In India, police and law and order come under the purview of state governments. Accordingly, each state has its own police force for maintaining law and order and investigating crimes. However, due to financial and other constraints, states have critical gaps in their policing infrastructure.2 Figure 1 shows the expenditure by states on police, as a percentage of their total budget. In 2015-16, Manipur spent the highest proportion of its state budget on police, followed by Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
Figure 1: Police Expenditure as a proportion of total state budget
The Ministry of Home Affairs has been supplementing resources of states under the Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF) scheme. The Union Cabinet last week approved the implementation of an umbrella scheme of MPF and has allocated funding of Rs 25,060 crore for the 2017-18 to 2019-20 period. In light of this decision, we present the key features of the scheme and examine other issues related to the police forces.
Modernisation of Police Forces scheme
The MPF scheme was initiated in 1969-70 and has undergone several revisions over the years.2 It was allocated Rs 11,946 crore for the period between 2012-13 to 2016-17, which has now been doubled after last week’s Cabinet approval. Funds from the MPF scheme are typically used for improving police infrastructure through construction of police stations and provision of modern weaponry, surveillance and communication equipment. Upgradation of training infrastructure, police housing and computerisation are also important objectives funded through the scheme.
Following the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission, to increase the share of central taxes to states, it was decided that the MPF scheme would be delinked from central funding from 2015-16 onwards. States were expected to finance the scheme using their own resources. However, of the recent allocation made by the Cabinet, Rs 18,636 crore will come from the central government and Rs 6,424 crore will come from the states.3 This implies that the centre will fund almost 75% of the scheme.
Underutilisation of Funds
Data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) shows that funds have not been fully utilised under the MPF scheme. In the year 2015-16, out of a total grant of Rs 9,203 crore that was made available for modernisation, states utilised only Rs 1330 crore (14%).
Figure 2 shows the trend in underutilisation of modernisation funds from 2009-10 to 2015-16. Over this period, there has been a consistent underutilisation of funds by states. On average, states spent 55% of the funds allocated to them, with the highest being 86% utilisation in 2013-14.
Figure 2: Utilisation of funds for modernisation by states (%)
Issues related to police forces
While the MPF scheme seeks to improve police infrastructure, there are a number of structural issues that have been raised by experts over the years related to police forces. We discuss a few of these below.
(i) Overburdened police force
Apart from the core function of maintaining law and order, police personnel carry out various other functions such as traffic management, disaster rescue and removal of encroachments. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) has noted that these extra obligations lead to overburdening of the police force. It recommended that these functions should be carried out by other government departments or private agencies. Note that as of January 2016, 24 per cent of sanctioned police posts in India were vacant.6 This indicates that police personnel may be overburdened, which may have negative consequences on their efficiency and performance.
(ii) Poor quality of investigation
In 2015, the conviction rate for crimes recorded under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was only 47%. The Law Commission (2012) observed that one of the reasons for low conviction rates in India is poor quality of investigation by police. The police lack training and expertise required to conduct professional investigations. They also have insufficient legal knowledge and inadequate forensic and cyber infrastructure. In light of these deficiencies, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) recommended that states should have specialised investigation units within the police force for better investigation of crimes.7
(iii) Police accountability
In India, control over the police force vests with the political executive. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007) noted that this has to led to abuse of police personnel and interference with their decision-making authority.7 To allow the police operational autonomy while maintaining accountability, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to the central government and state governments (and Union Territories) in the year 2006.
The guidelines provided for the establishment of three institutions: (i) a State Security Commission, (ii) a Police Establishment Board, and (iii) a Police Complaints Authority.11 The Supreme Court also stated that the state Director General of Police (DGP) should be selected from three senior-most officers of the state empanelled by the Union Public Service Commission and must have a minimum two-year tenure.
In addition, the court recommended that officers in key positions in the field (Inspector General in charge of Range, Station House Officer) must be given a two-year tenure. Currently, DGPs and senior officers are selected by the political executive of the state and are not guaranteed security of tenure. In order to improve the quality of investigation, the Court recommended that investigating police must be separated from law and order police.11
These guidelines and recommendations of other expert bodies were used to create the draft Model Police Bill, 2015 by BPR&D, which states have been encouraged to adopt. While states have partially implemented some of these guidelines, no state has adhered to them in full. In most states, the three institutions which the Supreme Court has directed states to create have not been given the authority they need to ensure accountability and insulate the police force from political misuse.12
Entry 1 and 2, List II, Schedule 7, Constitution of India, 1950.
 Modernisation of Police Force Scheme Book, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2010 http://mha.nic.in/sites/upload_files/mha/files/Scheme-MPF-11Nov.pdf.
 “Cabinet approves umbrella scheme of Modernisation of Police Forces”, Press Information Bureau, 27th September 2017.
 Annual Report, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2015-16, http://mha.nic.in/sites/upload_files/mha/files/AR(E)1516.pdf.
 “Major Programmes Under Central Assistance for State Plans”, Union Budget, 2015-16 http://indiabudget.nic.in/budget2015-2016/ub2015-16/bag/bag8.pdf.
 “Data on Police Organisations”, Bureau of Police Research and Development, 2016, http://bprd.nic.in/WriteReadData/userfiles/file/201701090303068737739DATABOOK2016FINALSMALL09-01-2017.pdf.
 “Report No. 239: Expeditious Investigation and Trial of Criminal Cases Against Influential Public Personalities”, Law Commission of India, March 2012, http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report239.pdf.
 “Crime in India”, National Crime Records Bureau, 2006-15 http://ncrb.nic.in/StatPublications/CII/CII2015/FILES/Compendium-15.11.16.pdf.
