functions and one of the functions was to review and evaluate organizational performance of the police service in the state as a whole as well as district wise against the annual plan, performance indicators and resources available with and constraints of the police. The Assam Police Act has provision for a State Security Commission and though three of the functions indicated in the Draft Act were accepted the fourth, that is review of the performance, was omitted.

The former DG of Assam Police pointed out that the Assam Government violated the orders of the Supreme Court in matters of transfers of the police officers. He revealed that in a directive on September 22, 2006, the Supreme Court observed that frequent transfers of Police officials has become an industry in the states and directed that the officers on operational duty should be posted for a minimum of two years. Though the draft model act included the provision, the Assam Police Act diluted the same and said that the postings would be for minimum of one year only. This is a gross violation of the Supreme Court directive. Moreover, even this provision has been diluted in the Assam Police Act which also has a provision that a police officer can be transferred even before one year if it is deemed appropriate to meet any contingency.

Deka pointed out that frequent transfer of officials seriously affect the functioning of the police officers and no officer can properly plan ahead. He said that because of frequent and whimsical transfers, the officers have to work with a sword hanging over their heads and they always feel insecure. He also expressed the view that the State Government must have kept this provision in violation of the Supreme Court orders to keep a hold of the political leaders on police.

The Draft Model Act provided for a training-cum-evaluation policy for the police to promote service culture and said that training should be linked to career development. But this clause is also missing from the Assam Police Act. The Draft Act said that the budgetary allocations made by the legislature shall be placed at the disposal of the Director General of Police, who shall be vested with full powers to spend the amounts earmarked under each head of the budget amount. But the Assam Police Act is silent on that.

In an attempt to improving police-public relations, the Draft Act outlined the social responsibilities of the police and called for establishing community liaison groups in each police station, but the Assam Police Act is silent on it. Deka said that maintaining liaison with the public is vital for police and it is now an accepted norm all over the world. He expressed the view that this vital clause of the Draft Act should have been included in the Assam Police Act.

The former State Police DGP said that issue of police reforms cropped up after allegations that police forces of the states were thoroughly misused during the emergency . He said that the judicial probes on Delhi riots in 1984, Babri Masjid demolition and Godhra riots also called for keeping the police forces free from political interference. After the Godhra riots, the National Human Rights Commission also stressed the need for radical police reforms to maintain the rule of law. Though the State Government has enacted the Police Act as a step towards police reforms, it remains to be seen whether it manages to keep the police force free from political interference as several main clauses of the Draft Act were diluted.

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