Old habits die hard in new state

Updated: Jan 22 2007, 05:30am hrs
In accordance with the apex courts directive, Jharkhand, like other states, diligently filed its affidavit with the Supreme Court on the various aspects of police reforms it was planning to implement before the January 5 deadline.

One of the major issues on which the state failed to give a commitment to the court, however, has been on the fixing of tenure and on not removing a police officer before the expiry of tenurefrom the rank of director general of police (DGP) to that of superintendent of police (SP) and other field officers.

The Supreme Court had, as part of its interim order on police reforms, recommended that states should see that such officersDGPs, IGs, DIGs and SPscontinued in office for a fixed period and that they could be removed before the end of their term only if a committee constituted to decide on the matter agreed with such action.

A major reform area has thus been overlooked by Jharkhand, at least for the time being. According to state chief secretary M K Mandal, the state has, on the issue of fixing tenure and not removing officers, said in its affidavit: "As we are to maintain law and order and as many decisions are taken as per the prevailing situation, we would not be able to give our commitment on the issue."

Jharkhand has witnessed the transfer of a large number of senior police officials. Those serving as SPs at different district headquarters have, since the creation of the state in November 2000, frequently become the target of political action

Saying that it needs to deliberate further on the matter, the state has sought more time from the apex court. The Supreme Court had some time ago issued the interim order on police reforms for the states to follow until such time they came out with their own legislation on the subject.

On being asked how the transfer of senior police officers could be freed from political interference, another senior bureaucrat said: The government will deliberate on the entire gamut of issues and bring out final legislation.

Jharkhand has witnessed the transfer of a large number of senior police officials quite frequently. Those serving as SPs at different district headquarters have, since the creation of the state in November 2000, frequently become the target of political action.

The state, however, has agreed to comply with a few of the apex court's suggestions like separation of investigation and law and order wings in its police force and the constitution of an establishment board. The 'establishment board' is to look into the matter of transfers and postings of police officials from the rank of deputy superintendent of police (DSPs) to inspectors and downwards.

According to a senior bureaucrat, as the Supreme Court directive is for towns or cities with a population of more than 10 lakh, Jharkhand, to begin with, intends to separate its investigation and law and order wings with respect to Ranchi police first. Since the exercise, if implemented in the state's other important towns or cities, calls for the division of its existing forces and raising additional forces, the issue would be dealt in detail in due course, said the official.

With extremism being a major challenge, the state has graded its 21 districts by dividing them broadly between extremist-ruled and extremist-free ones. While the duration of posting for extremist-prone areas is four years, police officials are to spend a five-year period in non-extremist areas.

What the government had done so far was before the reforms; after the reforms, the government has to give a commitment and function according to the orders of the Supreme Court, said a senior police official.