Monday, September 24, 2007


( This article was published in The Statesman in two parts on April 16 and 17, '07 as lead article under the caption Continental Police)

Police reform appears to be the flavour of the season across continents. A realisation was emerging, backed by popular demand, that police reforms were too important to neglect and too urgent to delay. Police was perceived as inefficient, highhanded and corrupt, a mere tool in the hands of the powers that be. A thorough overhauling was needed if the police agency was to be made into a professionally competent body accountable to law. In India the Supreme Court hands down a decision to implement the long awaited police reforms by the year end. Around the same time the President of Pakistan lists reforming the police as one of his major achievements. In Bangladesh UNDP persists in its campaign for giving the police a new friendly face.

Other Colonial Experiences
In Malaysia public concern is voiced regarding the process of implementation of the 2005 Royal Commission into policing. An opinion article appears in Kenya criticising the pace and effectiveness of police reform. In Trinidad and Tobago the Leader of Opposition pleads ignorance about the progress of government drafted and opposition supported police reform bill. In Northern Ireland the Police Oversight commissioner releases a report examining the state of police reforms in Northern Ireland. In Australia an opinion article discusses police corruption in light of the Police Integrity Commission. In UK British Conservative leader David Cameron releases details of police reform plan as Superintendents of County Police grapple with reform and modernisation at their annual meeting. In Guyana a tainted former New York City Police Commissioner is appointed to lead reform of Guyana police. There is call for greater police accountability. In Nigeria a 20-point recommendation is made in a white paper produced by the Presidential Committee on police reforms.

In Indonesia in 1999, that is, post-Suharto, police is separated form the military and is placed under the control of the President of the Republic. As part of the reform process the ethics and code of conduct are rewritten to capture the new civilian mission. There are several shortcomings but the agenda of reform is open and continuing. In Philippine too police is a part of the Department of National Defence until an Act of 1990 makes the Philippine National Police a civilian entity under the Department of Interior and Local Government, to be administered and controlled by the National Police Commission.

Sri Lanka
The setting up of the National Police Commission in Sri Lanka is a concession to the demands by the opposition. It is still at a nascent stage. It is supposed to be a totally independent body dealing exclusively with the members of the Police Department (about 75000 strong). Any person who interferes with the NPC is liable to a seven year imprisonment and fine. That notwithstanding, there are murmurings that politicians do try to interfere when police officers are transferred pending enquiries.

As far as the Indian subcontinent is concerned, dismantling the Indian Police Act of 1861 has proved a hard nut to crack. The motive behind the British masters giving India (as it was then) a police force patterned on the Irish Constabulary and not on Peel’s police is not difficult to guess. It did not bother them if the police machinery was inefficient and corrupt as long as it served their imperial interests. But that should not surprise us. After all, a colonial power has to safeguard its interests first. What is however disturbing that a similar mind set has continued half a century after the British made their exit leaving the subcontinent bifurcated. The same set of politicians in India and Pakistan who had been bitter critics of the colonial police chose to continue them in the same mould and use them as tools of the state power. Status quo continued even after Bangladesh, the third sibling, was born in 1971. Let us examine how police reforms have fared in the three countries of the Indian subcontinent.

In Pakistan demand for police reforms started being raised soon after its birth. It related to having a police commissionerate in the port-city of Karachi, like the one in Bombay. It was sabotaged time and again by vested interests among the bureaucrats and politicians. It was only years later that Karachi and the new capital of Islamabad got police commissioners. If we skip the sporadic tinkering with the police apparatus the first serious and composite attempt at reform was made with the setting up of the Police Committee in 1985. It recommended wholesale overhauling of the existing system. Several foreign missions to Pakistan also echoed the same sentiment. A British delegation visiting Pakistan in 1990 urged that the entire philosophy of policing be recast in the manner suggested by the Police Committee of 1985. Ironically, it was quite a volte-face for the onetime masters to pitch for a democratic police system which they had denied to the subcontinent in 1861. A team of experts form Japan expectedly emphasised the building of trust between citizens and the police. At core lay community policing for which Japan is famous.

