Portrait of a Darogha

Quite recently I happened to meet a police sub-inspector in the line of duty in a district remotely connected to Dhaka. He frequents Dhaka to teach street children without any fees. Having received tertiary schooling in Economics in Rajshahi University, he responded to the calling of uniform. I was gradually in and into dialogues with him only to be surprised to see a portrait of Major General Lord Charles Cornwallis in his tender grip. He bears this portrait and hangs it in his private room in recognition of the contribution the person had to empowerment of Darogha. It’s quite humbling to be reminded of a fact that Lord Cornwallis entrusted some 700 square kilometres of criminal jurisdiction to a Darogha, I mean sub-inspector, back in 1792. I told the sub-inspector to not be more catholic than the Pope. Don’t bear the Bible when its essence is reduced to ashes, I told him. This senseless honour for the lost glory comes at the cost of huge opportunity. Kotwal has come to be IPS in India while police through civil service exams in Bangladesh. Who cares? Glory is gone. Company has become Crown. Who cares? People have become doubly punished under drill and discipline in the name of law and order. Only “Invention of Humanity” stands and all other agenda fall.

Fancy and fantasy

Long back, Thomas Babington Macaulay, the Head of Imperial Legislative Council which wrote the Penal Code of 1860, mooted the matter of education in India and came up with “A minute upon Indian Education”. Having been increasingly gnawed at by the recent excesses in breaches of courtesy on social networking sites, particularly Facebook, which is an online cemetery to me, and incivility demonstrated in many means/modes, I revisited the critiques, though I freak away from it due to potential discomfort. However, I follow the American bank robber, Willie Sutton, in any analysis. I face off the most immediate and obvious discourse first. In order for me to define the length and breadth of our brain, I can’t help being tempted to quote Macaulay who categorically condemned the fantasy of Anglo Indians and the natives. “India is deluged with fiction”. We are incorrigibly so. We are blinded to changed reality. Clarity in thought and intuition is very important.

Dialogue and debate

Let me put a disclaimer here first. My writing is never intended to demean anyone nor is it to rule out anyone’s contribution in the development of our country. I am personally connected with hundreds of civil servants. I love them and am reciprocated. Never in any previous occasions, have I been so disappointed as I am quite recently at the publication, promotion and propagation of some derogatory or abusive write-ups regarding the professional relationship between police services and administration services. Both of the services are Superior All India Services in India by law. Usually, toppers in Bangladesh Civil Service or BCS examinations join these services. It clearly reflects the centrality of these services to the governance of the state. As I believe that debate and dialogues in healthy manner lead to an algorithm which is not an end in itself, I will try to explain different dimensions of the relation from legal point of view. I expect, people will duly understand the issue of liminality and minimality in the discourse of governance of our sub-continent.

Debunking myths    

I admit, it’s quite disturbing to see any demeaning columns/write-ups, allegedly commissioned by someone in defence of dignity, being circulated at a pace greater than ever before, sadly by civil servants. I hardly care for who writes what. I care when a write-up is promoted by educated civil servants. Common perception remains that a civil servant is recruited through a well-designed screening protocol. This impression is not confirmed by this act of defamation. I am upset and taken aback. I personally did not find any interest of the writer in misrepresentation of some substantive/procedural/operative/regulatory aspects of police administration at general district and district administration. Both are parts of bureaucratic executive to be distinguished from legislative and political executives. We should not be frustrated to know again that elected local government body is constitutionally charged with administration of all affairs ranging from public riot to private music. Notably, no charter of duties diminished the obligation to any degree. Often contrary to popular perceptions, Police and magistrate continue a wonderfully harmonious relation in field administration.

