Police Corruption in India

Mains Marks Booster     3rd August 2023        

Quote: “Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely”

Police Corruption in India


  • Police corruption is a specific form of police misconduct designed to obtain financial benefits, other personal gain, or career advancement for a police officer or officers in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest.  
  • One common form of police corruption is soliciting and/or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities.

Ethical Challenges in Policing:

  • Obedience versus Professional competence: Disobedience of operational order on grounds of professional competence goes against the disruption of hierarchy and discipline.
    • Conflict between Obedience and legality
      • Ex. Higher authority giving instructions to frame charges under particular IPCs but the police officer in-charge seems those IPCs inappropriate for the case
    • Conflict between means and ends: Police officers often face the dilemma of whether to use wrong means to achieve ends. 
      • Ex. Beating culprit to confess the crime or provide clue to recover evidences such as arms used for the crime
    • Conflict between obedience and Political direction: Ex. Policemen has instruction to stop common people to meet with the ministers because of security reasons, but the minister wants to break the protocol of security. 
  • Conflict between Obedience and basic morality: 
    • Ex. Oder from the higher authority to fire on people protesting for a cause, however policemen with integrity may refuse to fire.

Challenges in Policing in India

  • Remuneration and Service benefits: Salary structures, nature and hours of duty, accommodation problem and certain administrative and organisational problems are the main factors responsible for the police corruption. 
  • Political interference: Growing influence of unscrupulous public men and politicians also promotes corruption in Police system.
  • Low strength and average training: According to a report, “the strength and the quality of the policemen have not kept pace with the demands of a rapidly expanding economy and administration. 
  • Ambiguities in legislation:  Unclear laws coupled with the police discretion “to act or not to act” in respect of certain offences under them give ample opportunities to the personnel to resort to corrupt practices during the enforcement of such acts. 
    • Ex. offences like child labour, untouchability, immoral traffic on woman, indecent representation of women, etc., which are brought under the ambit of a plethora of social legislations.
  • Absence of a strong institutional culture: Institutional value system creates an internal need to follow the ethos and decreases the need for any external or legal enforcer. 
    • Example: strong institutional culture practised in the Indian Armed Forces results in soldiers following the same discipline outside the military ecosystem despite having no external enforcer.  
  • Discretionary Power of officers: The major source of corruption in the police is the vast power vested in a police officer in a day to day working. Example: enforcement of prohibition laws. 
  • Vicious cycle of bribery: Police Persons, who have paid their way through, try to recover the amount as soon as possible and corruption becomes a tool for getting better return on investment. 

Way Forwards:  Measures to reduce Corruption in Policing system -  

  • Community policing: allows police to continuously operate in the same area in order to create a stronger bond with the common public.
    • Ex. Community policing in Canada, individual officers are encouraged to engage in neighbourhood extracurriculars, particularly those involving at-risk youth
  • Transparency in Service matter: A system could be designed where postings are automatically generated by a software system after a given time interval. 
    • Supreme Court (in Prakash Singh Case) sought a minimum tenure for the Inspector General of Police so that they are not transferred mid-term by politicians. 
  • Ensure accountability: Public hearings, objective performance and efficiency indicators can be introduced to monitor the performance of the Police force. 
    • Prakash Singh judgement recommended setting up State Police Complaints Authority where common people aggrieved by police action could approach. 
  • Better Remuneration and service benefits: It can have a positive impact on police personnel who become coarse and turn cynical due to stress, strain and frustration of the law enforcement profession. 
  • Changing attitude of police leaders: There should be more flexibility, fluidity and individual innovativeness and initiative so that there would be meaningful deliberations and interactions at all levels of the force. 
  • Innovative mechanisms: Efforts should be made to redefine the core areas of policing and identify and delink those duties and tasks that give ample scope for the lower rungs of police to resort to corrupt practices. 
  • Use of Information Technology: Use of technology for reporting and handling of cases can play an important role in arresting corruption as non-registration of complaints is the most common grievance of citizens. 
Ex. Rajasthan has introduced an initiative named Aarakshi to improve the efficiency of police procedures.
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