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Awarding Police Medals: Time to Revamp the Process

Police medals are a prestigious honour bestowed upon officers for exceptional acts of courage, outstanding service, and distinguished contributions. The rigorous selection process, involving multiple stages and committees, aims to ensure fairness and transparency in recognizing these deserving individuals. However, like any system, it is not without its imperfections. This exploration will delve into the criteria for awarding police medals, examine the intricacies of the selection process, and analyze its fairness.

Category of Police Medals:
  1. Gallantry Awards:
    • President's Police Medal for Gallantry (PPMG):
    • This medal recognizes exceptional courage demonstrated by police officers and personnel from Central Police/Security Organizations in India. To be awarded, recipients must have performed acts of extraordinary bravery in saving lives, protecting property, preventing crime, or apprehending criminals. The degree of risk involved in these actions is assessed considering the officer's responsibilities and duties within their respective organizations.
    • Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG):
    • This medal acknowledges conspicuous bravery exhibited by police officers and personnel from Central Police/Security Organizations in India. Recipients must have displayed outstanding gallantry in saving lives, protecting property, preventing crime, or apprehending criminals. The level of risk associated with these actions is evaluated taking into account the officer's duties and obligations within their respective organizations.
  2. Distinguished Service:
    • President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service:
    • All police officers, regardless of rank or service, must have served for at least 25 years to be eligible for the President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service. The anniversary dates for calculating service years are January 26th for Republic Day and August 15th for Independence Day. The officer's Annual Performance Appraisal Reports (APARs) should have a minimum grading of 5/10 'Outstanding' or 5/10 'Very Good' during the review period. No APARs below 'Very Good' should be recorded within the review period.
  3. President's Police Medal for Meritorious Service:
    • To be eligible for the Police Medal for Meritorious Service, police officers of all ranks and services must have completed a minimum of 18 years of service. The service period for medal consideration is calculated from the date of joining. The cut-off dates for counting years are January 26th for Republic Day and August 15th for Independence Day. Candidates must have consistently received 'Outstanding' (1/10) or 'Very Good' (8/10) ratings in their Annual Performance Appraisal Reports (APARs). No average APAR ratings are permitted during the review period.
  4. Jeevan Raksha Padak Series of Awards:
    The award, as its name implies, recognizes individuals for rescuing another person's life. The award honors exceptional acts of compassion and bravery in saving a life from perils such as drowning, accidents, fires, electrocution, natural disasters, and mine rescue operations.
  1. The Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak is bestowed upon individuals who display exceptional bravery in saving lives, even when facing extreme personal risk.
  2. The Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak recognizes acts of exceptional bravery and swift action in saving lives, even when the rescuer faces imminent danger to their own life.
  3. The Jeevan Raksha Padak is bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate exceptional courage and swift action in saving lives, even when facing significant personal risk of injury.
  4. Individuals of all genders from various backgrounds are eligible for these awards. The 'Jeevan Raksha Padak' now encompasses the 'Prime Minister's Police for Life Saving' instituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Members of CAPFs/CPOs and Police Force who have exhibited exceptional dedication to duty in saving lives may apply for the Jeevan Raksha Padak.

The award may also be granted posthumously. The Awards Committee reviews award recommendations within two calendar years of the act's performance. Consequently, for the year 2023, any recommendation involving an act performed before October 1st, 2021, will not be forwarded to this Ministry for consideration.

Selection Process:
  1. Recommendation:
    • State governments and Union Territories initiate recommendations for police medals. These nominations are then submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) through the Director Generals of Police (DGP) or Commissioners of Police for review and consideration.
  2. Scrutiny and Verification:
    • The MHA thoroughly reviews nomination applications to confirm their adherence to established criteria. This process involves meticulous verification of the information provided, including field-level investigations and background checks.
  3. Committee Evaluation:
    • A committee composed of senior officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the police, and other relevant stakeholders evaluates the nominations. This committee assesses the merit of each nomination according to established criteria and determines the awards to be bestowed.
  4. Approval and Announcement:
    • After the committee finalizes the list of awardees, it is submitted to the President of India for approval. The approved list is subsequently announced on both Republic Day (January 26) and Independence Day (August 15) annually.

Fairness of the Selection Process:
  1. Transparency:
    The selection process emphasizes transparency through clear guidelines and eligibility criteria. Nominations are required to be carefully reviewed and verified to ensure their accuracy and authenticity.
  2. Merit-Based:
    Awards should be given based on the nominee's demonstrable merit, including their actions, accomplishments, and service. The involvement of a selection committee is supposed to help reduce potential bias and ensure that the awarding process is impartial and fair.
  3. Accountability:
    Designated authorities, encompassing state governments, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and the President of the country, hold the responsibility of recommending and selecting awardees. Established channels for review and appeal should be available to address any discrepancies or irregularities that may arise during the process.
  4. Public Perception:
    Public trust and confidence in the awards hinge on the perceived fairness of the selection process. Transparency in the nomination and evaluation process is crucial to prevent accusations of favoritism or nepotism.

