Need to stem the rot
By Maxwell Pereira
maxwelpereir@gmail.com

When asked to recommend changes in the police a century ago while India was still under British yoke, the Frazer Committee Report of 1902-04 threw up a revelation that “Police are corrupt and oppressive”. One wonders why this perception has not changed even after hundred odd years, as the nation enters the 60th year of self-rule this Independence Day.

After a recent “consultation on police reform” in a northern state the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative observed among other things: “There is a complete lack of honesty… the police system is fraught with corruption… honest police officers are hindered in their work and treated as outcasts – not extended cooperation by their colleagues”. Applies equally to any state, I’d say, though it’d be unfair to tar all with the same brush.

It pained me then to receive this extract on Delhi Police from an article in a powerful southern news daily: “…the perception of Delhi Police in the public mind is that it can do anything as long as you talk money – from procuring a simple licence for two-wheelers to getting admission in schools, colleges and even arranging marriages and organising parties! …..the root of all evil, the prevalent corruption – shukrana, nazrana and zabrana, the most common terms for alleged exchange of money in Delhi police circles. Shukrana – given by people who want to express their gratitude for favours rendered by the police; nazrana – a gift because you occupy a certain office; while zabrana – something taken by force”.

Against this background, the arrest by CBI last Friday, 11th August, of an ACP of Delhi Police's elite Crime Branch, on charges of corruption, deals yet another slap to wipe out a thousand good works of Delhi Police, which can do without such adverse repeats. Reportedly, it wasn't the ACP’s first bump for corruption. More pertinent, despite two similar skirmishes earlier, the officer was returned to Crime branch just this April ‘06.

The officer’s career profile is chequered – bits and pieces emerging from sources who have brushed shoulders with him at various stages. Old timers recall a murder case of the 80s when the body of a woman with multiple stab injuries was fished out of a sewer manhole in Lajpatnagar. The accused, a lawyer and a close relative of this ACP, secured acquittal allegedly with the active help and assistance of this officer.

Credited for messing up the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case, the two earlier occasions when he fell foul of the government’s vigilance set-ups are – when in 1995 he was statedly extorting money in Panchkula (apparently, RK Sharma, the main accused in the Shivani case was then the IG there). Later, in 2000, the CBI investigating him for disproportionate assets reportedly found him in possession of property worth several crores - including Hotel Ridge View in Rajender Nagar, and several plots of land across Delhi.

In between, the officer even got decorated for gallantry for an encounter that raised eyebrows – in which kidnapper Dinesh Thakur subsequent to arrest was shot dead while on bail, by a team of which he was a part. This got him out-of-turn promotion to the rank of ACP, something not taken kindly by those senior to him in the list. It is not clear whether he was stripped of the decoration as required per rules, or of his ad-hoc promotion, following investigations by the CBI.

Surprisingly, the officer’s name also featured in the ‘Team of 9 ACPs’ constituted in 2001 by the then Commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma to scrutinise records of dismissed police personnel, to monitor activities of tainted police officials and keep tab on cops-turned-goons!

More recently, the celebrated columnist Kushwant Singh in his ‘Malice’ column decried ‘moral policing’ by Delhi Police following a raid on a restaurant bar in South Delhi’s Rajdoot Hotel alleging obscenity on the part of bar girls on the premises. The one who conducted the raid, none other than the same ACP – who by now, according to sources, is notorious for implicating people in false cases with an eye on extortion.

His current arrest has come in the wake of the heightened alert following the 7/11 Mumbai blasts, the 8/10 uncovering of a plot in UK to blow up ten or more US bound aircraft flying the Atlantic and related arrests at London airport and elsewhere; and the US alert to its nationals in India over likely ‘al Qaeida’ attacks on Delhi and Mumbai between 11-16 August. As part of Delhi Police’s anti-terrorist drive checking of hotels and guesthouses is routine. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the officer arrested the son of an hotelier in Mahipalpur under the immoral traffic act and allegedly demanded a bribe of 1.5 lakhs not to oppose his bail. On being approached, the CBI laid a trap and effected his arrest red handed while accepting part payment of Rs.50000 through a conduit – an owner of a mall in Karol Bagh’s Gaffar Market.

Just one more reason for serious misgivings within civil society about the police: corruption, perceived to be widely prevalent. Citizens’ perception that the police leadership is indifferent to this malaise with a tendency to shelter its rogue officers, needs to be remedied. Any prospect of police reforms is unlikely to progress unless the police is seen determined to control its rotten elements. Delhi Police needs to act.

12.08.2006: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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