Legacy of Britons

Arguably one of the most significant contributions to law enforcement in the Indian subcontinent came from Henry Fielding and Sir John Fielding who introduced the first London Police Force named Bow Street runners in 1749. Most notable chapter in our legal history is the legislation of a number of substantive and procedural laws by the British government. Most of the precedential, regulatory and statutory laws are framed during the British rule. With so many laws enacted by the British rulers, our criminal justice ranging from police to correctional administration is essentially based on a system that barely reflects the reality of modern democratic country. It routinely fails to appreciate the voice of the self-aware people of our country. The existing British criminal law considers citizens either as a subject or a suspect.

Backdrop and background 

Law is not poetry but poet is the prime legislator. This paradox is hardly less meant for those who don’t internalise the revelatory spirit of law rather than regulatory one than for those who can perfectly do it. However, the formation of a unitary police force was one of the 54 recommendations of All INDIA POLICE COMMISSION 1860. Basically integrated police force was established in 1843-1844 in some parts in India under Sir Charles Napier.  As per the preamble of the Police Act of 1861, it was legislated by the British in an effort to re-organise police after the Indian Insurrection 1857 or the First War of Independence. While the Act itself presupposes that the district magistrate is the district judge, it doesn’t stand binding in current context as district magistrate has lost the capacity. Police Act, 1861 does not define “superintendence” or control of the police.  Being vague and non-descript, the concept and extent of control is to be determined by the department itself. Moreover, interference into functions of “purely departmental nature” is prohibited in Police Regulations. In a democratic context, the parameters of the relation have to be fixed in mutually distinctive manner. Expressed or implied, direct or indirect interference into police investigation, law enforcement operation, recruitment, promotion, transfer, posting or any other police function/functionary in an unlawful manner shall be a criminal offence.


Recent write-ups argued about using the word ‘Administration” by police in its own affairs and by media in referring to police etc. Interestingly, no regulation in Police Regulations 1943 restricts or bars the use of the word “Administration” as long as it means and is limited to internal administration. Police Regulations 1927 and 1943 used ‘police administration’/ ‘administrative areas’ etc. phraseology in numerous cases. The relation between Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) and Sub Divisional Magistrate and Circle Inspector is well defined there though these posts no longer exist. Even a police outpost in the remotest village in charge of Head Constable has its own administration. Whom to send on foot patrolling, to community engagement, to execution of warrant/arrest/summon, to arrest and apprehend suspects/accused/criminal/convicts, to go for tempering enforcement to a degree to keep order in community, to recommend for initiating departmental proceedings against a constable on basis of allegation of misconduct/incivility/dereliction of duty/negligence of care/omission of act or commission of crime etc, to search and seize  any installation etc. can be daily affairs of own administration of a Head Constable. Additionally, provincial government no longer exists in the People’ Republic of Bangladesh. It has a serious meaning, one being – no police establishment belongs to government, all belong to the state. We should not miss the subtlety and fine line within in the rage of mind.

Police regulations

Police Regulations 1943 (not Police Regulations Bengal) was signed and sealed to be in force in 1946 after Police Regulations Bengal 1927 had been superseded. It has no relation with Police Act 1861. Government of India Act 1935 published in two acts necessitated the regulation of the organisation of police in such a manner as would go in pace with the Act 1935. Few assumptions/premises/presuppositions dominated the police legislation. In terms of determination of relation with District Magistrate, this capacity is counted to be of judicial capacity rather than executive one.  We all know these two capacities are different since 2007. More simply, the executive act of apprehending someone and the judicial act of trying that person are placed in two hands. As DM is no longer part of criminal justice system in a district, a police station with all secrecy can only be exposed to the district judge. It should logically mean that the regulation stands void. During introduction, it did have statutory effect.

Competent authority 

The Department of Police is operated under the Public Security Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs. An elected public representative is the head of the ministry. People’s opinions are expressed by their elected body and implemented by executives like members of the police cadre under the home ministry, administration cadre under the Ministry of Public Administration. All orders are issued in the name/in the direction/in consultation with competent authority. People’s elected body is the competent authority. All the controls are administrative controls. Police have to stay accountable to court for investigative issues as long as it relates to criminal justice system.