As part of the early initiatives of the military government, which assumed power in October 1999, was the devolution of power down to a grassroots level. The assumption was that increasing accountability to the grassroots level would improve service delivery, including that of law and order as well as the dispensation of justice. The Police Order 2002 was a genuine attempt to address inter alia the problem of strengthening the internal organisation of police so that it could grow into a cohesive and effective force. The law provided necessary administrative powers to the police officers and put in place an effective command structure. It also ensured security of tenure to the officers in key field assignments. Along with these improved administrative powers, the role of police was redefined, making it more service-oriented. Stringent checks were built into the system to protect the people's rights. The police relationship with the political leadership was crafted and fine-tuned along with external checks to prevent political interference.

Unfortunately, this law was never implemented. The provincial governments created all kinds of impediments to frustrate the creation of an institution that would check their unfettered powers. They unleashed negative propaganda and created an impression that the new law gave vast powers to police that should be curtailed. The provinces were agitated at the idea of an independent police force that would refuse to let itself be used to intimidate and victimise political opponents, and would only function within the bounds of law; they wanted a pliant and docile police command that would carry out orders unquestioningly - whether to remove hoardings in the name of Islam, arrest and harassment of opposition politicians, to disrupt opposition parties public gatherings or to interfere in elections. Through an ordinance massive amendments had to be incorporated in the Police Order 2002 that, in addition to institutionalising political interference in policing, also struck at the command structure.

In 2004 the Asian Legal Resource Centre presented before the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva a rather damaging critique of the situation in Pakistan. It says that the new Police Order of 2002 has failed to provide a framework for public accountability, de-politicisation of the institutions of justice and the provision of a people friendly policing system in the country. On the contrary, by giving accountability to district councils and political figures, the government has assured that the institutional controls of justice remain under the same privileged group as always. The Zila Nazim, a politician, records the annual Performance Evaluation Report of the District Police Officer, counterpart of our district SP, relating to all police functions including management of force, investigation and prosecution of cases for which the DPO is not responsible to him under the law. The first countersigning officer is not the DPO's immediate supervisory officer at the divisional level but the Provincial Police Officer (corresponding to our state DGP). The second countersigning officer is the Chief Minister who ensures total subservience of the DPO by personally recording his PER. With a Zila Nazim and the CM from the same political party, the PPO will also lose his relevance as commander of the force. The DPO, who now can only be posted with the Chief Minister’s approval, will willingly carry out even their illegal orders confident in the knowledge that a politicised Police Complaint Authority will protect him. There is a National Police Commission composed of 12 members, six of which are members of Parliament, with both parties equally represented. The bipartisan approach is meant to send a message that policing is not a politically driven issue.

The Bangladesh experience has not been much happier. Other than renaming the Police Act as Police Rules nothing has changed for the police in form or substance. Since the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 half a dozen or more committees and commissions have submitted specific recommendations. However, scarce resources, vested interests and lack of political will prevented the reform agenda from being implemented. Police has felt overshadowed by the military. For many years army officers headed the police. Even today the chief of the Bangladesh police is designated as Inspector General and equates with Major General and that is a disadvantage in a country where the army predominates. It was after overcoming a stiff resistance from the army that the government allowed him to fly the flag on his car; no other police officer is permitted that. Lately the bete noire is the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) which has been charged with fake encounters and repeated human rights violations. Police is grossly understaffed with a police- public ratio of 1:1300 for the whole of Bangladesh while at the sub-district level it is as low as 1:8000. Most policemen are required to work for 13-14 hours a day and even on weekends and holidays. Most of the police budget is consumed by the armed wings but then things are not very different in India. Like in India the percentage of women in the force is small, barely 12%.

In January 2005 a far-reaching police reform project titled 'Strengthening Bangladesh Police' was launched to improve the law and order situation. The Ministry of Home Affairs launched the project yesterday in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UK Department for International Development. The programme aims at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Bangladesh Police by supporting key areas of access to justice; including crime prevention, investigations, police operations and prosecutions; human resource management and training; and, future directions, strategic capacity and oversight. The three-year project, involving $13 million, aims at improving performance and professionalism at all levels of the police force. It will focus on crime prevention through better engagement with the community, investigation, operation and prosecution, human resource management, training and strategy and oversight, including clear performance target. Acting British High Commissioner Robert Gibson expressed the hope that the project would help the police serve the public better and said, "A police force free from corruption and political interference will help renew public confidence". The project was designed on the basis of an assessment of police needs carried out by the ministry in cooperation with the UNDP in 2003.

