The Hindu Editorial Analysis
22 April 2021

1) Strengthening the process of choosing the police chief

A balance needs to be struck between the government’s legitimate role and the police chief’s operational autonomy

GS 2: Transparency & Accountability


Context:

  1. Recent developments in the Mumbai Police which resulted in the removal of Param Bir Singh from the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s post focus the spotlight once again on long overdue reforms needed in the process of appointing and removing police chiefs.
  2. A crucial way in which governments exercise control over the State police is through their unregulated power to decide who the chief will be.
  3. There is no independent vetting process to assess the suitability of qualified candidates, and the government’s assessment, if it is done at all, remains opaque and is an exercise behind closed doors.
  4. While the principles of democratic accountability necessitate the police chief to remain answerable to the elected government at all times,
    • The moot reform issue is in ensuring the right balance between conditioning the government’s legitimate role in appointing or removing the police chief with the need to safeguard the chief’s operational autonomy.

Have an oversight panel

  1. Two elements are vital to reforms in this area.
    1. The first is the need to shift the responsibility of appointment and removal from the government alone to a bipartisan,
    2. Independent oversight body of which the government is one part.
  2. Establishing a state-level oversight body with a specified role in the appointment and removal of police chiefs was first suggested by the National Police Commission (NPC), constituted in 1979, and much later reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of India in its judgment in 2006, in Prakash Singh.
  3. While the top court entrusted the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) with a role in short listing candidates from which the State government is to appoint the police chief, the Model Police Bill, 2015 places the responsibility with a multiparty State Police Board, also referred to as the State Security Commission (SSCs), instead (Section 8).
  4. Made up of government officials, the Leader of the Opposition as well as independent members from civil society, the board provides the additional safeguard of civilian oversight over the appointment process.

Prakash Singh Case

  1. In Prakash Singh Case of 2006, the Supreme Court gave 7 directives to bring in police reforms.
  2. In passing these directives the Court put on record the deep rooted problems of politicization, lack of accountability mechanisms and systemic weaknesses that have resulted in poor all round performance and fomented present public dissatisfaction with policing.
  3. The directives are:-
    1. Constitute a State Security Commission (SSC) to:
      1. Ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police,
      2. Lay down broad policy guideline and
      3. Evaluate the performance of the state police.
    2. Ensure that the DGP is appointed through merit based transparent process and secure a minimum tenure of two years.
    3. Ensure that other police officers on operational duties (including Superintendents of Police in-charge of a district and Station House Officers in-charge of a police station) are also provided a minimum tenure of two years.
    4. Separate the investigation and law & order functions of the police.
    5. Set up a Police Establishment Board (PEB) to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service related matters of police officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police and make recommendations on postings and transfers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police.
    6. Set up a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) at state level to inquire into public complaints against police officers of and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt, or rape in police custody and at district levels to inquire into public complaints against the police personnel below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police in cases of serious misconduct.
    7. Set up a National Security Commission (NSC) at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organisations (CPO) with a minimum tenure of two years.

Gaps in SSCs

  1. 26 States and the Union Territories have established SSCs, either through new police acts or amendments or through executive orders, not a single one adheres to the balanced composition suggested by the top court.
  2. Some do not include the Leader of the Opposition; others neither include independent members nor follow an independent selection process of the members.
  3. In essence, the commissions remain dominated by the political executive.
  4. Moreover, in as many as 23 States, governments retain the sole discretion of appointing the police chief.
  5. Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Mizoram are the only States where, on paper, the SSC is given the responsibility of short listing candidates.

Need for transparency

  1. The second element critical to police reforms is instituting an independent and transparent selection and decision-making process around appointment and removal, against objective criteria.
  2. On appointments, the Court and the Model Police Act require the UPSC/SSC to shortlist candidates on the basis of length of service, service record, and range of experience and a performance appraisal of the candidates over the past 10 years.
  3. However, no further guidance has been developed on explaining these terms or specifying their elements to guide the appointments.
  4. Similarly, no scrutiny process has been prescribed to justify removals from tenure posts.
  5. The NPC had required State governments to seek the approval of the State Security Commission before removing the police chief before the end of term.
  6. In improving transparency of the review process, the United Kingdom provides a useful example.
    1. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011, introduced public confirmation hearings as an additional layer of check for the appointment of the heads of their police forces known as Chief Constables (outside of London city).

