Uttarakhand High Court Tells Government To Improve Working Conditions For Police And Ensure Minimum Three Promotions For All Cops

Coming straight to the nub of the matter, let me begin first and foremost by pointing out that in a landmark judgment with far reaching consequences, the Uttarakhand High Court in Arun Kumar Bhadoria v State & others in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 48 of 2017 decided on May 15, 2018 directed the State Government to ensure that a police personnel does not work for more than eight hours at a stretch. Police personnel too should be given time to rest as they too are human beings and not superman! This is exactly what the Uttarakhand High Court too reiterated in its landmark judgment.
                                        To be sure, while observing that police is the primary agency of the criminal justice system which protects human rights, the Uttarakhand High Court has directed the State to improve their working and living conditions and overall well-being to ensure efficient and people-friendly policing by making amendments to give at least three promotions to a police personnel in entire career, not making them work for over eight hours at a stretch, appoint dedicated doctors and psychologists for police personnel, ensure recreational facilities at police stations and a housing scheme for the police force. It is the primary duty and obligation of the State Government to adhere to what the Uttarakhand High Court has directed so categorically! There can be no denying it!
                                          As it turned out, a Bench of Uttarakhand High Court comprising of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma passed the landmark directions while deciding a PIL filed by Arun Kumar Bhadoria seeking better conditions of service for the lowest level of recruitment to the force and is often subjected to humiliation by seniors and public with not more than one chance at promotion to head constable. Bhadoria had also made representation on this issue before the Chief Minister in 2013 and also the Chief Justice in the year 2014 before coming to the High Court. Bhadoria’s grievances are certainly genuine and this alone explains why the Uttarakhand High Court also concurred with him and issued landmark directions as sought by him.
                                        Truth be told, the Bench minced no words to convey the clear and loud message that, “Most of the health problems occurred due to occupational hazards attributed to long hours on job. The long duty hour takes a toll on the morale, motivation and self-esteem of staff. The overall frustration manifests itself in the offensive conduct and behavior with the public at times. It is the duty cast upon the State to make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work under Article 42 of the Constitution.” Very rightly said! State must address this vexed issue right now and should not attempt to brush it aside as has been the case most unfortunately since the last several decades!
                                       Simply put, while deciding the PIL, the Uttarakhand High Court noted the submission of the state that as per Section 42 of Clause No. 1 of the Uttarakhand Police Act, 2007, the police officers are supposed to work for 24 hours. The police officers get one month’s additional salary as per Government Order dated 09.09.1979 in lieu of not availing Gazetted holidays. The Non-Gazetted police officers are given causal leave for 30 days in a year. It is further averred that to maintain law and order, the police department has taken the duty from the police officers for eight hours a day approximately, which is necessary to discharge the government liabilities.
                                           Needless to say, it also noted that 10,248 cases were registered in the year 2015 in Uttarakhand and the ratio of crime in per lakh population was 97.2. The strength of state police as on 01.01.2016 was 21,155. The actual appointments were 19,991. There are 1,164 vacancies. Only 6 percent vacancies were lying vacant. The total budget of Uttarakhand for the year 2015-16 was Rs 32,694 crore. The budget allocated for the police was Rs 1207 crore and the expenditure was Rs 879 crore which is only 2.7 percent of the total budget.
Court takes note of poor state of constabulary, the first interface with public
                                        It would be imperative to mention here that the Bench took strong note of the sorry state of constable in the police force where the post is devoid of any dignity. It observed that, “According to the observations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission, constables have become ‘machines’ carrying out the directions of their superiors with little application of mind or initiative. There is constant political interference in transfers, placements and crime investigation, long and difficult working hours, the menial duties they are often forced to perform as orderlies to senior officers, and the emphasis on brawn rather than brain in most situations. A constable devoid of dignity, lacking opportunities for vertical mobility, constantly pressurized by superiors and politicians, often not liked by the public and habituated to easy recourse to violence and force cannot generally be expected to sustain his/her self-esteem or acquire the professional skills to serve the citizens.”  
                                            The Bench underscored the dire need to usher in police reforms by saying that, “The constabulary is usually the first interface of the police with the public, any reform to be meaningful has to begin at this level. Radical improvements in the recruitment, training, emoluments, working and living conditions are essential to improve their morale, reduce their frustration and increase their professionalism.” The Bench ordered that the state government should develop psychological tests for the police force. There should be constant evaluation of the performance, attitudes and behavior of all recruits during training.  
                                           Going forward, while taking note of the stress that comes with VIP bandobast, the complexity of crime work, shortage of manpower in police stations, disorganized functioning of police stations, diversion of manpower on ‘attachments’ and other duties not related to police station functions, inadequate infusion of technology ad nonavailability of technological tools/aids, the Bench said that the police force should be provided one month’s additional salary in lieu of working overtime, as also on holidays and during their weekly off days. The police force should adopt shift system.
                                     Let us now discuss the international scenario of the working hours of police station personnel as discussed in para 34 of this landmark judgment. A few examples of shift systems in vogue in some police jurisdictions are briefly discussed here. They are as follows: -
                   In the United Kingdom most police departments follow the European Working Time Directive. The specific shift schedules operated by them vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, in overall conformity with these directives. For example, the Kent Police Department has both 8-hour and 10-hour shifts embedded in their system, with the shift duration alternating every week in a 4-week cycle. Kent Police regulations stipulate a limit on average weekly working time of 48 hours, along with a maximum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24 hours. Minimum weekly rest of 24 consecutive hours in each seven-day period or 48 consecutive hours over a 14-day period are also provided for in the regulations.
