Honourable Parkash Singh Badal
Chief Minister Punjab
Government of Punjab
Legislation Governing Police Conduct and Operations
The World Sikh Organization of Canada is a non-profit human rights organization registered in Canada. Founded in 1984 with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of ethnic, geographical, social or economic background. This organization aims to provide a credible voice to the Sikh community at the national and international stage, particularly in the pursuit of human rights.
We are given to understand that the existing legislation governing police operations in Punjab was enacted by the British in 1861. Understandably, this is not in tune with the changed realities in society. Acknowledging this situation, the Supreme Court called for an appropriate new legislation that will make police operations consistent with the times and ensure proper respect for legal and fundamental human rights of the public. The Supreme Court provided the following seven directives for the police reform.
- Constitute a State Security Commission to (i) ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police, (ii) lay down broad policy guidelines, and (iii) evaluate the performance of the state police;
- Ensure that the Director General of Police is appointed through a merit based, transparent process and enjoys a minimum tenure of two years;
- 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) also have a minimum tenure of two years;
- Set up a Police Establishment Board, which will decide all 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 of officers above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police;
- Set up a National Security Commission at the union level to prepare a panel for selection and placement of Chiefs of the Central Police Organizations (CPO), who should also be given a minimum tenure of two years;
- Set up independent Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to look into public complaints against police officers in cases of serious misconduct, including custodial death, grievous hurt or rape in police custody; and
- Separate the investigation and law and order functions of the police.
It is abundantly clear that the Supreme Court desired and expected full public participation, not only during the deliberation and development but in actual implementation of the resulting legislation.
While the government has been entrusted with the authority to enact legislations to serve the interests of society and the state, it is essential that the process is transparent and includes all stake-holders. Most importantly, the public at large and the human rights groups that stand on guard for the public interest.
Recent independent media news reports indicate that your government has promulgated Ordinance (emergency measure) giving even greater powers to the state police forces while they stand accused of gross misuse of public trust and the existing authority vested in them.
Punjab human rights groups are understandably outraged. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has been compelled to file a Public Interest Litigation in the court to restrain the state from going ahead with the implementation of hastily concocted legislation blessed in stealth by the government keen on trampling on the rights of the general public.
Such legislative environment gives the public every reason to suspect the underlying motives in the government’s push to impose the new police regime in a seemingly un-parliamentary manner.
WSO (Canada) calls upon the government of Punjab to respect the wishes, rights and just expectations of the people by engaging all legitimate stake-holders in deliberations and development of the new legislation that will govern the conduct and operation of its police forces in the future. Public interest must remain paramount and no legislative short-cuts must be allowed to compromise such long-term public interest.
We look forward to your directing necessary corrective actions to restore public confidence in the legislative processes and the resulting new police regime in the state.
Let’s make Punjab a leader in human rights protection.
Gurpreet Singh Bal
World Sikh Organization of Canada