Delhi Police, in Dire Need of Reform
One of the news items that hid the headlines yesterday was the suspension of a police officer from the Delhi Police for attempted rape. His criminal brutality was captured on the camera and serves to shame not just the Delhi Police or the Indian police in general but the entire country. His employers, the Delhi Police were left with no choice but to take the most stringent action available in the rule book. He was produced before the metropolitan magistrate who denied his bail application and sent him to 14 days of judicial custody.But I believe I am not the only one who harbours the uncomfortable cynicism that the Delhi Police would not have acted had this beastly act not being caught on the tape.
The opposition Congress Party seized upon the issue and demanded the resignation of the Police Commissioner ,B.S.Jassi .Predictably this was denied. In making this demand ,the Congress (I) had conveniently forgotten the police misdemeanours that had occured during its rule and how they had not enforced any 'accountability' as the Delhi Police presumably was,at that time, serving their ends. Bharatiya Janata Party national spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman had once declared in TV debate before the 2014 elections that police reforms were at the forefront of the BJP agenda.If indeed that was the case, the present dispensation does not seem to have displayed any urgency in this regard ever since they assumed power.
Ugly politicking has ensured that there are some very serious underlying issues that need to be addressed. We have to commence with the premise that this is not an isolated instance of police misconduct in the capital .We also have to accept the worrying truth that by and large the police administrators have turned a blind eye to the instances of atrocities perpetrated by its members.
I am immediately reminded of the famous inquest that was conducted following Steve Biko's murder in South Africa in the 1970's where the barrister extraordinaire Sidney Kentridge hired by Biko's family confronted the police chief who eventually declared,"We follow no statute!".
While India ,unlike South Africa of yesteryears, is a democracy, I have often wondered whether Delhi Police adhere to a similar philosophy. The late journalist Akshay Singh is widely believed to have been murdered for attempting to uncover the Vyapam scam. We need to remind ourselves that Singh was the journalist who ended up exposing the Delhi Police when he discovered how they were maintaining secret prisons where the arrested persons were taken to avoid being produced before the magistrates violating the very fundamental requirement of avoiding illegal detentions.
Bhaskar Ghorpade,a very eminent barrister in London had described the Delhi Police as the most venal and corrupt police force serving any capital city of a democratic nation way back in the 1980's. He had expressed shock that Pritam Singh Bhinder, a cop who had been comprehensively discredited for his role during the Emergency was appointed the first Police Commissioner of Delhi.
Sadly matters have only worsened despite some very able and distinguished policemen who served in that role. I recall with utmost horror learning about the role Delhi Police played in getting an accused locked up on a murder charge for several months-the deceased turned up alive! The then Police Commissioner Radhey Shyam Gupta refused to resign. This was a blunder of unprecedented magnitude. I had just observed how Chief Darryl Gates of Los Angeles Police , a personal friend of the then president George Bush was kicked out screaming and kicking when his officers beat up motorist Rodney King. Very soon after that again in Gupta's time, an Assistant Commissioner Rishi Prakash Tyagi was convicted of custodial killing and sentenced to death. Gupta continued in office.
Activist Madhu Kishwar had openly confronted retired Joint Commissioner Maxwell Pereira in a television debate hosted by Rahul Kanwal and reminded him that she had gone to his office when he was still with the police and asked him to act on police extortion practiced on street vendors ( I note with utmost interest that Rahul Gandhi has taken up their cause ). Pereira had told her that street vendors were 'vermins' and deserved this treatment. It must also be pointed out that Pereira is one of the most bullish supporters of the Delhi Police as it stands now and writes regularly on the 'wonderful work' the Delhi Police does. It was again Pereira who was ,during a question and answer session on CNN IBN asked whether the then Commissioner Neeraj Kumar should resign for the inept handling of the Nirbhaya case. His response , was that as the Commissioner himself had not raped the girl he did not see any merit in the suggestion. This is the concept of accountability senior officers are programmed to expect. I was left shaking my head in disbelief and wondered whether the force was really capable of any reform or whether it would be advisable to disband this force altogether and constitute a new force which does not have to carry any baggage!
The entire point of this column is to point out that the rot in the police system of the capital has set in really deep of which this very shameful saga is just a symptom and merely incarcerating a junior police official would not provide any consolation. Police reforms are needed badly and urgently to make police more accountable. This malaise is not limited to Delhi but afflicts the entire country-my own written complaint to DGP Police against Sugriv Giri a police officer in UP was not even acknowledged by his office;this is in the public domain now.
If the government does initiate meaningful police reforms as a matter of priority-reforms which would enhance accountability- it would have the entire nation's gratitude. It said that it would during the election campaign! But will it! The jury is out!