top of page

Police in India

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written By - Laasya Gogineni



Every society needs peace and favourable conditions for the development and progress. Disturbed societies have lost their potential in unserviceable stuff. They will grow and thrive if they have good safety, security and order. Police role in the community is becoming significant. There were often different roles and tasks in some way or another.

The very name ‘police’ has been derived from the Latin word ‘politia’ which means “condition of state”. The word means “a system of regulation for the preservation of order and regulation of law. It broadly refers to the purposeful maintenance of public order and protection of persons and property from the commission of unlawful acts towards them. It also refers to the civil functionaries charged with the duty of maintaining public order safety and enforcing the law including the prevention and detection of crime.” In a country like India which has huge amount of population, the challenge becomes more difficult. Policing changes continuously with respect to the changing community. In fact, we can simply also call it as science.

Backdrop to Police system:

Policing history in India has traces back from the 19th century. Police mention can be traced back to the period of Vedas as Rig Veda and Atharav Veda referred few types of crimes known to the Vedic people. Criminal Justice system developed during the Maurya as well as Gupta period continued for the next five hundred to six hundred years. Gupta system was decentralized quite opposite to the Maurya system which is centralized. Village police, Palace police, City police were remained same.

Coming to the medieval period there was no mention about police and the organisations. We can say that this is because of the reason that they are in a rush to increase the military and army and as a result they gave less priority to the need of police for administration. In order to adapt the Muslim conquerors to the Indian social situation, they tried to create the police system according to the one existing in their home countries. The justice, punishment, and police administration scheme, however, was Islamic and the foundation of the Holy Quran.

“Legally, The Police Act, 1861 is still the basic instrument governing the functioning of the Indian Police. Besides the Indian Penal Code, 1862, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 also govern the functioning of the police. Under the Police Act, the Inspector General of Police (now designated as the Director General/Inspector General) is the head of state police. States are divided into districts and a Superintendent of Police heads the district police.”[1] “The Muslim conquerors did try to implant the police system in line with one prevailing in their homeland trying to fit it with the Indian social setting. The system of administering justice, punishment, and policing was, however, Islamic and was based on the Holy Quran.”[2]

Police system in Modern India:

Police system became corrupted and vogue after the British victory in the Battle of Plassey. “In 1862, the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code came into force. The Evidence Act was enforced in 1872 and thus the Qazis, the Muftis, the Pandits along with the Islamic law and the Hindu law got replaced”[3]. We see a lot of changes in the police administration under the British control yet the Mughals framework was remained.

Mughal empire disintegration was dated till the middle of 19th century starting from start of 19th century. We see no establishment of police system which is up to the mark in this period maybe because of the lack of perspective of British on India. “Zamindars retained policing till 1792 when Cornwallis was sent to India as Governor-General. He abolished the zamindari system and made Thanedars responsible for the maintenance of law and order. Some other reforms were also introduced. Later, a model of policing developed by Napier culminated into the Indian Police Act of 1861, on which the current police system is also based.”[4]

Indian Police Act, 1860:

British realized that they may lose their power after the revolt in 1857. But then they become very strict and they abolished all the challenges to them. In 1860, therefore, a police committee was appointed to ensure that the police were made an effective tool for crime prevention and detection.

The system thus designed was, however, quite contrary to the British system, which was revered as a progressive police symbol worldwide. The main purpose was to satisfy trade and business benefit requirements to ensure that trade routes remained secure and resource extraction continued unimpeded. The scheme was built on the structure of many features and names of officials including Daroga, Faujdar and Kotwal which was established by the Mughals during the 17 centuries. The Act established a uniform police force in the world. The District Magistrate was removed from the responsibility to monitor and make it more professional, structured and disciplined by the local police. The police system established under the Act is now in use and has been applied uniformly. The general conditions of regulation over crime prevailed, however, potentially unsatisfactory due to hunger, starvation and other harmful conditions such as a lack of force. In 1902, an entire inquiry was set up in order to propose reform on many facets of the department and the second All India Police Commission. However, the recommendations to improve forces up to independence did not make anything specific.

Following 1920, the Indians were opened to colonial powers by admission tests. Facing statements and directives, the Indianisation of the services remained quite sluggish. Because of the lack of European access to the resources, more Indians later were named. India followed the 1861 scheme in all its fundamental respects after independence.

Present Police System in India:

Since 1860 senior police officers were recruited in two different forms - firstly, by appointing officers from the British Armed Forces and secondly, by appointing younger gentry sons from the UK. In 1893, all these methods were discontinued. Officers have already been recruited by a combined competitive examination in London that only European officials can take. It was also opened later for Indians. The UPSC recruits today via the Combined Civil Services Review.

Article 312[5] of the Indian Constitution deals with All India Services. Recruited test workers receive very difficult basic education in physical academics, weapons and other tasks. Police are a State matter, as laid down in the Constitution. In the State Police Book, States draw up laws, legislation and recommendations. In all states throughout the world, the organisational structure of the police forces of India is reasonably similar. The chief of the police in the state is known as the police director (DGP).

A state is further split into different areas, districts and ranges. The local authorities are led by a superintendent of the police officer (SP). District Group consists of a group led by the Deputy Police Inspector General (DIG). Areas consist of two or three ranges headed by the Inspector General of Police of the rank (IG). Districts are often classified into subdivisions such as circles and police stations led by agents of various ranks. There are also two divisions of the police of the district, the civil and the military police forces of which the latter mostly controls crimes and the second deals with cases of law and order and is also the district police, reserved for an emergency.


The Indian police system's literature is meagre. There is a pressing need to make it a technical service rather than a service that follows authority with unconscious attention. Education, ethics, public conduct, public handling, codes for criminal proceedings, authority and police rights, are some facets of the police force which need to be thoroughly reconsidered. The picture of a paan-chewing, dishonest, rough, violent and bully in Khaki borne by police from the British period should be updated. In reality, it is important to rectify the true condition of police forces such as underpayment, under-employment, overwork, straining, demoralisation, inappropriate training and the equipment, and political intrusion. People have a right to know how police protects them. Public collaboration is necessary if the police are to function efficiently, depending on the degree of confidence and respect that the police enjoy.

[1] Suparna Jain/Aparajita Gupta “BUILDING SMART POLICE IN INDIA: BACKGROUND INTO THE NEEDED POLICE FORCE REFORMS” [2] Aditya Singh “Police and Policing In India- A Historical Perspective” (2020) [3] ibid. [4] Ibid. [5] Article 312 in The Constitution of India, 1949.

90 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page