ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Who Will Bell the Cop?

Police Reforms and Law Enforcement

Merely enacting laws, however well-intentioned, to overcome social evils in a society will fail if these laws are not implemented. Two instances are legislation relating to prenatal diagnostics and the prevention of atrocities against Dalits. The failure in implementation can be attributed to the police forces lacking the capability to be modern law enforcement agencies. Wide-ranging and in-depth police reforms are therefore necessary to ensure that laws are actually implemented and effective.

When a social problem of some sort is brought to the public eye in an effort to address it, one of the first cries in response is to seek to criminalise it, to outlaw on pain of criminal prosecution. These are not cries in the wilderness. In the history of social reform legislation in India—starting with outlawing of Sati under Company Rule,1 all the way to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 enacted consequent on the Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law, headed by Justice J S Verma—when a certain social evil is sought to be put an end to, criminal law has been used as a response to it.

The response has been either to make such activity punishable as an offence or, if it is already punishable, to enhance the punishment and make it more stringent. We see one of these approaches in a wide variety of laws such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (henceforth, atrocities act), and even the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Such legislative responses have been seen at the state level as well with respect to superstitious practices,2 witch-hunting,3 etc. The thinking seems to be that using criminal law and the threat of prosecution of the perpetrators by the state acts as some sort of deterrent against the commission of these ­social evils.

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