Author: Ali Asghar & Karanveer Singh Khaira, 1st Year Students at National Law Institute University, Bhopal.

The authors talked about the employment rights of the police forces in India and how the basic rights of the police forces are infringed by imposing unreasonable restrictions on them under the garb of Article 33 of the Constitution taking into consideration various statutes and judgements of the courts. Special emphasis has been laid upon long working hours of the officials and the denial of their right to form unions.


India currently has a sanctioned strength of 26,23,225 police officers and an actual police force of 20,91,488 personnel which is more than the population of the bottom 84 countries as per the world population review. This huge chunk of employees working in the organised sector lives de facto rightless at the same time when there are huge debates about extending employment rules and regulations to people working in the organised sector.

Certain issues addressing the human rights of the police force in India include restrictions on the formation of associations, lengthy working hours, no off days, and many others. People like to focus on the non-democratic, executive-dominated, unpleasant, corrupt, imperious, and inhuman police force, but it is important to remember that they are typically the ones on the receiving end. Long working hours are the cause of police officers’ loss of health, and their negative behaviour toward the public, further undermining public trust in the police.

Statutory Regulation

Article 33 of Part III of the Indian Constitution empowers parliament to amend fundamental rights in their application to members of the Armed Forces, members of organisations charged with maintaining public order, members of intelligence and counter-intelligence organisations, and analogous organisations to ensure proper discharge of duties and the maintenance of discipline among them. Under this Article, Parliament passed the Police Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act of 1966, which restricts freedom of expression, the right to form associations, the right to join trade unions or political organisations, the right to communicate with the press, the right to attend public meetings or demonstrations, and other rights.

It may be said that certain rules are essential for the enforcement of discipline in these forces which are of paramount importance to the nation but when these provisions become counter-productive there arises a need to question them by comparing the merits and demerits these legislations put forth.

Beyond the limitations that Parliament may impose on the Fundamental Rights of specific types of public officials under Article 33, the government servant retains his Fundamental Rights. Accepting government employment does not mean the loss of one’s Fundamental Rights. The Supreme Court has rejected the broad argument that government employees constitute a distinct class from the rest of the population and that Fundamental Rights do not apply to them in general.

Nonetheless, some limitations on their rights may be lawfully imposed by the Service Rules to preserve discipline among them and to ensure the appropriate and effective fulfilment of their duties and obligations. Thus, Service Rules can be developed to maintain efficiency and discipline among government employees.

The Supreme Court has observed: “joining government service has, implicit in it, if not explicitly so laid down, the observance of a certain code of conduct necessary for the proper discharge of functions as a government servant.” However, the Supreme Court has also stated that there is a need for “a proper balancing of interests of an individual as a citizen and the right of the State to frame a code of conduct for its employees in the interest of proper functioning of the State.”.

In the Sheel Kr. Roy v Ministry of Defence, it was declared that simply entering the armed forces does not stop a person from being a citizen or strip him of his human or constitutional rights. In such a scenario, the court cannot close its eyes to the realities of the case and enable gross injustice meted out to an Indian citizen on basis of technicalities.

Chief Justice Sikri in Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala found that the power granted by Article 33 is reserved to preserve discipline among the armed services, which is critical to the country’s security. However, this does not imply that a person can no longer enjoy natural or human rights. Justice A.N. Ray in the said case stated that “Article 33 shows that citizens can be denied some of their rights. But if these rights are natural rights they cannot be abrogated.”

Demand for Unions

The suffering of policemen over some time gave birth to the demand of forming police unions. Several factors such as long working hours, low wages & poor housing conditions pressured policemen to assemble themselves and demand to form a union.

However, the law does not support this claim. The Police Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act of 1966 prohibits non-gazetted police employees below the rank of Inspector from forming any kind of union or group. The legislation under the guise of imposing reasonable restrictions on the fundamental right to form an association under Article 19 (1)(c) of the Indian Constitution restricts policemen from forming associations, and as a result, the process of taking these policemen’s grievances to higher authorities is becoming unnecessarily lengthy and difficult.

The judiciary appears to be following the path of the legislative. In the case of Delhi Police Non-Gazetted Karmchari Sangh v Union of India, the Supreme Court denied the non-gazetted members of the Delhi Police force’s petition to organise a union, citing the necessity to maintain discipline and the legislature’s prerogative to limit such rights. In 2016, the Bombay High Court dismissed a petition to form an organisation or union of police employees for grievance redressal for individuals below the level of assistant superintendent of police. The legislature as well as the judiciary for preserving the discipline of police personnel often deprive them of necessities which are proving to be counter-productive which the nation can ill afford.

Working Hours and off Days

According to a job analysis undertaken by the National Productivity Council, “the working hours of subordinate police officers range from 10 to 16 hours per day, seven days a week. On most days of duty, police officers work long and arduous hours, far beyond the standard eight hours.” According to a poll, the average subordinate police officer engaged in public order or crime investigational duties works 13 hours each day.

Currently, nearly 90% of police station employees work more than 8 hours per day across all states and types of police stations. Approximately 68% of police officers are required to work 11 hours or more per day. 27.7% of police officers reported working more than 14 hours per day. As if that weren’t enough, 73.6% of staff at the police station stated that they were unable to obtain weekly offs even once a month. Around 60% of the police officials confessed that even if they could obtain weekly offs, they were not more than once or twice a month. What makes matters worse is that over 80% of the personnel are frequently summoned back to duty during their leave time to deal with law-and-order issues, VIP band busts, or other tasks.[i]

Reverberance of such stringent work routine can be seen by drawing parallels from the statistics of Voluntary Retirements where 40,096 servicemen of the Central Armed Police Forces and Assam Rifles took voluntary retirement between 2016-2020 and around four hundred officers of the Delhi Police quit in the past three years due to excessive workload.

The study proves the harmful effects of excessive physical strain on personnel, resulting in cumulative physical and mental exhaustion. Almost three-quarters of police officers said that the present working hour regime caused a variety of health issues. Over 76% of SHOs believed that the existing duty hour structure was harmful to staff health. The majority of the health issues mentioned by the workforce are occupational hazards and are directly attributable to excessive hours on the job. Given the healthcare systems that generally apply to government employees, it is possible that the government expenses to treat these health implications, as well as the quality of man-hours missed as a result of their negative effects, would cost the police organisation more than relaxation in shift timings.


Laws regulating police forces may require certain special provisions for the enforcement of discipline but these laws have resulted in excessive restrictions on freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of association and as a consequence, certain basic rights guaranteed to every employee are not available to the members of the police force. There is a need for the legislature to revisit certain enactments to strike a balance between orderliness in services and the expression of their rights. The right to form associations must be granted to police officials as they are also entitled to put forth their voices and streamline dialogue with governments for securing their rights. In pursuance of the same Section 3 of The Police-Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1966 must be amended to allow police officials to form labour unions. The New York police work five-day weeks with eight-hour shifts. The same is true of the renowned Scotland Yard in the UK. It has been extensively debated in India but has never been eventuated. Inspiration can be taken from such countries to embody shift systems in police stations which can help manage workload of police officials. 

[i] Bureau of Police Research & Development, National Requirement of Manpower for 8-Hour Shifts in Police Stations (2014, Study Report).






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *