Rite of reformThe new constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal aims for a complete transformation of governance, a paradigm shift from a unitary system to the devolution of power.
The new constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal aims for a complete transformation of governance, a paradigm shift from a unitary system to the devolution of power. The proposed transference of power also concerns the Nepal Police, which has long been centrally governed with all executive powers vested in the central government. Police organisations hold a few basic principles as sacred—compliance with the constitution, neutrality, accountability, democratic governance, professional efficiency, smooth chain of command, and cost effectiveness. The federal character of the new police system envisions a coordinating, supporting and counseling role, than a controlling one. However, there are number of issues that will require exhaustive discussions and rational decision making.
The Nepal Police has so far been a national agency with a central command structure. The Government of Nepal had the “power to exercise supervision over and control the Police Force, and issue directives to the police.” The authority of command and control were vested with the Inspector General, who was accountable to the Home Ministry. Now, this organisational set-up will change, with the division of the Nepal Police into federal and state police.
Article 268 of the new constitution has following provisions regarding the police: “(1) The Federation shall have Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal and National Investigation Department. (2) Each State shall have a State police organization. (3) Matters relating to the operation, supervision and coordination of functions to be discharged by the Nepal Police and the State police shall be as provided for in the Federal law and (4) Other matters relating to the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal and National Investigation Department shall be as provided by the Federal law.”
Thus, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal and National Investigation Department will exist as national agencies, along with state police in each state. Sub-article (3) and (4) clearly mention that “federal law” will be in force for “operation, supervision, and coordination of functions to be discharged by Nepal Police and State police.” A federal act will, thus, administer both federal and state police while allowing states to come up with their own state police regulations.
Furthermore, Schedules 5, 6, 7 and 8 elaborate on the powers of the federal and state government when it comes to the police and other security agencies. Schedule 5 contains a list of federal powers: “Relating to defence and military (a) Protection of national unity and territorial integrity (b) Relating to national security; War and defence and Arms and ammunitions factories and production thereof, Central Police, Armed Police Force, National Intelligence and Investigation, peace, security.”
Similarly, Schedule 6 contains a list of state powers: “State police administration and peace and order, State highways, State bureau of investigation” while Schedule 7 contains concurrent powers of federation and state: “Preventive detention for reasons connected with the security of the country, prison and detention management, and maintenance of peace and order; Transfer of accused persons, detainees and prisoners from one State to another State”. Schedule-8 lists local level powers: town police and disaster management.
Command and control
Around the world, the police have different means of control mechanisms in place: central, shared and independent control. Federalising the police cannot be done as easily as other government agencies. The nature of crimes and duties across national and international boundaries dictate the structure of the police and as such, is different from civil, health, revenue, education, law, justice and financial services. Policing is guided by social, geographical, economic, and political systems. In our context, the Nepal Police has always been a part of the evolution of modern society. However, the police too has been a victim of political interference in day-to-day police administration. It would be prudent to think of insulating the police from politicization, perhaps with the formation of an independent body of security experts—akin to Japan’s National Public Safety Commission—which could check irregularities in police administration.
Coordination among the new police agencies is going to be paramount. The federal police will be necessary for investigations in cases of an inter-state and international nature. There may be occasions when the federal police will have to intervene in high profile political and international organised crimes. Similarly, cases of national security should also be investigated by the federal police.
Local-level police units play also an important role. Local police stations should be given responsibilities to generate better intelligence and take ownership for public cooperation, consolidating links between the community and the police, which is a lifeline for the enforcement of laws.
The full fledged implementation of federalisation will only be possible when there are adequate policies and infrastructure to run the state police independently by the states. With the current policies, laws and infrastructures available in mind, federalisation of the police at this current moment could be counter-productive. Therefore, it would be prudent to begin the devolution process in phases—beginning with the easiest one first.
Thapa is retired Additional Inspector General of the Nepal Police and is currently associated with the Centre for Security and Justice Studies.