There has been a continuous move over the last several years by the Railway Board and a number of Central authorities to supplant the Government Railway Police (GRP) with Railway Protection Force (RPF) by giving the latter the powers for registration of passenger offences under IPC instead of augmenting, strengthening and modernising the GRP, which is a state police organisation and has the constitutional mandate for policing and maintenance of law and order.
This matter had surfaced in a big way at the All India conference on Railway security, held in New Delhi, in the second fortnight of January. The Conference was organised by the Director General of RPF.
On this occasion, the Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha had even described the RPF as a “toothless organisation” and underscored the need for giving it more powers. Speaking at this conference Sinha, along with the DG RPF also had advocated the necessity of handing over registration and investigation of crime committed on board the running trains to the RPF.
Police being a state subject, registration of cases, investigation and maintenance of law and order in Railways premises as well as on the running trains are the statutory responsibility of the state Police. The State Police have a separate wing designated as GRP for this purpose.
Law and order and Police figure in the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Under the Constitution, States have the exclusive power to control their police force and legislate regarding police matters. Under the Union List (entry 80), the Centre only can extend the jurisdiction of the police force of one State to another but not without the consent of the concerned State.
On the recommendation of the High Level committee on Security of Railways, the RPF Act, 1957 and the Railways Act, 1989 have been amended twice, though in a limited way, in 2003 and 2009.
A committee of State Home Secretaries, Constituted by the Railway Board in June 2010, to improve passenger security on Railways had suggested empowerment of RPF to enable them to deal with the cases of passenger offences. None of the GRP chiefs were brought on board to deliberate or be part of this committee in their capacity as experts.
Maithili Sharan Gupta
Special DGP (Police Reforms) Madhya Pradesh, Maithili Sharan Gupta, who was earlier DG GRP Madhya Pradesh, points out the pitfalls of entrusting the RPF with powers to register and investigate crimes committed on running trains.
According to Gupta the main challenge of Railways is that the exact place of crime is not known and reporting crime in a running train is also a problem. The situation gets compounded due to mobility of victims, co-passengers, offenders and the railway staff. Besides, evidences, if not captured on board, will be permanently lost. He also points out that the FIR shuttles between states and different Police stations with jurisdiction issues. Talking of lack of proper coordination mechanism between response and investigation domains and poor supply of information for effective investigation, Gupta said that State GRPs have been integrated and are in partnership to provide assured quality response across the country.
During the All India Conference on Railway Security last month, the Madhya Pradesh Special DGP Police Reforms gave a presentation on a Mobile App especially developed for railway passengers’ security. The view of the Railway Board, ahead of the Conference was that the presentation would help in developing a common Application for railway passengers over Indian Railways.
In the meanwhile, Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), has adopted a project titled “Automated Investigation Support System for creation of efficient, effective and public friendly policing sytem (Railway Crime)” This App based system (GRP Help Application) has been approved by BPR&D and is hosted in Madhya Pradesh and managed by the GRP Response Centre. It has also been adopted by the Chief of GRP forum and GRP of all States are already on board.
Significantly, BPR&D views this project as an initiative towards governance reforms in the domain of Railway security. Its utility has been established in Madhya Pradesh where crime investigation has witnessed a quantum leap with the help of GRP Help App.
It is being pointed out in knowledgeable circles that DG RPF should not have power and privilege to act as arbitrator in this matter as he is one of the stakeholders, who wants a shift in power against Constitutional provisions.
The point being raised strongly is that Railways have failed in empowering GRP and helping them to provide coordination mechanism and providing them the benefit of modernization and technological advancements. Railway must look into it and should do necessary midcourse correction.