Enabling fairness

  1. The proposed candidates are required to participate in a hearing organized by the police and crime panel in each area(made up of representatives from local councils and co-opted independent members) where questions centre on the candidate’s ability to “recognize and understand the separation of political and operational responsibilities in relation to the post”.
  2. This constitutes a crucial step of the time-bound vetting process based on which the panel makes its recommendations on the suitability of the candidate.
  3. Importantly, these panels have the power to veto (by two-thirds majority) the proposed appointment as well.
  4. On removals too, the panels allow the police chief an opportunity to respond to the allegations on the basis of which their removal is being sought as part of the scrutiny process.

 

2) Data and a new global order

India has a key role to play in the hyper-connected world

GS 3: Cyber Security


Context:

  1. The shift of global power from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific raises strategic questions for India.
  2. The Industrial Revolution restructured the global manufacturing order to Asia’s disadvantage.
  3. But in the ‘Digital Data Revolution’, algorithms requiring massive amounts of data determine innovation, the nature of productivity growth, and military power.
  4. Mobile digital payment interconnections impact society and the international system, having three strategic implications.
    1. First, because of the nature and pervasiveness of digital data, military and civilian systems are symbiotic.
      1. Cybersecurity is national security, and this requires both a new military doctrine and a diplomatic framework.
    2. Second, the blurring of distinctions between domestic and foreign policy and the replacement of global rules with issue-based understanding converge with the growth of smart-phone based e-commerce, which ensures that massive amounts of data give a sustained productivity advantage to Asia.
    3. Third, data streams are now at the centre of global trade and countries’ economic and national power.
  5. India, thus, has the capacity to negotiate new rules as an equal with the U.S. and China.

A renewed strategy

  1. Innovation based on data streams has contributed to China’s rise as the second-largest economy and the “near-peer” of the U.S.
  2. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander recently said the erosion of conventional deterrence capabilities was the greatest danger in the strategic competition with China.
  3. China’s technology weakness is the dependence on semiconductors and its powerlessness against U.S. sanctions on banks, 5G and cloud computing companies.
  4. But its Fourteenth Five Year Plan emphasizes a $1.4-trillion strategy for the development of science and technology.
  5. China’s digital technology-led capitalism is moving fast to utilise the economic potential of data, pushing the recently launched e-yuan and shaking the dollar-based settlement for global trade.
  6. China has a $53-trillion mobile payments market and it is the global leader in the online transactions arena, controlling over 50% of the global market value.
  7. India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) volume is expected to cross $1 trillion by 2025.
  8. The U.S., in contrast, lags behind, with only around 30% of consumers using digital means and with the total volume of mobile payments less than $100 billion.
  9. The global strategic balance will depend on new data standards.
  10. Earlier this year, China formed a joint venture with SWIFT for cross-border payments and suggested foundational principles for interoperability between central bank digital currencies at the Bank for International Settlements.
  11. The U.S., far behind in mobile payments, is falling back on data alliances and sanctions to maintain its global position.
  12. India’s goal is to become a $5-trillion economy by 2025.
  13. While the country is fast-tracking its digital rupee, the challenge is promoting engagement with major powers while retaining its data for innovation and competitive advantage.

Fluid dynamics

  1. India fits into the U.S. frame to provide leverage.
  2. China wants India, also a digital power, to see it as a partner, not a rival. And China remains the largest trading partner of both the U.S. and India despite sanctions and border skirmishes.
  3. India, like China, is uncomfortable with treating Western values as universal values and with the U.S. interpretation of Freedom of Navigation rules in others’ territorial waters.
  4. New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific vision is premised on “ASEAN centrality and the common pursuit of prosperity”.
  5. The European Union recently acknowledged that the path to its future is through an enhanced influence in the Indo-Pacific, while stressing that the strategy is not “anti-China”.
  6. The U.S. position in trade, that investment creates new markets, makes it similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  7. India alone straddles both U.S. and China-led strategic groupings, providing an equity-based perspective to competing visions.
  8. It must be prepared to play a key role in moulding rules for the hyper-connected world, facing off both the U.S. and China to realise its potential of becoming the second-largest economy.