Police Act 1861 needs to go to improve to end encounter raj

The controversy which has enveloped the Mumbai Police is not just on account of a few dubious policemen. It is partly created by a legal framework which opens the door for unaccountable policing. This environment, in turn, encourages some policemen to turn rogue.

A colonial era legislation, Police Act 1861, guides the legal framework of policing. It was drafted in the wake of the Revolt of 1857. Consequently, the law provided for policing where neither arbitrariness nor interference by State authorities was restrained.

The India Justice Report 2020, a civil society initiative led by Tata Trusts, points out that the “police pillar” which is the Police Act 1861 needs a thorough overhaul. In its current form, it doesn’t do enough to check arbitrary arrests, fake encounters and death by torture.

In 2005, the Centre started an exercise to reform this legislation by getting former attorney general Soli Sorabjee to draft an alternative law which is in sync with the needs of a parliamentary democracy. It’s time to see this exercise through if policing in India is to improve.

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