Challenges and Room for Improvement:
  1. Subjectivity:
  2. While striving for objectivity in the selection process, subjective judgments can still creep in. To mitigate this, standardizing criteria and applying them consistently across all nominations can help minimize bias.
  3. Influence and Pressure:
  4. The selection process can be vulnerable to external influences from political or bureaucratic sources. To ensure integrity and impartiality, safeguards must be implemented to protect it from undue pressure and personal liking and disliking.
  5. Representation and Diversity:
  6. It is crucial to prioritize diversity and representation in award selections, ensuring that individuals from all genders, regions, and communities are considered. This requires actively seeking out and acknowledging deserving candidates from historically marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds.
  7. Feedback Mechanism:
  8. Strengthening the nomination process by implementing a feedback mechanism for unsuccessful nominees can enhance its quality and fairness. This feedback should be constructive and provide insights for improvement.
  9. Proximity Bias and Miscellaneous Other Drawbacks:

Analysis of Fairness in Awarding of Police Medals:
The awarding of police medals, governed by a structured process, aims to recognize and honor acts of bravery, meritorious service, and distinguished service by police personnel. However, the selection process faces challenges in ensuring fairness and transparency.

Subjectivity, external influences, and the need for greater diversity and representation pose significant challenges to the selection process, requiring attention and improvement. It is alleged that the number of awardees of police medals belonging to the backward and minority communities is minimal.

Addressing these challenges while maintaining the integrity of the selection process is crucial for preserving the credibility and prestige of police medals. The ultimate objective of the police medal awarding process is to ensure deserving individuals are acknowledged for their contributions to upholding law, order, and public safety in the nation.

The awarding of police medals is under scrutiny due to its vulnerability to subjective opinions and external pressures. There is a growing perception that the awarding of police medals favours those with connections to top political and police bosses, raising concerns about fairness and transparency.

In an article by career expert Caroline Castrillon on Forbes, she points out that proximity bias - the tendency for leaders to favour employees who are physically close - can have negative effects on those working remotely. Unfortunately, the police department is not immune to this bias either. It is often observed that police officers who share a good relationship with the top cop are recommended for prestigious police medals. Interestingly enough, the final list of medal recipients can be influenced by political bosses at times. They may recommend certain names based on their proximity to the establishment, which results in deserving officers being left out from consideration.

Police medals are given without following any specific guidelines; in fact, there is no committee for selection of IPS officers in many states for recommending them for award of police medals. The officers are literally handpicked by the police chief for the awards. Many junior officers have been awarded police medals bypassing the senior officers without any rhyme and reason.

Police officers recommended for medals by state authorities at loggerheads with the central authorities have encountered denials citing ambiguous reasons like 'negative intelligence reports' and 'public perception.' These terms, often shrouded in ambiguity, have allegedly been misused to withhold medals from deserving officers, leaving the criteria for recommendation and application unclear. Additionally, there are cases where neutral police personnel, not politically aligned or perceived as not aligning with state authorities but close to the central authorities have been overlooked for medal recommendations.

A questionable practice exists among certain police officers, who navigate the delicate balance between warring states and central authorities, securing recognition from both. These officers, often boasting influential connections across the country, consistently receive favorable intelligence and public perception reports. This practice has fueled allegations, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, where three officers were awarded the prestigious Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG) between 2002 and 2003, despite not being present at the alleged encounters.

In West Bengal, a similar incident arose, with an officer allegedly receiving the PMG for an encounter with Maoists, despite being absent and residing in Kolkata. In another instance, a police officer who allegedly merely observed an encounter with extremists from a nearby office, arriving at the scene only after the encounter was over, was reportedly awarded a PMG.

The awarding of police medals for distinguished service and meritorious service has also been called into question, with allegations of proximity bias and political influence. This raises concerns about the veracity of such awards, particularly as central authorities rely on state recommendations for verification. Further, the state-level medal awarding process itself particularly at the senior level is alleged to be riddled with proximity bias, favoring individuals having the 'right connection'. This pattern suggests a blatant disregard for merit and a prioritization of 'allegiance' over genuine performance.

Despite concerted efforts to augment transparency and ensure accountability, lingering concerns persist concerning potential bias, undue influence from lobbying efforts, discriminatory practices, and a lack of diversity and inclusivity. Political considerations and inconsistencies further fuel doubts about the fairness and impartiality of the police medal selection process.

The absence of clearly defined and standardized criteria for nominations exacerbates suspicions regarding the equitable nature of the process. While structured evaluation and verification stages have been implemented, ongoing challenges threaten to undermine the credibility and integrity of the selection process.

Addressing these concerns is paramount to safeguarding the integrity and fairness of the process. Neglecting these concerns could diminish the esteemed value and significance of police medals, which are universally recognized as symbols of honor and recognition for exceptional service. It also carries the risk of sowing demoralization among officers who are unjustly overlooked. By embracing these challenges, the police medal selection process can perpetuate its reputation for impartiality, transparency, and fairness, vouchsafing the highest standards of professionalism and accountability in law enforcement irrespective of biases or discriminations.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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