“Free the police”

This is what Swami said on Sunday-

[W]e must extricate the police from the control of politicians, and have a truly independent Police Commission, which will stand up to politicians as firmly as the Election Commission. Law and order is a state subject, so we will need police commissioners in every state, under a national police commissioner.


NC Saxena, who headed the 1962 National Police Commission , once wrote that the police had ceased to regard crime detection and criminal conviction as their key goals. This was because the agenda of home ministers in every state was very different. The top priority of home ministers was to use the police to harass political opponents. The second priority was to use the police and prosecutors to tone down or dismiss cases against their own parties and coalition members. The third priority was to provide VIP security. The very last priority was crime detection —that yielded no political dividends and so was paid the least attention.

Here again, only institutional change will produce better results. Japan has an independent police commissioner. Why not India too? Law and order is necessarily political and has to remain with home ministers. But crime detection should not be political….

A comment on the piece that I am in complete agreement with-

I do not agree with you at all, Mr. Aiyer. Its more like a schoolboy essay. Every thing looks so rosy on paper but on the ground its different. I do not trust police to be good. Not only they will have the batons but will require no permission to use them. And there will always be witch hunts. If we have magistrates who can sign arrest warrants for the president what about the ordinary man.

All coercive capabilities of the state must always be under civilian political control. The politician can be kicked out. What about the “independent” police commissioner and his subordinates? In an attempt to put corrupt politicians behind bars, we might end up causing innocent people even more trouble. It’s a cliché, but, who will watch the watchmen?

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  • Sauvik Chakraverti  On January 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    I too thought Swami has completely lost it in this piece. The entire criminal justice system does not work. The police are just the coercive arm of the State, used for political purposes, which includes racketeering. The only people “protected” are politicians. Their bosses talk endlessly of “national security,” “terrorism,” “border security” and suchlike, while over 200,000 Indians, mainly pedestrians and cyclists, are killed on our unsafe roads every year. I think in this area too we must look towards The Market. In Delhi, where 2000 or more cops are deputed to secure chacha manmohan s gandhi’s Lutyens’ bungalow, every residential locality uses private security guards for protection. That is the way forward. We must also think of a “private law society” so that all repressive legislation become history – and a free society is always a more law-abiding society. Torts are essential to replace the idea of crimes – which are against the State. Torts are crimes against individuals – and restitution can easily replace the State-run dysfunctional penal system. Victims will also be free to conduct their own private investigations and privately prosecute their suits. When the system is broke, you have to replace it.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 6, 2011 at 2:14 am

    You already know that I broadly agree with much of what you say. Unfortunately, it will take “society” a long time to come to a similar conclusion and change itself. But that is the only way forward.

    K.M. says it quite well

    Political change is necessarily preceded by cultural change.

    Aiyer’s article shows that despite all his claims to be a liberal, he does not really understand liberty at all. Anyone who thinks liberty can be achieved by political means fundamentally misunderstands it.

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