Send Odisha Police Bill to select committee, Niranjan urges Naveen

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 9:

Senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik has urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to send the Odisha Police Bill to a select committee of the State Assembly.

Niranjan Patnaik, Former PCC president
Niranjan Patnaik, Former PCC president

“I request you to rise above immediate considerations and agree to the suggestion for sending the Odisha Police Bill to a Select Committee of the state Assembly for a thorough examination,” said the former PCC president in a letter written to the Chief Minister today.

Ptanaik has also written to the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Narasingha Mishra and leader of the BJP legislature party Basant Panda requesting them to speak in a united voice and ensure necessary floor coordination to prevail upon the state government to agree to the suggestion in greater public interest.

“The new Police Bill replaces Police Act of 1861. So, why the hurry when we have waited for 150 years? The yardstick for judging the efficacy of the new legislation should be, ‘would it improve police services to the people?’. In my understanding, nothing will change and police will remain the same if the present Bill is passed unless there are major amendments made and the law is substantially improved upon,” said the senior Congress leader.

Pattnaik said the need for a new Police Act arose because the National Police Commission (NPC) (1979-81) had found that police all over the country was subservient to people in power, partisan and highly politicized. Therefore, NPC recommended creating a modern police force that is insulated from political interference, he added.

“I am afraid the Police Bill, as introduced in the State Assembly, is completely misconceived and will not serve the objective of insulating the police from political pressure,” Patnaik apprehended.

The senior Congress leader explained that in view of the unwillingness of the political class to give up control over the police, the matter went to the Supreme Court, which issued a direction to the state governments to pass a law to insulate the police from political interference in 2008.

He said that Odisha has already committed to the Supreme Court that such a law will be enacted and faces contempt unless a new law is passed.

But passing a law that does not serve the purpose for which the Supreme Court had asked for a new law, can hardly be called a full compliance to the direction of the Supreme Court. On the other hand, it amounts to deliberate avoidance of the Supreme Court order by taking recourse to legislation, the former minister argued.

“There is no harm in listening to the wisdom of the apex court and passing a law that echoes the sentiments expressed by the Court, both in letter and in spirit,” Patnaik said.

The NPC had prepared a draft Police Act, which was updated by the Ribeiro Committee and the Sorabjee Committee. The core of the NPC draft act is the provision that police is taken out from the superintendence of the State Government to the superintendence by an independent, bi-partisan State Security Commission. But unfortunately, the Bill retains the old structures and creates a Governmental Committee naming it State Security Commission as a fig leaf. The presence of the leader of opposition is necessary to create a bi-partisan consensus as much as reducing the number of members belonging to the Government or nominated by the Government, Patnaik stated.

“I understand that you have an overwhelming majority in the state assembly and can get the law passed disregarding opposition voices. But I request you to at least agree to send the Bill to a Select Committee for a full examination of its various provisions. Let the matter be properly examined at length and let the Select Committee ascertain public view as well as views of experts and improve the Bill further. This is a law that will define tomorrow’s police and must be passed with care and vision,” Patnaik stated in his letter to the Chief Minister.

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