 Section 3, Police Act, 1861.
 Prakash Singh vs Union of India, Supreme Court, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 310 of 1996, November 8, 2010.
 “Building Smart Police in India: Background into the needed Police Force Reforms”, Niti Aayog, 2016, http://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/document_publication/Strengthening-Police-Force.pdf.
The Uttarakhand Assembly concluded a two-day session on November 30, 2022. The session was scheduled to be held over five days. In this post we look at the legislative business that was carried out in the Assembly, and the state of state legislatures.
13 Bills were introduced and passed within two days
As per the Session Agenda, a total of 19 Bills were listed for introduction in the span of two days. 13 of these were listed to be discussed and passed on the second day. These included the Uttarakhand Protection of Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (Amendment), Bill, 2022, and the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The Assembly had proposed to discuss and pass each Bill (barring two) within five minutes (see Figure 1). Two Bills were allocated 20 minutes each for discussion and passing - the Haridwar Universities Bill, 2022, and the Public Service (Horizontal Reservation for Women) Bill, 2022. As per news reports, the Assembly passed all 13 Bills within these two days (this excludes the Appropriation Bills). This raises the question on the amount of scrutiny that these Bills were subject to, and the quality of such laws when the legislature intends to pass them within mere minutes.
Figure 1: Excerpt of Uttarakhand Assembly's November 2022 Session Agenda
Law making requires deliberation, scrutiny
Our law-making institutions have several tools at their disposal to ensure that before a law is passed, it has been examined thoroughly on various aspects such as constitutionality, clarity, financial and technical capacity of the state to implement provisions, among others. The Ministry/Department piloting a Bill could share a draft of the Bill for public feedback (pre-legislative scrutiny). While Bills get introduced, members may raise issues on constitutionality of the proposed law. Once introduced, Bills could be sent to legislative committees for greater scrutiny. This allows legislators to deliberate upon individual provisions in depth, understand if there may be constitutional challenges or other issues with any provision. This also allows experts and affected stakeholders to weigh in on the provisions, highlight issues, and help strengthen the law.
However, when Bills are introduced and passed within mere minutes, it barely gives legislators the time to go through the provisions and mull over implications, issues, or ways to improve the law for affected parties. It also raises the question of what the intention of the legislature is when passing laws in a hurry without any discussion. Often, such poorly thought laws are also challenged in Courts.
For instance, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in this session (five minutes had been allocated for the discussion and passing of the Bill). The 2022 Bill amends the 2018 Act which prohibits forceful religious conversions, and provides that conversion through allurement or marriage will be unlawful. The Bill has provisions such as requiring an additional notice to be sent to the District Magistrate (DM) for a conversion, and that reconversion to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion. Some of these provisions seem similar to other laws that were passed by states and have been struck down by or have been challenged in Courts. For example, the Madhya Pradesh High Court while examining the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 noted that providing a notice to the DM for a conversion of religion violates the right to privacy as the right includes the right to remain silent. It extends that understanding to the right to decide on one’s faith. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006 exempted people who reconvert to their original religion from giving a public notice of such conversion. The Himachal Pradesh High Court had struck down this provision as discriminatory and violative of the right to equality. The Court also noted that the right to change one’s belief cannot be taken away for maintaining public order.
Uttarakhand MLAs may not have had an opportunity to think about how issues flagged by Courts may be addressed in a law that regulates religious conversions.
Most other state Assemblies also pass Bills without adequate scrutiny
In 2021 44% states passed Bills on the day it was introduced or on the next day. Between January 2018 and September 2022, the Gujarat Assembly introduced 92 Bills (excluding Appropriation Bills). 91 of these were passed in the same day as their introduction. In the 2022 Monsoon Session, the Goa Assembly passed 28 Bills in the span of two days. This is in addition to discussion and voting on budgetary allocation to various government departments.
Figure 2: Time taken by state legislatures to pass Bills in 2021
Note: The chart above does not include Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. A Bill is considered passed within a day if it was passed on the day of introduction or on the next day. For states with bicameral legislatures, bills have to be passed in both Houses. This has been taken into account in the above chart for five states having Legislative Councils, except Bihar (information was not available for Council).
Sources: Assembly websites, E-Gazette of various states and Right to Information requests; PRS.
Occasionally, the time actually spent deliberating upon a Bill is lesser than the allocated time. This may be due to disruptions in the House. The Himachal Pradesh Assembly provides data on the time actually spent discussing Bills. For example, in the August 2022 Session, it spent an average of 12 minutes to discuss and pass 10 Bills. However, the Uttarakhand Assembly allocated only five minutes to discuss each Bill in its November 2022 Session. This indicates the lack of intent of certain state legislatures to improve their functioning.
In the case of Parliament, a significant portion of scrutiny is also carried out by the Department Related Standing Committees, even when Parliament is not in session. In the 14th Lok Sabha (LS), 60% of the Bills introduced were sent to Committees for detailed examination, and in the 15th LS, 71% were sent. These figures have reduced recently – in the 16th LS 27% of the Bills were sent to Committees, and so far in the 17th LS, 13% have been sent. However, across states, sending Bills to Committees for detailed examination is often the exception than the norm. In 2021, less than 10% of the Bills were sent to Committees. None of the Bills passed by the Uttarakhand Assembly had been examined by a committee. States that are an exception here include Kerala which has 14 subject Committees, and Bills are regularly sent to these for examination. However, these Committees are headed by their respective Ministers, which reduces the scope of independent scrutiny that may be undertaken.