India’s track record in carrying out police reform is no better. The Police Act of 1861 has remained unaltered till today. The Police Commission of 1902 was intended more to review the working of the Act after a 40-year run. Apart from some hierarchical changes, like adding the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police to accommodate the Indians, the structure of the Act remained untouched. Nothing happened for the next seventy-five years. The National Police Commission (1977-79), set up by a non-Congress government, for the first time made sweeping recommendations to make the police a professionally competent, people-friendly force free from political interference. The successor political dispensation found the report too strong to stomach and just sat over it till it died a natural death. Subsequent experience showed that, irrespective of the political hue, no government was prepared to let go of its stranglehold over the police. As a result the Police Act of 1861 still continues in its original form.

Lately the Supreme Court had been voicing its displeasure over the government’s reluctance in replacing/revising the outmoded Police Act of 1861. Sensing the mood of the Supreme Court the central government had set up the Soli Sorabjee committee to draft a model police bill to replace the existing Act. The committee has since submitted its report. It incorporates almost all the directives of the Supreme Court and some more. The Sorabjee Committee submitted a comprehensive draft report for a new Police Act, which aims to define the new responsibilities of the police force, especially the growth and spread of militancy and Maoist violence, and suggest measures for a new working methodology and the use of scientific investigation in view of the future trends of organised crime, including cyber crime, and technological advantages in the hands of the criminals. Concerns for human rights, weaker sections, women and people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have also been addressed. The draft bill also lists measures to improve the working conditions for policemen.

Some provisions of the draft may raise eye brows and prove difficult to implement. The draft stipulates that the rank of constabulary in the civil police be done away with. The argument that the civil police, as against the armed wing of the police, needs better-educated personnel to exercise discretionary powers in dealing with people and investigating cases may be very sound but it is going to cast a heavy financial burden on the states. The experiment may suit metros and large urban conglomerations and be a right step in the direction of community policing but for the far-flung rural areas we also need large numbers of police constables. Similarly, separation of investigation from law and order functions will involve substantial augmentation of police personnel at huge costs, besides the fact that the two cannot be divided into watertight compartments. The duality of command at the PS or even district level will be counterproductive. Then again there will be hardly any relief from political interference if the State Security commission has the CM as its Chairman and the DGP as its Secretary. Likewise if the Central Security Commission has to take orders from the Home Ministry, the political bosses’ will shall prevail. With the Panchayati Raj system taking roots in most states the Panchayat bodies at various levels will have to be inducted into the board which will debate and decide on police planning for the district. While it may reflect popular aspirations more forcefully, one hopes it will not degenerate into we vrs they and hamstring the functioning of the local police. Surely, all these and many other issues will get sorted out during the debates on the floor of the house.

The government might still have dragged its feet had the Supreme Court not dropped the bombshell by passing a historical judgment on September 22, 2006 on a PIL filed by retired IPS officer Prakash Singh to reform the existing criminal justice system with a view to establish better rule of law in the country. The apex court invoked the recommendations of the National Police Commission and the Sorabjee panel and ordered some revolutionary changes in the system with a view to making the Indian Police more accountable and free from any kind of political interference. The 7-point directive includes, inter alia, the separation of investigation from law and order duties at the police station level and a fixed tenure for all officers from the DGP to the SHO. Not leaving the central and the state governments any scope for prevarication the court ordered them to implement the changes within December, 06 and to send compliance report by January, 07.

Some hiccups were anticipated in carrying out the reforms as indicated by the Supreme Court. These surfaced when the Union Home Secretary, representing the Central Government, met the Chief Secretaries and DGPs, representing the views of their state governments, in Delhi on November 14. The reservations, states were not ‘objecting’ at this stage for fear of the wrath of the apex court, relate to the role of the centre in the appointment of the DGPs, security of tenure of police officers and the setting up of accountability commissions. The centre is wary that states are sensitive about any attempt at encroachment by the centre on matters relating to law and order which is a state subject under the constitution. Some legal dilly-dallying was therefore not unexpected. The dead line of 31 December set by the apex court is long past. With the central government and the states drafting and passing their own versions of the Police Act some minor variations may creep in; the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court will not permit major aberrations. The central government will also have to mollify the states if the police bill is to include a category of serious offences – to be termed ‘federal offences’ – that can be investigated by the centre rather than the ill-equipped state police forces.