As per the Constitution of Bangladesh, The Police, The Army, The Navy, The Air Force are disciplined forces. It also provides that law can declare any other force to be a disciplined force. Law has not declared the Department of Narcotics Control as a disciplined force.  Moreover, The Representation of People Order 1972 has defined “law enforcing agency” which means any Police Force, Armed Police Battalion, Rapid Action Battalion, Ansar Force, Battalion Ansar, Bangladesh Rifles, Coast Guard Force and the Defence Services of Bangladesh. All don’t have to assist government in keeping order. Law and order are different in signification and effect.

Command and control

I never know any law in world history which has determined that a force (Military and Civil) is to be guided by a civil authority. Interestingly, police are a civil service, not military. Lord Canning wanted to make it much of military in drill and discipline but civil in administrative dispensation. Every police officer is always on duty, or in the line of duty. Duty is to protect people and property. No one needs to newly empower a police officer to provide safety to anyone. It’s inherent. CrPC 1898 has made it mandatory for every police officer (Constable to IGP) to use arms in protecting others’ life and property in certain cases, property of the State in specific cases  apart from saving own life and property.  No order from any magistrate is needed. Using arms is not a sensation; it’s a calling of law, moral obligation. It’s a duty. However, it always remains a big challenge to decide who should be armed. Arm is dangerous. Emotional intelligence, courage, spirit, education, learning, wisdom, mental fitness are required to deal with arms. Police have a specific agendum –law enforcement.  It’s a civil administration.  Indeed, every human enterprise in society falls under the idea of law enforcement as every human initiative in the State involves legal framework. A constable can regulate the speed of a rickshaw puller, can stop anyone in the street, can arrest anyone if sufficient reason exists, can protect anyone by destroying anything (aversion of greater loss).  Preventive and detective policing involves entire community.

Abuse and disabuse

It’s healthy to be disabused of wrong understanding about authority. Authority is people. Their collective choice is embodied by the parliament where laws are legislated. The legislative executives are assisted by field level executives. Genuine delegation comes from the parliament. Except people, none is controlling any. We should not be pleased for wrong reasons.

Superintendent of police or SP

A fact is quite interesting that the post of SP was created in 1808 and an SP was posted for the entire Bengal Presidency in 1808. The post was abolished in 1853 due to problems arising between SP and DM. Bengal then reverted to 9 divisions and 37 districts. Divisional commissioners began to have police (Darogha) control only to cease in 1861 when magistracy and police were separated.  Posting, promotion, dismissal, discharge, transfer and other deeply departmental issues of subordinate police personnel were somehow influenced by divisional commissioners. Police Act ended these practices. These practices continued in India until 1959 when they were challenged in court.  This is discourteous to write and publish that arm and pen are mutually exclusive. Both are the state entitlements. No law has allowed DM to interfere with departmental issues of district police administration. Police headquarters and Ministry of Home Affairs are there. We should not forget that both SP and DM are accountable to people, I mean people’s representative.

Indian governance

Bringing India in the frame of reference is a matter of discomfort for all of us. IPS is IPS there. IAS is IAS there. Separate law exists to regulate their affairs. A total of 26 provinces abolished Police Act much ago, National Police Commission is fully functional, State Security Commission exists in 16 provinces, mobile adjudication is performed by judicial officers, judiciary lives and acts in separate establishment, Kanhaiya Kumar still mouths off rulers and is not criminalized in court, local administration is almost fully functional. Above all, no bright youth knows who the SP/DM of his district is. Google and Garage is not the same place. The MPA 2006 has defined role of the district magistrate only in coordinating administration in the district. DM coordinates among different agencies there with circumscribed power.  The MPA 2006 provides “For the purpose of efficiency in the general administration of the district, it shall be lawful for the District Magistrate to coordinate the functioning of the police with other agencies of district administration in respect of matters relating to land dispute, election, natural calamity……………”  No open-ended provision is there.

