The concept of rule of taw and the administration of justice has
heen known to exist in India ever since the vedas came to be
recognised as they were synthesis of Drame Maintenance of law
and order prevention and detention of crime in the society is the
prime responsibility of police since ancient limes so that selfish
elements may not supress and exploit the weak and harmony
could be maintained in the society The prime characteristics of
ancient police sy stem was its community orientation, functional
specialisation, decentralisation and expertizaon. To a great
extent the accountability of police force was towards the masses.
Conceptually, the word ‘police’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘Polis’ that is a city. The Latin ‘Politeia’ which means conditions of a state or government. However, in administrative terminology police is being considered as an executive civil force of a state to which is entrusted the duty of maintenance of public order and enforcing regulations for prevention and detention of crime. Succinctly, it may be said that the police came in existence in society with the existence of man. The term ‘Police’ according to the Oxford dictionary means “a system of regulation for the preservation of order and the enforcement of law”. According to the Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure 1929, a Policeman is a person paid to perform, as a matter of duty, acts, which, if he were so minded, he might have one voluntarily. The concept of rule of law and the administration of justice has been known to exist in India ever since the Vedas came to be recognized as they were synthesis of Dhrama.
The concept of crime was there. Manu classified crimes fewer than eighteen heads amongst which, were included assault, defamation, theft, robbery, adultery, violence, gambling and betting. Manu refers to the police function prevalent in his times for the prevention and detention of crime. According to P.V. Kane, the police problems of the most ancient village communities of India were confirmed mainly to cattle theft, murder and adultery. The police problems of the most ancient village communities of India were confined mainly to cattle theft, murder and adultery. Balmiki’s Ramayana furnishes glimpses of policemen on patrol security, guards and spies. The Apasthamba Dharmasatra (600-300 BC) prescribes that the king should appoint in towns and villages officers and subordinates, who are pure and truthful for the protection of the subjects against thieves and who arc to be made to make good what is stolen, that is, ‘if the king docs not punish the guilty, he incurs sin’, that, in disputes judges should be men of learning, clever and fulfilling their duties, and that “witnesses were to tell the truth”.
In the Bhagvadgita the good qualities ascribed to a gentleman can very well be fixed for a policeman.
“Fearlessness, purity of mind, wise apportionment of knowledge and concentration, charity, self control and sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity and uprightness.”
“Non-violence, truth, freedom from anger, renunciation, tranquillity, aversion to fault findings, compassion to living beings, freedom from covetousness gentlenese, modesty and steadiness (absence of fickleness)”.
“Vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, freedom from malice and excessive pride-these, PandaVa (Arjuna), are the endowments of him who is born in the divine nature”.
If we take Mauryan administrative system into consideration it may be evident that Mauryan empire was truly a Police State. The entire system was bifurcated in Pranta, now known as Province, Pradesh known as commissioners, Vishaya known as district, Nagar as cities and Gram as village. The head of such district used to be known as Vishayapati. He was responsible to maintain peace while preventing and detecting crimes in the district. The district further devisable in sthaniya, generally constituted on 800 villages and functioning under the charge of an officer known as Sthanic. Sthaniya was further divided in the administrative units of Kharvatik, Dronmukh and Sangrahan, Gop was the officer at this stage and responsibility was to maintain law and order in his area of operation. The village head-man known as Gramini was responsible for the police activities in the village. He used to discharge his duties with the help of village community. Thus at the grassroot level, in those days a collective policing was in operation. Bach officer was accountable to his superior one and thus he used to report about the problems to his senior officers who were supposed to take proper action. Apart from this general police structure the special police with a functional specialization was also operative. For instance, officer like Chaur Rajjuka and Vivitadhyaksha were considered to be an expert in apprehending thieves. The officer may be considered as predecessor to present times C.I.D. Briefly, this was the district police organization. In the district generally a few towns were also functional which had a different police organization. Normally the cities or towns used to be set-up for strategic and economic reasons and they used to be called according to their nature. For instance, if a city had a fort it used to be known as Durg Nagar. Similarly, a river town may be called as pattan and a general town as Sthaniya. The chief of the town police was known as Nagaradhyaksha or Nagarik. He may be considered as the counterpart to the commissioner of police of the present days.
The duties of the Nagarikas who later on came to be known as Kotwal, have been defined in detail by Kautilya. As per contemporary municipal laws, measters of houses were to report the arrival or departure of strangers and way fairers and catch hold of persons of doubtful characters and possessed of destructive weapons. Suspicious persons were to be arrested and punished. Even persons throwing dirt on the street were to be punished. The Nagarikas were expected to maintain law and order and look after the administration of jails and check up daily the defence of the city. He took custody of the lost property. Elaborate arrangements were made for the protection of the fire. The detailed duties of Nagarikas were thus described by Kautilya “persons whose family subsist on slender means of inheritance, who have little or no comfort, who frequently change their residence, caste and the names not only of themselves but also of their family (Gotra), who conceal their own avocations and calls, who have been taken themselves to such luxurious modes of life as eating flesh and condiments, drinking liquor, wearing flower garlands, fine dress and jewels, who have been squandering away their money, who constantly move with profligate women, gamblers, or virtues, who frequently leave their residence… who hold secret meeting in lonely places near to, or far from, their residence, who hurry as to get their wounds or boils cured these and other persons may be suspected to be either murderers or robbers or offenders guilty of misappropriation of treasure trove or deposits or to be any other kind of subsisting by foul means secretly employed.
The entire city used to be divided into four parts, each part being headed by an officer known as Sthanik, a counter part to the present superintendent of police. On a unit of 10 to 40 houses there used to be an officer known as Gop and his duty was not only to provide security to the residents but also keep a close eye on their activities. Guards known as Rakshak used to patrol the lane and bi-lane of the city and city and stationed at Chatushakhas (Chaukies) and Gulm (Gumaties). In nutshell this was the organizational structure of police at district level during Mauryan times.
Kautilya is his Arthasastra, has described at length, nine groups of spies who were utilized for exercising watch on different kinds of people, including government officials, citizens, thieves, adulterators, criminals, forgers, coiners assassins and poisoners. But they had limited powers to exercise of arms. At the time of the Maurya rulers, there were courts of judges (Dharma * Sthaniya) and police Magistrates (Kantaksodhana). The criminal law was severe and stringent. The defender of the citadel was known as kotpala and protection of city as Nagarpala. The present work kotwal and kotwali have bceh drafted from kotpal of ancient times.
The Sanskrit word ‘Gulma’ became Gumma in Prakrit, and then it was extended with an affix to give our modem word Gumti which is still in use to mean round towers to observe movement of people and goods from the work chatushka, the modern chowki and chowkidar has been derived. Likewise, one prahara or duty period, and the word ‘Pahra’ meant ‘watchman’ with a fixed duty’, the contemporary word ‘Pahra’ had probably been derived from this. At that time, policemen were on duty for three hours at a time.
The gramini was remunerated in cash and was assisted by any informal council of village ciders. He is not mentioned as being generally responsible for the police duties of the village but had the power to expel from the village. Thieves and adulterers try some minor offences and impose fines in certain cases. In the areas intcr-vcning between villages, there were Vivitadhyakshas who inquired into the whereabouts of passersby, checked passports and protected travelers from thieves, dacoits and wild animals. They had hunters and guards accompanied by dogs to watch the approach of thieves or gangs of outlaws, and issued warnings of dangers to villagers through men on horse-back, beat of drum, blowing of conches, carrier or by means of a scries of bearer fires. At the ferries there were Navadhyakshas to check the passports of travelers and to arrest suspects.