Whatever forms the new central and state enactments may take one thing is for sure. These will make political interference a shade more difficult and, aided by the Right to Information Act, will usher in accountability and transparency in the working of the police department. Let us hope these will make the police everything they are not: efficient, professional, independent, accountable and representative of social diversity.

(Sudhir Kumar Jha)
(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar. He can be contacted at

Do Not Sell Your Soul

One can understand, though not condone, freelance biographers and journalists indulging in mud slinging and character assassination to make a quick buck but not officers holding very senior positions in intelligence and investigation agencies. It amounts to ‘selling’ the secrets as the compelling motive is lure of the lucre compounded with self-glorification and instant publicity. Unfortunately more and more of them can be seen succumbing to this temptation.
Those connected with CBI, Intelligence Bureau and RAW have been the worst culprits. Some books that come to mind readily are Inside CBI by its former Director Joginder Singh; Open Secrets: India’s Intelligence Unveiled by Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former Joint Director of IB; India’s External Intelligence: Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing by Maj Gen V.K. Singh; and the latest scoop Kaoboys of R&AW – Down the memory lane by B. Raman, a former Additional Secretary of RAW The authors may claim that they are merely bringing out into the open the anomalies in their respective organisations’s lack of accountability, transparency and effective leadership. What comes out is their lack of objectivity, their own hurt and bruised ego.
Joginder Singh writes that pressure was exerted on him to register a case against Ms Jayalalitha and to block Laloo Prasad Yadav's arrest in the notorious fodder scam case. Among his other ‘disclosures’ Maj Gen V.K.Singh has zeroed in on the well publicised release of Kargil tapes by the NDA govt to the then Pak Premier Nawaz Sharif and has questioned the ethics, wisdom and legality of this action. He attacks RAW with no holds barred.

Maloy Dhar blatantly vents his ire against the then Director IB who is presently the National Security Advisor and the reference is not veiled. Dhar calling his former boss spineless and self-serving is in poor taste and smacks of nursing a personal grudge. He refers to some instances of phone tapping. He writes about much else which is either in bad taste or violation of the Official Secrets Act.

The latest to join the race is B. Raman, a former Additional Secretary of RAW, and he surpasses the others. Look at some snippets from his book. That RAW should have been in touch with America's CIA, UK’s MI6 and other foreign agencies is only in the fitness of things and is hardly a startling revelation. If Raw had a mole in the office of Gen Yahiya Khan Pakistan returned the compliment by fomenting trouble (insurgency) in Punjab in collusion with CIA. Raman does drop a bombshell when he blames the domestic arm, the Intelligence Bureau, for ignoring a crucial input from German intelligence which might have prevented Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

Such books dish out salacious gossip and earn good money, besides making the authors the darling of the media for a time. These are based on the author’s personal knowledge or ‘classified’ documents access to which is not permitted even under the RTI Act. Most of what has been said thus remains beyond verification but the unsuspecting public laps it all up. The contents have gone unchallenged by the persons directly or indirectly accused in the book and by that amorphous body called government. There can be state secrets and divulging them may jeopardise national security. It is for that reason that the Right to Information Act, 05 has exempted the intelligence services from its purview. At times these also relate to the conduct of prominent public figures and it is questionable whether washing their dirty linen in public is going to help the society. That our intelligence agencies – be it CBI, IB or RAW – are used as a political tool is an open secret but an insider’s account of factionalism within these organisations or the ongoing turf war between our internal and external intelligence agencies is likely to undermine people’s faith in them.

Books such as these raise issues of ethics, conduct rules and law. The sleuth is expected to be anonymous, with lips sealed but eyes and ears open. All of us who have served in such positions are repositories of state secrets. We swore not to let them out, much less sell them. We held that kind of information in trust and to make it public is downright unethical and a breach of trust. It is not understood why the government shies away from invoking the Official Secrets Act and prosecute such offenders. If they have also violated the Conduct Rules, their pension may be forfeited. If necessary, the OS Act and the conduct rules should be amended to make them more comprehensive and stringent. There is a rule prohibiting government servants from accepting private employment within two years of their retirement. Why can’t there be a rule that an employee cannot publish accounts of his service days till, say, ten years of hanging up his boots? Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stipulated that some pages from his book India Wins Freedom could be published not before thirty years after his death. Too much secrecy can be counterproductive and some degree of public accountability can be achieved by having a parliamentary committee oversee the performance of our intelligence agencies, like in US and UK.