                   In the case of Essex Police, provisions are made in the regulations that staff shall not be required to work in excess of an average of 48 hours in a week in usual circumstances. These working hours include normal duty hours, as well as any overtime work, including work performed on a rest day or public holiday, or during off-duty hours. Personnel are also entitled to a rest period of not less than 11 hours in between two days of duty, and shall not be required to work for more than seven days between each rest period of a minimum of 24 hours. The Staffordshire Police follow a shift pattern of 2 morning-shifts, 2 day-shifts and 2 night-shifts, followed by 4 rest days. Some police departments follow the so-called Regulation Shift Pattern, under which personnel work through a rotation of eight hour shifts (0600-1400 hrs., 1400-2200 hrs., 2200-0600 hrs.). In Scotland, Regulation 22 of the Scottish Police Federation prescribes guidelines for the normal periods of duty of police personnel, the periods allowed for rest and refreshment, variable shift arrangements, etc.
                      In Canada, the Ottawa Shift System is commonly used by police stations. Originally developed in 1981, the system works on a three-shift basis – a 10-hour day shift, a 10-hour evening shift and an 8 ½ -hour night shift, on a 35-day cycle. The working hours of shift are calculated on the basis of annualized hours, and not on monthly or weekly hour basis. The system enables police personnel to enjoy increased rest days resulting from longer shifts.
                        Various police departments in the United States of America follow a 40-hour work week. The shift patterns and durations differ from one department to another. The work schedule of New York Police consists of shifts of 8 hours and 35 minutes, arranged in a 15-day cycle of 5 work days – 2 off days, followed by 5 work days – 3 off days. The cycle is rotated every 15  days. During their shifts, personnel are given one hour meal time and two twenty-minute breaks. The personnel of Georgia City Police currently work in 12-hour shifts, which are switched every 8 weeks. The County Police in Georgia work in 10-hour shifts. In Seattle Police Department, patrol officers work on a rotating schedule of 9-hour ‘watches’, in a 6-day cycle. They work for four days in a row, in the 6-day cycle followed by two off days. The Lincoln Police Department, Nebraska, has the traditional 8-hour shift schedule, coupled with some instances of 10-hour shifts. They also introduced 12-hour shifts on a trial basis some time back. The Middletown Police in Rhode Islands observe a 12-hour shift schedule in a 14-day cycle: 2 days off – 3 day work, 2 days off – 2 days work, 3 days off – 2 days work.  
                In Australia, Victoria Police had been following a 12-hour shift system till 2009, when they switched back to 8-hour shift schedule.
            In South Africa, priot to 1994, the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) followed an 8-hour shift patter, consisting of three shifts (0600 – 1400 hours, 1400 – 2200 hours, 2200 – 0600 hours) in various cycles. In 1994, this was replaced by a 12-hour shift system. In May 2002, the Commissioner, SAPS and the employees unions concluded a collective arrangement which stipulated “the ordinary working hours of an employee shall not be more than 40 hours per week. The daily hours of work shall not be more than 8 hours per day for those performing administrative duties. Employees performing 8-hour shifts would do so five times a week. Those rendering services on 12-hour shifts would work on average of three or four times per eight-day cycle”. This arrangement continues to be in vogue.
                      In Japan, the Police Kobans in Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department work in four daily shifts, while in other prefectures they work in three shifts. In Hong Kong, police officers work in three shifts a day.
                                 On a concluding note, the mandatory directions issued by the Bench while the writ petition is disposed of must be discussed. This constitutes the real cream of the judgment. They are as follows: -
A.  The respondent-state is directed to ensure that a police personnel does not work for more than eight hours at a stretch.
B.  The state government is also directed to pay at least 45 days’ extra salary to improve the conditions of service of the police personnel for undertaking the arduous duties.
C.   The state government is also directed to create corpus as per the recommendation of One-member State Police Reforms Commission, constituted on 13.04.2012, within three months from today for the welfare of the police force.
D. The state government is advised to undertake housing scheme for the police personnel for improving the living conditions of the police force.
E.  The respondent-state is directed to make suitable amendments to the rules by providing at least three promotions to police personnel throughout his career to remove stagnation and for improving efficiency.
F.    The police department is directed to be liberal in granting leaves to the police personnel. The family members of the police force should be duly compensated in the eventuality of police personnel receiving bodily injuries, disability or death in the line of duty.
G. The state government should recruit qualified doctors specifically for the police force.
H. The state government is directed to constitute Special Selection Board for recruitment of police personnel for timely filling up the vacancies.
I.     The state government is directed to provide sufficient recreational facilities at police stations as well as police housing colonies, including gym and swimming pool etc.
J.    The state government is directed to appoint in each district the psychiatrist to counsel the police personnel who are under tremendous pressure and strain.
K.   The state government is directed to ensure that the traffic police is given sufficient breaks while discharging their duties in summers by rotating them.
L.   The traffic police should be provided masks to protect them from injurious gases and fumes while discharging traffic duties.
M.                     All the police personnel should be medically examined after every three months to assess medical fitness.
N. The state government is directed to ensure that the police stations work in shifts for efficient and people-friendly policing.
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.