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Mr Kejriwal, Back Off and Let Delhi Police Function Independently 

The Delhi Police chief has acted with dignity and restraint in the face of the AAP government’s challenge. Read here.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. (Photo: Reuters)

A few days ago, Indian police lost one of its distinguished mentors of yesteryear. C V Narasimhan had the distinction of standing first in the first batch of IPS recruits selected in 1948. He went on to head the CBI, and later became secretary to the National Police Commission (NPC) chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Dharam Vir.

CVN stood for professionalism of the highest order in which the police was accountable to the law and to no one else. I would have long conversations with him on the subject until he fell ill a couple of years ago. I am sure he would have been greatly distressed over the on-going tussle in the nation’s capital over who should control Delhi Police. This was exactly what the NPC did not want to happen.

Mr Kejriwal, Back Off and Let Delhi Police Function Independently 

Capital Power Struggle

  • Persons in high places now have given short shrift to the whole concept of police autonomy and accountability
  • The AAP government has not concealed its ambition to take charge of Delhi Police
  • On his part Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi has acted with great dignity and restraint
  • Kejriwal is entitled to information on the police but has no authority to direct what it should or should not do

It is ironical that persons in high places now have given short shrift to the whole concept of police autonomy and accountability. I don’t visualise any enlightenment in the polity that would vest enough authority on the police to act according to law and law only, so that we are saved from anarchy.

Misuse of Police

The AAP government has not concealed its ambition to take charge of Delhi Police. (Photo: Reuters)
The AAP government has not concealed its ambition to take charge of Delhi Police. (Photo: Reuters)

The police is misused in almost every state and has become the handmaiden of the ruling party. One supreme example is Uttar Pradesh where policemen, right from the DGP down to the level of a constable, is treated with such contempt that the police in that state has become a figure of derision. Other states are not far behind.

The AAP government has not concealed its ambition to take charge of Delhi Police. It fought the elections, the latest and the earlier one, with the full knowledge that when voted to power there was no way it could have the power to oversee Delhi Police. Still, from day one, it has been clamouring only for this.

In the process it has made itself into a comical figure. The Act, conferring statehood upon the Union Territory that Delhi was, made it clear that policing the area was the sole preserve of the Union government. Unless the Delhi government manages to get the Act amended, AAP knows that this was beyond the realm of reality. It still makes a song and dance about this. That is the travesty we are now witnessing.

It is poor consolation that the subject was hyped even by a Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dixit when the UPA was in power. The absence of any power to direct Delhi Police to act in a particular manner has given a convenient alibi for non-performance to successive governments. It will remain so for the conceivable future.

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Deft Handling

Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi gestures after meeting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at the secretariat in New Delhi on July 20. (Photo: PTI)
Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi gestures after meeting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at the secretariat in New Delhi on July 20. (Photo: PTI)

On his part Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi has acted with great dignity and restraint. I must compliment him for this. His brief response to the media’s questions on the July 20 meeting with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal was couched in careful language that would not annoy anyone. I am sure, however, that the exchanges during the meeting were anything from cordial and non-controversial.

Still Bassi was correct in covering up for the Chief Minister. In my long years with the police, my policy was not to be confrontationist but to respect the views of those elected by the people. I firmly believe to this day that one can stick to the law without using offensive language vis-à-vis a democratically elected government.

It is a matter of lament that young IPS officers are ill informed in the subject. From early years in the force, they need to be catechised to understand the import of this. If they are made convinced on the wisdom of correct behavior towards political parties that upholds the dignity and propriety of the police and avoids servility, we will not have the kind of incidents we read about at frequent intervals.

Bassi is reported to have taken the position that Delhi Police should implement the law without fear or favour. It should not buckle under pressure. Here I must recall what an illustrious British judge Lord Denning said:

The Commissioner was as every Constable in the land, independent of the executive…but in all things he was not the servant of anyone, save the law itself.
—Lord Denning, British judge

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Kejriwal’s Limited Entitlement

The jurisprudence of any civilised democracy should enshrine what Lord Denning said about the Metropolitan Police. Delhi Police cannot be an exception. In my view Kejriwal is entitled, as a people’s representative, to information on the police, but has no authority to direct what it should or should not do.

The Commissioner has every right to organise his force in a manner that is required for the efficient policing of the capital. Neither the Delhi government nor the Union Home Ministry can give him any directions on the subject. This is sacrosanct and any conduct of the executive in violation of this is breach of propriety that deserves to be roundly condemned.

(The writer is a former CBI Director)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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