JK To Refurbish Archaic Police Act17 February 2011
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Government is to replace the five-decades-old Police Act with a new legislation likely to be tabled in the upcoming Budget session. “The existing Police Act is an old one and lot of changes are required to be done in that. So we are in the process of formulating a new legislation. The name would remain the same, but the Act would be fresh,” Principal Secretary, Home Department, BR Sharma told Greater Kashmir, without fully divulging the contents of the Act. Asked what prompted the replacement of the existing Police Act, Sharma said: “It is a national phenomenon. Over a period of time, policing has changed. The attitudes of police officers have changed. The way of training has changed. So to capture these changes, we are introducing the new Act.” The proposed legislation is, however, being tabled amid demands from the stakeholders that the draft bill should be made public for thorough consultation and debate. “We believe that in the absence of consultation on a matter of such wide public importance there is every reason to expect that any new law will tend to give police more powers, reduce the accountability and dilute the effectiveness of the Supreme Court’s schema of getting police reforms on track,” said Navaz Kotwal, Programme Coordinator at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a premiere non-governmental organization promoting the Right to Information Act and advocating police reforms in India. “What we really want and hope is to create public awareness around the issue. So the Draft of the Act should be made public before it is introduced in the House and views of all stakeholders should be taken into account,” Kotwal told Greater Kashmir. She said it is now also a statutory requirement under the new RTI law which mandates that the government to publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing decisions which affect the public. While the exact details of the proposed legislation to be formulated by J&K government are not clear, sources said it is more or less based upon the Model Police Act drafted by the Soli Sorabjee Committee-a committee set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs to draft a model Act for the country upon which all states can base their police Acts. Soli Sorabjee Committee has drafted a new model police bill to replace the colonial 1861 Police Act at the national level. In an affidavit of December 2006, in Prakash Singh case on police reforms, the state government had set up a drafting committee to come up with a new police law. Observers believe the draft legislation should be made public to give people a chance to reflect upon it and give their feedback. “In any case what the government needs to do is make this draft publicly available. Several other states have put up their drafts on their websites and invited comments and feedback. These include Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi and Goa,” said a senior police officer, insisting not to be named. “If a state like Jammu and Kashmir does the same, it would be a great goodwill gesture.” Similar demand is being made by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Convener, J&K State, Balraj Puri. “The draft new police law that the government is proposing to introduce in the budget session of the assembly should be circulated for public discussion,” he said in a statement here. “As consultations over the draft have so far confined to police authorities ignoring the public, whose life and liberty will be directly affected, we fear that it may tend to give more powers to the police.” He reminded the government of a Supreme Court judgment of 2006 which provided a practical mechanism for police reforms and wanted to know whether and how far its provisions had been included in the draft police law of the State. “There is also a statutory requirement under the RTI law which mandates the governments to publish all facts about important policies and decisions which affect the public,” Puri said, questioning why there was no compliance of it in the case of draft police law. Sources said the CHRI members, who were recently in Jammu, had a detailed discussion recently with the Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda and the Principal Secretary, Home Department, BR Sharma.