(Sudhir Kumar Jha)

(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar. He can be contacted at

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Dilemma of Proactive Policing

( This article was published in The statesman dated August 17, 2007)
The Bollywood image of the crook invariably getting the better of the police appears to have stuck. This reactive response of the police, and that too in slow motion, angers the public who want to know why the crime could not be anticipated and prevented. In other words, why can’t the police be proactive? Truth is that every police force does want and try to be proactive, often without realising it. In fact preventive policing is synonymous with proactive policing. Foot or mobile patrolling within a given beat, dance-like gestures by traffic policemen on busy crossroads, deployment of uniformed and plainclothes men during VVIP visits, use of closed-circuit cameras in a sports stadium are some everyday examples of proactive policing.
Traditionally and the world over, in the ongoing battle of wits between the law-breakers and law-keepers the initiative invariably rests with the former. They act and the police react. The priority which must be given to the management of change from reactive to proactive policing has been constantly engaging the minds of the police top brass. Experiments continue to be made but no solution has yet emerged. There can be as many facets to proactive policing as an innovative mind can conceive. There are as many stumbling blocks to frustrate the experiments.

Security versus Freedom

Terrorism throws up a bigger challenge than conventional crime against person and property. If life sans freedom is unthinkable, a life led in terror is not a life worth living. A trade-off between freedom and security took place with the dawn of civilized society and has continued ever since. Thus far and no further, but who is going to lay down the line and where? To strike a balance between security and freedom is the toughest test for the security forces today. The laws of civilized society rightly keep them on a tight leash.

Whereas it is ‘no-holds- barred’ for the terrorists the security forces have to act strictly within the confines of law. The Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993 and 2006 did not cripple India’s economy but brought her face to face with the reach and capability of cross-border terrorism. But for the loss of human lives, the synchronised suicidal attacks on the United States on September 11 were comical in their absurdity. Stunned but never witless, the authorities in Mumbai and New York almost instantly sprang into action. The apparent ease with which a passenger could reach the airport barely fifteen minutes before the take-off time and board the flight without any serious checking or frisking raised eyebrows. And yet to say that it was laxity or oversight on the part of the US authorities will not be fair. They allowed this facility in the firm belief that individual freedom should be interfered with as little as possible in a free society like theirs. The law does not permit proactive policing beyond a point, a constraint that is absent under a totalitarian or fundamentalist regime. For instance, even in a crisis grave as this one the FBI agents were seeking search warrants in Florida amid evidence that suspected sympathisers of the accused terrorists were operating in the area. Would the police agencies in erstwhile eastern communist countries or Taliban-ruled Afghanistan have had to act with such restraint? But can we take away a very large measure of people’s freedom even in pursuit of the larger goal of fighting terrorism? Therein lies the dilemma of proactive policing.

Preemptive action can be taken if one had a clue to what the likes of Bin Laden were thinking and plotting, but how to read their inscrutable minds? There comes the role of intelligence that is the backbone of proactive policing. By having a mole inside the militant outfit one can get as close to their thinking process as is humanly possible. Experience, however, has shown that it is extremely difficult to penetrate a multi-tiered outfit in which the top man is a shadowy presence, members are sworn to secrecy on pain of death, and duties are allotted on a need-to-know basis. One version of proactive policing is to wrest the initiative from the militants and take the battle into their camp, KPS Gill style. True, this approach did yield results and Gill today is hailed as a hero and an expert on terrorism but he and his team have not come out unscathed. From the lowest to the highest court of the land have charged them with transgressing the law and several of them, President’s Gallantry Medal winners, are being tried for torture and murder under appropriate sections of the Indian Penal Code. The National Human Rights Commission also gave them a drubbing for the alleged human rights violations. Interestingly, the human rights activists were nowhere to be seen when militancy was at its peak but started crying foul when the tide turned.

Police in all societies have exercised surveillance over known criminals and political suspects by way of proactive policing. But surveillance can be a double-edged weapon and must be carefully and sparingly resorted to. Even in British India this police power was subject to checks and balances. While new electronic gadgets have given the state a much broader sweep and deeper penetration (satellite tracking?), public sensitivity to any real or perceived attack on privacy or individual freedom is now so high that an allegation of telephone tapping becomes the subject of a parliamentary debate and government falls when two constables allegedly watch a top politician’s house.

