Attempt to belittle attack on Arvind Kejriwal example of police attempt to hide shortcomings behind political tussle

On Tuesday, CCTV footage from the Delhi Secretariat showed a man, who was later identified as Anil Kumar, attempting to lunge at the feet of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and then smearing his face with some kind of substance, which turned out to be chili powder. The sequence of events captured on security cameras in the hallway is irrefutable evidence to any sane mind of a serious breach at a heavily-guarded building, where critical decisions on the national capital's governance are made.

This alone should have prompted swift action by the Delhi Police, more so because it was their incompetence that allowed such an incident to occur in the first place. Instead, the police attempted to belittle it.

"Anil Kumar came to meet Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal at the Secretariat to share his grievances. He handed a note to the chief minister and touched his feet, and chilli powder fell down from his hand. Probe underway whether it was an attack, or the powder fell unintentionally," a Delhi Police spokesperson was quoted as saying by ANI. When Firstpost attempted to reach out to the force, they were unavailable for comment. Till Wednesday evening, there was no sign of a press conference or an official statement from the Delhi Police.

The ANI report also quoted the Delhi Police official as saying: "After taking suo motu cognisance, a case has been registered. No formal complaint has been received from the chief minister or the Secretariat. A cognisable offence was made out prima facie. Therefore, a case has been registered under sections 186, 353, 332 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code."

On Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called Kejriwal and asked him to file a police complaint. "I find it surprising that the incident happened in the presence of the police, and they expected the chief minister to file a complaint," Sisodia said.

Even earlier, when the chief minister was attacked with ink, doubts were raised over his security. The Delhi Police appears to have found a cosy place to hide behind the all-season cold war between the Delhi government and the Centre.

The local civilian police in Delhi functions under the jurisdiction of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The ongoing power tussle between the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and AAP's leadership had brought governance in the National Capital Region to a standstill earlier this year and required the intervention of the Supreme Court. In Delhi, even hyperlocal disagreements between the state and Centre on the functioning of central government-controlled departments like the Delhi Police, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Anti-Corruption Branch are branded as a battle between Modi and Kejriwal.

Any question on the workings of the main law and order force, the Delhi Police, ends with the answer that the agencies that control it and the ones that deal with it on a daily basis are political rivals. It takes away from the fact that the police should be accountable to its people and have greater functional autonomy.

This is where all the muck lies. The Indian police is governed by archaic and colonial police laws dating back to 1861. It is in dire need of reform. The British had designed the policing structure to perpetuate its colonial rule in India, as a result of which the system concentrates power in the hands of the police whose only accountability was designed to be to the British rulers, not the Indian civil society.

Recently, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had reprimanded the Delhi Police and asked them to behave sensitively with people, after which they received training in soft skills. Instances of torture, extra-judicial executions, lack of adherence to due process, impunity, corruption, bias, discrimination and instilling of public fear are not new.

File image of Delhi Police. Reuters

File image of Delhi Police. Reuters

In 2006, the Supreme Court had addressed the issue of executive control over the police in its judgement in the Prakash Singh versus Union of India case, wherein it had sought greater functional autonomy for the police. Unfortunately, the directives of the Supreme Court on police reforms have yet to be implemented by most states.

Way back in 1979, the National Police Commission was set up to report on policing and give recommendations for reform, after which the first independent police commission produced eight reports with topic-specific recommendations. In 2006, the Model State Act came into effect, entailing the creation of a State Police Board to frame broad policy guidelines to promote efficient, responsive and accountable policing. It emphasised on the functioning autonomy of the police through merit-based selection and appointment of the Director General of Police, ensuring security of tenures and the setting up of Establishment Committees to accept and examine complaints from police officers about being subjected to illegal orders.

In 2016, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry of Home Affairs had said that around 15 states had formulated their state police acts and two states, Gujarat and Karnataka, had amended their existing police act in accordance with the Model Police Act. However, state governments were not taking functional autonomy into consideration while drafting their laws, which prompted the Bureau of Police Research and Development to draft a Model Police Bill.

Furthermore, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and the Foundation for Restoration of National Values had worked together to draft the Delhi Police Bill, 2010, based on citizens' desire to improve the state and status of the police services across the country. The bill was essentially based on the Model Police Act and aimed to incorporate the Supreme Court's directions in the Prakash Singh case. The draft also took into account the relevant recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms and Commissions.

Section 16A of the draft bill recommended the appointment of legal adviser as well as of a financial adviser, among others. It had also recommended appointing administrators "to aid and advice the office of the Commissioner of Police on legal and financial matters" as well as legal officers to advise the police, including on "the adequacy or otherwise of the available evidence, as deemed necessary". Recommendations like these deserve a fresh debate, especially when a shadow of political doubt is looming over the workings of the police in Delhi.

While reforms for greater autonomy of the police from political classes are taking ridiculously long to be implemented, there's also a need to address the more fundamental concern of making the police accountable to the people. Implementing the Supreme Court judgment would include the establishment of a State Security Commission to can ensure that a state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police. Another recommendation of the judgment requires the setting up of a Police Establishment Board to decide transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of police officers of and below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police. A cadre system, which is also a colonial residue, can be disrupted with merit-based lateral entry.

Delhi has a population of nearly 2 crore, but a sanctioned police strength of only 83,762. The Police Control Room (PCR) of the city has a fleet of 800 PCR Vans stationed across the national capital, besides 122 motorcycles. The Delhi Police Twitter handle is a clear example of a good PR effort, having become a platform to share its achievements and photos with captured convicts. But behind the white and blue walls of social media is a reality where the khakhi-clad force is in need for structural reforms to enhance its autonomy and lend it the much-needed maturity to act boldly and intelligently so that barbaric instances of crimes like the one concerning the Chief Minister of Delhi do not needlessly take the form of political rivalry, thereby piercing the national political narrative with fictitious plot twists.

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2018 19:52:27 IST

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