New Delhi: Is safety of the people of Delhi, especially women, children and elderly, not a priority for the Centre?
Delhi High Court posed this question to the Centre, saying it has not yet approved enhancing the strength of the city police and was rather focused on whether technology would suffice.
Even on the technology aspect, a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva came down heavily on the Ministry of Finance (MoF) saying a huge majority of cops did not have bullet-proof vests and in some cases, not even a 'lathi', and wondered whether the Centre wants Robocops.
"You talk of technology, but you are not even able to set up CCTVs," the bench said and added that the more time MoF takes to decide these issues, the more crimes would be committed as "criminals are not bound by red-tape".
It also asked the Centre whether lack of money was the reason for not approving additional manpower sought by Delhi Police, which at present has a total strength of about 84,500.
"Initially they (Delhi police) required 64,000 personnel, which they cut down to 89 proposals for 46,949 personnel of which around 15 proposals for around 15,000 personnel was a priority. "But you (Centre) put even the priority proposals on the back-burner. Delhi police is crying for it. MHA has approved it, but MoF is not doing anything..
"How do you promise safety to people of Delhi? What are your priorities? Is safety of people, especially women, children and elderly, in the national capital not a priority," the court asked.
"You talk of using advancement in technology, but most of the cops do not even have a bullet-proof vest. You are not even providing the basic infrastructure, like 'lathi'. Will the official in MoF decide what the person on the ground needs," the court asked and said in a jocular vein: "They probably want Robocops".
It asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain to convey the court's concerns to the MoF with regard to providing police personnel as requisitioned by Delhi police and approved by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and to get back with instructions on next date of hearing, 9 February.
The court made it clear that if no answer was forthcoming from the Centre, then it will "close this chapter" of more personnel and put down in its order that the government does not have the money to carry out the exercise nor the intent for better policing of Delhi.