Police & Administration

The British laid the foundation of police organisation in India by establishment of the Bhandari Militia in Bombay in 1670. This paramilitary unit performed the important function of patrolling. Later, they experimented with various ideas and models. While departing from India, they left behind a well-organized, effective police organisation.

In the old days, the Patil was the chief official functionary of the village. He was assisted by the Kotwal, the Ramoshi and others. The Patil had powers to punish persons in petty offences. The cess-collecting landlords (Jamindar) supervised the village police. Governor General Cornwallis transferred the authority of Jamindars to the newly established police stations. He established one police station every 20 to 30 miles. These were under the command of a Daroga, assisted by 20 to 25 sepoys. The authority of the traditional village police to investigate offences and punish the culprits was withdrawn.

The present police organization owes its origin to the system established in Sindh province. One senior officer was appointed for each district who was placed in charge of all police stations in the district. A hierarchy of officers assisted him. This system proved to be effective.

Under pressure from the East India Company, the British Parliament appointed a commission to review and revamp the police system in India. The police Act of 1861 drafted by this commission after studying the system in Sindh still holds true in India.

Later the Police Act of 1861 was felt to be inadequate. Police were found to be inefficient and corrupt. Lord Curzon appointed another police commission in 1902. A third police commission, Dharamaveer Commission, was appointed in 1977. Various states have also appointed their own police commissions.

There seems to be nothing commendable about the police system in India as existed before the advent of the British. Many scholarly foreign tourists have written about their experiences with the Indian law enforcement authorities in their travelogues.

According to some of them, the Daroga was the uncrowned king of his area.

The Kotwal maintained the Law and Order in bigger cities. If the Kotwal happened to be a good man, the people got good policing. Miseries of people knew no bounds if he happened to be a self centered tyrant. He enjoyed vast powers. The administration had very little control on him. He behaved very crudely and committed atrocities on citizens. The police officers believed in striking terror among the people. Small villages were protected by the Patil. Though the state had laws and rules, the justice in the villages was done according to its customs. There were no qualifications for the police Patil. There were no fixed working hours, nor was there a retirement age. His actions were not supported by law. He acted as per his whims and fancies. Since the post was hereditary, usually the son of the Police Patil succeeded him, deriving his authority from tradition i.e. he had Traditional Authority. At times a charismatic person became the Police Patil. He subverted existing Police Patils on the basis of his charisma. His authority was therefore Charismatic Authority.

The British got rid of both the Traditional and Charismatic Authorities and replaced it with the Rational Legal authority which consisted of recruiting the right candidates for the right posts through a structured merit based selection process. Social scientist Max Weber expounded the scientific theory of such authority. The present Police force works on the same principle. Max Weber is generally accepted as the founder of the bureaucratic authority.