Pakistan governance

The writer says about Pakistan. Pakistan introduced District Management Group. Action remained the same. Title is for false comfort. Original title exists in Bangladesh. But no control exists. Because control except that of people is illegitimate. Wrong never survives ages. “The Criminal Justice Coordination Committee”, as per the Police Order, 2002 (PO 2002) in Pakistan consisted of district and sessions judge, head of district police, district public prosecutor, district superintendent jail, district probation officer, district parole officer and head of investigation. District coordination officer (DM in Bangladesh) was not given any role. Zila Nazim (mayor in our country) was given supervisory powers over the police. It immediately changed 140 years of practice in Pakistan. Later on district coordination officer was given back circumscribed participation. The writer talks about the nomenclature of DPC and other posts in metropolis. If he revisits his writing, understanding will be clearer. DC, deputy commissioner is not translated as Jela Proshahok in Bangla. DM can be somehow translated as such. It’s confusing. Initiation of ACR is the most glorious bureaucratic undertaking in living history btw. Norm/convention acts much like law. I don’t have any reservation. Title gives comfort in this subcontinent.

Fallacy teased out

The column published recently is unarguably a cerebral and calculated attempt to frustrate all professional best practices in governance at all levels. It’s a blatant conspiracy to demotivate the young civil servants who are just beginning to decolonise their mode of service delivery and to be more connected with community. It’s a standing reproach while ruler’s police are being increasingly people’s police. It’s a hold back fallacy when democratic principles are largely governing police stations. It’s a testament to baser instincts to subdue citizens as suspects/subjects when tempered and selective law enforcement is being organisationally discouraged. It’s overly whimsical when illegitimate interventions in policing are being neglected.  It’s a scheme to make police a cog in the wheel of the state whereas police as the responsible arm of the state is being more accountable for conduct and service and police are assisting all functionaries of the State in furtherance of democratic governance. It’s an open inducement to relapse into colonial bandwagon while police are curbing widespread indiscipline and cavalier attitudes towards law and procedures that might potentially erode the faith of people in the police.

People’s police

However, Police started its journey under Darogha who was supervised by divisional commissioner. SP came in 1808 and departed in 1853. SP/DM was Briton, a racist manifestation of Canning, Corn, and Napier. Police were trained to follow a fully militarised Irish Constabulary model of policing rather than civilian-minded metropolitan police. White Man’s burden is over; we are now civilized. We are now policed by our own officers. We understand the matrix of both Company and Crown here. We also know what superintendence means.  We can realize the role of other functionary. Internal and external oversight is our pledge to people. We will care only for democratic accountability. I believe, everyone should internalize the essence of democracy in personal and professional life. Against the backdrop of mass awakening, any megalomaniac expression will end up pitiable.

Way forward

Let me end with a metaphor borrowed from Albert Camus’ book on the myth of Sisyphus, a cruel Greek king who was punished to push a large rock up on a steep hill, only to find it rolling back on nearing the top. Ever since, he has been known for pushing the rock tirelessly for eternity. Like Sisyphus, police are unstoppable in embracing the purpose of inventing humanity in new mode and manner. We believe, serving humanity at the cost of anything is the ‘Categorical Imperative’. Sisyphus pushed the rock unabated every time it rolled down. He refused to surrender to gravity. People are the beginning, people are the journey, and people are the destination.

SH Raselis an officer at Bangladesh Police.

2 Responses to “Police-magistracy: An unorthodox review of a historical hangover”

  1. Pranay Saha

    But I failed to get him. Too much jargon, pointlessly. It shows he is more concerned with language than the theme. It is assumed that a student from English Literature can play with words than the commners. But a write-up lose it’s rhythm if it concentrate much on pintless argument without any references. Moreover, this js not an academic article rather a newspaper write-up.

    • Monjur Raju

      I have found nothing which goes with the title rather it’s a historical narrative not fit to the police – magistracy interaction, oh it’s clear writer is a policeman having English literature’s academic background.


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