The contrast between the British and the Indian police

Today I saw on youtube that the London Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Mark Rowley, has refused to obey the order of the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ban a proposed pro-Palestinian protest march in London on 11th November ( Armistice or Remembrance Day ), because under British law people have a right to hold peaceful protests.
The UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has called pro-Palestinian protests ‘hate marches’.
This is something inconceivable in India, where no police officer would ever dare to disobey the order of the government, knowing that if he did. he would be promptly suspended and severely dealt with.
To explain this difference between the British and Indian police I would like to quote the words of Sir Robert Mark, former Chief Commissioner of Police, London, who said in a speech to policemen :
” In the legal and constitutional framework in which society requires us to enforce the laws enacted by its elected representatives, the most essential weapons in our armour are not firearms, water cannon, tear gas or rubber bullets, but the confidence and support of the people. That confidence and support depends on our personal and collective integrity, and in particular on our long tradition of constitutional freedom from political interference in our operational role.
It is important for you to understand that the police are not the servants of the government at any level. We do not act at the behest of any Minister or any political party, not even the party in government. We act on behalf of the people as a whole, and the powers we excercise cannot be restricted or widened by anyone, save Parliament alone. “
In Regina vs. Metropolitan Commissioner of Police Exparte Blackburn, ( 1968 ) 2 QB 118, Lord Denning stated the powers of the police in words which have become locus classicus :
” I hold it the duty of the Commissioner of Police to enforce the law of the land. He must take steps so as to post his men that crimes may be detected, and that honest citizens may go about their affairs in peace. He must decide whether suspected persons are to be prosecuted.
But in all these things he is not the servant of anyone save the law. No Minister can tell him that he must, or must not, keep observation on this place or that, or that he must. or must not, prosecute this man or that. Nor can any other authority tell him so. The responsibility for law enforcement lies on him. He is answerable to the law, and to the law alone. “.

 In this connection reference may be made to the book ‘Nice Guys Finish Second’ written by B. K. Nehru, former I.C.S. Officer and former Governor of several States. On page 556 of this book  B. K. Nehru writes :

“I also studied the organization of the Home Civil Service (in England) and how it was that in spite of a vigorous democracy the civil service had retained its independence in that it was guided by the rules and the law and not by the whims and wishes of transient ministers.

The answer was simple. All the three powers which are exercised by the minister in India to bend the civil servant to his will, namely, appointments, transfers and suspensions, are not exercisable by them at all in the United Kingdom. They are exercised by a very small group of Senior Secretaries presided over by the Secretary of the Civil Service Department who reports to the Prime Minister direct. It is they who appoint people, transfer them and punish them, not the ministers.

The Prime Minister of course, approves their proposals, but when I asked the Head of the Civil Service Department what would happen if the Prime Minister refused to sign, he was shocked out of his wits. He said, “But that cannot happen.” Such is the power of the conventions of the British Constitution, which, if broken, would lead to a furore in Parliament.”

Contrast this with the situation in India, where healthy conventions were never allowed by our politicians to develop.

Thus, in the Second Report of the National Police Commission, 1979 it was stated :

”  Pressure on the police takes a variety of forms, ranging from a promise of career advancement and preferential treatment in service matters if the demand of the politician is yielded to, and a threat of drastic penal action and disfavored treatment in service matters if the pressure is resisted. While it is not possible to punish a police officer with a statutory punishment under the Discipline and Appeal Rules, without adequate grounds and following a prescribed procedure, it is very easy to subject him to administrative action by way of transfer or suspension on the basis of an alleged complaint taken up for inquiry. While suspension acts as a great humiliating factor, a transfer acts as a severe economic blow and disruption of the police officer’s family, children’s education, etc. The threat of transfer/suspension is the most potent weapon in the hands of the politician to bend down the police to his will ”

It was also stated therein :

 ” Extraneous sources, especially the political, encourages the police personnel to believe that  career advancement does not at all depend on the merits of their professional performance, but can be secured by currying favour with politicians who count. Politicking and hobnobbing with functionaries outside the police system appear very worthwhile in the estimate of an average police officer. Deliberate and sustained cultivation of a few individuals on the political plane takes up all the time of a number of police personnel to the detriment of the performance of their normal professional jobs ”.

 In his book Comparative Government, Professor Samuel Finer, writes:

“Two American political scientists (Professors Almond and Verba) made a survey of what they called ‘the civic culture’ in five countries. These were USA, Britain, Germany, Italy and Mexico. Answering the query (in the opinion poll they held), ‘which aspect of national life do you take most pride in?’, 2.5% Italians named their governmental arrangements, and only 4% of the Germans.

In Britain, however, 33% named their governmental arrangements. Furthermore, four-fifths of the respondents believed that the civil servants would treat them fairly, and no less than nine-tenth believed that the police would.

By international standards these proportions are very high indeed, and they express what has been asserted: that on the whole, the British esteem their political arrangements, and have confidence in them.”

In India, on the other hand, the public has a low esteem of the police, much of which is regarded as corrupt and/or incompetent, and blindly obedient to whatever order, however illegal or improper it may be, of their political superiors


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here