Then there is the economic aspect of terrorism that stumps the police agencies, FBI and CBI included. There are reports that Laden & Co made a killing in stocks by short selling in some Europe-based company stocks with foreknowledge of the strike against America. No police agency has the expertise to understand such financial tricks, much less monitor and neutralize them. It is no secret that, in India, large funds reach the fundamentalist outfits through the hawala route. We presume that our intelligence people have kept the government informed but there has been a persistent lack of action to monitor the inflow and plug it. Political considerations seem to frustrate proactive policing.

Community Policing

Community policing in which local residents have a say in the policing of their area is yet another example of proactive policing and perhaps the most desirable. But it is a costly proposition and the success varies on the size and composition of the community. A compact, homogenous urban community is the ideal laboratory to try this experiment. Therefore, whether it will suit India, which is predominantly rural and where the level of literacy is low, is a point for consideration. Community policing will involve an exponential growth in the number of policemen. Even an affluent country like the USA could not sustain the high cost for long. There the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 made important investments in programs designed to prevent crime, including putting 100,000 community policing officers on the street and reducing violence against women and children. The Community Oriented Policing program proved `a miraculous success’ and drove down crime rates. Within a few years one city after another was forced to cut down on the number of community police officers because of drastic slashing of the local budget under this head. As a result, local police chiefs had to reluctantly pull officers from the proactive policing activities that were so successful in the nineties. This was not a choice taken lightly. Police chiefs understood the value of proactive policing but they simply did not have the manpower to do it all. They were being asked to do more with less, and responding to emergency calls had to take precedence over proactive programs. There was increased gang activity. Murder rates and auto thefts--two very accurate indicators of crime trends -- started rising sharply.

Road Policing

Proactive road policing can be an important and visible element in the police’s commitment to protect the public and to support law-abiding citizens’ confidence in law. Criminals use road to carry out a great deal of their activity, ranging from burglary and theft to drug dealing and terrorism. Proactive road policing, apart from ensuring safety on roads, can deny criminals the use of the road and is an effective measure for containing and deterring crime. The deployment of available and emerging technologies, in partnership with the other agencies involved, can thus be a valuable tool in proactive road policing. The installation of speed cameras at selected places and laser tracking of registration details had a salutary effect in the United Kingdom with instances of over speeding and resultant accidents coming down significantly. This will be an expensive exercise and whether a country like India, where even electronic signalling is limited to a few large towns, can afford them is another matter.

Moral Policing

Leave aside the rest of the world, In India itself there have been instances of proactive policing which have boomeranged on the police leaving them with a bruised image. That is when they have taken upon themselves the role of the moral police and self-styled arbiters of social values. And this is one area where the public will not tolerate any uncalled for initiative by the police. The logic is simple. The police are meant to enforce the laws and not to make or interpret them. In a small town in Punjab policemen beat up a group of students celebrating their XIIth class results at a hotel. Not many months back viewers saw policewomen thrashing boys and girls in a park in UP as part of Operation Majnu.

All said and done nothing deters a criminal more than getting legally punished for his act. The successful investigation of a case resulting in the perpetrator getting convicted and sentenced is thus the best form of proactive policing. In the Indian context, many serious crimes would be nipped in the bud if the police acted on the reports of non-cognizable offences. Available resources ought to be more effectively targeted on investigating crime and thus help achieve other objectives. Criminals are expanding their illegal activities and operations in an increasingly complex, political, social, legal, and technologically driven environment. In response police have to develop new techniques to counter and restrict such activities. An appropriate balance must be maintained between the use of new investigative methods and techniques on the one hand and the privacy rights of individuals on the other.

Proactive policing is better professed than practised. Police gets damned either way. The research is constantly on to devise new ways of proactive policing. The ideal will be to create a social environment so pure that man is not tempted to break the Ten Commandments. Sadly that is not to be and certainly it is not for the police to play God. Any society will welcome a proactive police but police activism must not be allowed to be carried too far lest it leads to police excesses. In a legal system which allows rights even to the accused, policemen cannot be permitted to be ‘Peeping Toms’ nor in any other manner interfere with the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms or basic human rights. In future changing conditions on the ground may compel governments to enact legislations to vest their law enforcement agencies with wider powers. Till then, proactive policing must mind its limits.

Dr. Sudhir Kumar Jha
(The author is a former Director General of Police, Bihar. He can be contacted at