Niranjan slams Govt for surreptitious passage of Police Bill

Former Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President (OPCC) Niranjan Patnaik on
Wednesday slammed the BJD Government for trying to get a new Police Bill passed
surreptitiously without adequate public debate. The provisions of the Bill are
contrary to the recommendation of the National Police Commission (NPC) and
subsequent reports by expert groups as well as the Supreme Court Direction in
2008 in the Prakash Singh Case and will not be able to insulate the Police from
political interference.
The NPC (1979-1981) in its second report had observed that
the Police force has become an extension of the Party in power and had proposed
a State Security Commission to exercise superintendence over the state police,
a task presently performed by the State Government. The Odisha Bill has changed
the composition and function of the state security commission as proposed by
NPC making it lose credibility and teeth. The Commission has been made another
arm of the government and a ‘talk shop’, stated the Patnaik.
The Odisha Police Bill, 2013 quite deliberately excludes the
Leader of the Opposition and a retired High Court Judge. The Members are to be
selected by the Government rather than by an independent selection panel as
proposed by NPC, Rrebeiro Committee and Sorabjee Committee. Not merely the
composition of the State Security Commission has been diluted to make it
indistinguishable from the Government, but also its functions as conceived by
NPC and the subsequent Committees as well as the Supreme Court has been
diluted. The Commission will no longer exercise superintendence over the police
and it will be ‘business as usual’. Mr. Patnaik has said that “it is the same
old wine in the same old bottle.” How can a Government-appointed committee be a
bulwark to insulate the police from political interference? The State
Government never wanted a new Act, but now that they face the prospect of
contempt of the Supreme Court they are trying to hoodwink the public.
The NPC had also wanted the modalities of appointment of the
Chief of the State Police to be fixed and a fixed tenure of four years
guaranteed so that the Police Chief does not operate under constant pressure of
removal. In order to maintain his impartiality the DG was also not to be
entitled to any post-retirement sinecures. The Soarabjee Committee reduced the
NPC’s four years to two years.
Though on the face of it the new bill provides for a
two-year term, a clause has been incorporated as Section 4 (3) (e) by which the
DGP can be transferred to any equivalent post under the state or central
government. Also there is no restriction on post-retirement appointment.
The Bill prepared by the Sorabjee Committee had in Sec 24
created a new rank structure and had got rid of the distinction between
officers and constables. The education profile of constables in Odisha Police
has been on the rise. Many of them are graduates and post-graduates. They are
the people at the cutting edge and unless they perform better and have better
career prospects police performance will not improve. They should be called
Civil Police Officers as incorporated in the bill prepared by Sorabjee and they
should be asked to investigate crimes. The Bill shows a colonial mentality and
a bureaucratic approach that disenfranchises the Constables and Havildars for
all times to come.

Patnaik too has written to the Leader of the Opposition in the
State Assembly Bhupinder Singh and the Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan to view
the bill seriously as “this is not just another piece of legislative work.” The
State Government should have placed the Bill in the Public domain and there
should have been an adequate and informed public debate. The Bill has not been
kept in any website deliberately because the State Government wants to get the
Bill passed without much deliberation. Patnaik has demanded that the Bill
should be sent to a Select Committee of the Assembly so that infirmities can be
removed through scrutiny by members as well as considering views of the public
and experts.

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