Daily Star Home  

<%-- Page Title--%> Law Opinion <%-- End Page Title--%>

  <%-- Page Title--%> Issue No 100 <%-- End Page Title--%>  

July 13, 2003 

  <%-- Page Title--%> <%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>

The criminal justice system and our police
in a changing environment

Muhammad Nurul Huda

The foremost duty of the state is to ensure security thereby ensuring the protection of the individual's dignity and total development. These two functions devolve on the police force also. The traditional police functions have undergone considerable change in a democratic polity. Ours is a democratic society in which people may participate in the policy formulation and implementation at all levels of political and administrative system. The politico-administrative system is accountable to the people. The effectiveness of the administrative system in a democracy lies in its intimate relationship with the people. The police being one of the most significant component of the criminal justice system and an important segment of the overall administrative setup is no exception to the foregoing reality. However, a police system conceived and grown in a colonial ecology and planted in a developmental, democratic and prismatic environment finds it difficult to obtain and secure a close cooperation of the people for discharging its functions and fulfilling the expected role efficiently. It is necessary make an effort to understand the twin concepts of criminal justice and environment so that the role perception of the police system in the changing environment, challenges emanating from the systemic stress and strains can be identified and as such viable response may be formulated.

Objectives of criminal justice system
The objective of the criminal justice system is to control arbitrariness and guarantee equal status to all citizens, promote sense of security, ensure rights of victims and the accused, motivate the public to participate in the crime prevention process etc. It is needed to protect social values and procedurally ensure fair play and justice to all. The criminal justice system can be a barometer of civilisation in a society, an indicator of the operational patterns of "due process model" against the "enforcement model". It is intricately related to the legislative, executive and adjudication systems. Police is a limb of the executive system, the judiciary or adjudicate system which takes its energy from legislative system. Out of this, police plays a very significant role in the criminal justice system. Before analysing the role and functions of police it might be relevant to understand the concept of the system broadly in the context of the criminal justice system as all branches of criminal justice work for a common goal.
The criminal justice system operates in socio-economic, political and developmental environment in which a community lives. The social systems and conventions, legal and constitutional provisions try to keep the society in equilibrium. However, the environmental pressures, stress and strains, change and dynamism often incite an individual or group to violate the customs and convention, rules and regulations, laws and constitutional provisions. The violation of law results in law and order situation in which crime and criminals thrive. In such a situation, the aspirations of the community is the maintenance of peace and prevention and detection of crime. The police, courts, prosecution and correction are the four arms of the criminal justice administration to fulfil the aspirations of the people.

Role of police in criminal justice system
The police is the initial arm of the system mentioned hereinbefore. If violation of law is input and reduced crime in society is the output, then all the four arms of criminal justice are processes on whose efficiency the success of criminal justice depends. The input is what that system deals with, process is how the system deals with and the output represents the result of the process. The output of judicial system may be societal success with crime and the output of correctional sub-system could be the corrected offender. One has to identify the linkage of the police system with the other sub-systems of the criminal justice system. The functions of police are largely enforcement of laws and maintenance of order and investigation of crime, detection of criminals, arrest, collection of evidence and getting conviction. On the preventive front the police is to keep strict surveillance on juvenile delinquents and enforce the preventive laws. This may be understood as per the following frame:
In the above context if the process is not earnestly followed the conviction in the background of liberal, legal and judicial system is not possible. This will, therefore, contribute to a growth in the volume of crime and might tantamount to ineffectiveness of the system wherein the process would appear unsuccessful in converting the input in desirable output or translate constitutional values into realities. The constitutional value depicts general spirit of service to people specially weaker sections, women and children, handicapped, serving the people in natural calamity and functioning as per rule of law and due process of law. Whether and how our police system can successfully achieve all these values in the larger context of criminal justice system demands a serious review.

The drawbacks
Our police system as part of the overall administrative system functions in an environment consisting of all the human and non-human phenomenon that exist within a polity, meaning in our case the national political system. The social configuration, cultural ethos, economic exercises, political processes and psychological compulsions all form the part of the environment. Their actions and interactions not only create but transform the overall existing environment and as such the demands of the people. In our context the environment has undergone significant transformation and as in most countries of the world the development activities have not succeeded in stalling the upward swing in crime, as evidenced in the crime statistics. Serious crimes have not, however, registered an alarming increase as some quarters would like to impress upon.

The need for reform
The environmental change in post 1971 period has made the law and order and crime scene very complex, Group tensions, increased number of unemployed youth, industrial unrest, inadequately planned urbanisation etc. have enhanced the crime figures. Economic crimes like adulteration, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, hoarding, black marketing have increased. There is, thus, a need of a skilled, expert and a talented police organisation which can reduce the rate, volume and fear of crime. Each sub-system of the criminal justice system should function in unison for a common goal. The police has a primary role in the criminal justice system. The process of police system demands close thinking and reforms without being oblivious of the reality that timely and right registration of the case, a dedicated investigation and effective prosecution will hopefully lead to the conviction of the criminal.
The norms for checking the efficiency of the police could be as under
-Whether a sense of security prevails in the community.
-Whether people are willing to cooperate and participate in the programmes meant for the prevention of crime.
-Whether police registers FIR promptly and officer visit the scene of incident and conducts proper investigation.
-Whether law and order is being maintained with people's cooperation.
-Whether there is a feeling of service in police personnel towards woman, children and handicapped.
-Whether police renders service to the people during natural calamities.

Concluding remarks
It is desirable that police personnel together with other sub-systems of the criminal justice system make serious effort for converting the input into desirable output mentioned hereinbefore, while sustaining the criminal justice system. The state should update the Police Act to suit democratic values and culture and equip the organisation with most modern gadgets. The police should be guided in becoming effectively accountable to the real sovereign -the people.

Muhammad Nurul Huda is former Secretary of Bangladesh Government and former IG of police.


      (C) Copyright The Daily Star.