Has injustice been done to Kiran Bedi? That's the question I had hoped to explore in an interview with her this evening. Alas, after accepting and reconfirming, she pulled out without giving a convincing explanation! So now I shall share with you what I would have asked and let you decide for yourself.
The key issue is the claim she made to this newspaper on the 26th of July: "Merit has been compromised… I have an outstanding record". Is she correct? It all turns on her record. If it is outstanding then, indisputably, she should have been made Delhi's Commissioner of Police and by denying her the job the Government has acted unjustly. But if her record is not outstanding or, in fact, is questionable, the answer could be very different.
So here are the questions I would have put had she not wriggled out of the interview:
1. To begin with, you've received neither the Indian Police Medal for Meritorious Service nor the President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service. Given that these are routinely awarded after completing a certain number of years of service, isn't your not getting them proof that your record is neither meritorious nor distinguished?
2. Secondly, is it true that on 4 separate occasions you failed to complete your tenure and at least twice left your post without permission which is tantamount to desertion of duty? (She didn't complete her tenure as Superintendent of Police in Goa, DIG (Range) in Mizoram, Inspector General (Prisons) Tihar Jail and Inspector General of Police in Chandigarh. The posts that she left without permission were Goa, in 1983, and Mizoram, in 1992. Speaking to the Sunday Observer on the 27th September, 1992, she said of Mizoram: "I left without asking". Her letter of 25th January,1984 to the Inspector General of Police in Goa, Mr Rajendra Mohan, establishes that she left on leave that had not been sanctioned.)
3. Let's examine your conduct in some of the critical posts you've held. Is it not a fact that as DIG (Range) in Mizoram the Governor issued a formal note of displeasure against you for leaking information to the press?
4. Is it true that when President Venkatraman visited Mizoram the Governor became aware of your plans to disrupt the visit and informed the Intelligence Bureau that you could not be trusted with classified information and security? Again, this is said to be part of your service record.
5. Now let's come to Chandigarh, where you were Inspector General for 41 days. Is it not true that the Adviser to the Administrator wrote to the Home Ministry to ask for your removal on the grounds that your presence in Chandigarh was "not in public interest"? (In her authorised biography 'I Dare!', its claimed Mrs Bedi asked to be posted out of the city. However, UNI, on the 18th May 1999 claims: "In a sudden move, the Union Home Ministry today transferred Chandigarh Inspector General of Police Kiran Bedi with immediate effect.")
6. You were accused of instigating junior police officers to defy the administration because you disagreed with certain suspension orders issued at the time. The press said you were "sowing seeds of rebellion".
7. In 1988 you were a central figure during the lawyers strike of that year. Even your authorized biography admits that the Wadhwa Commission, which investigated the matter, "found fault with Kiran". The press has claimed he called you "a chronic liar".
8. I put it to you, Mrs Bedi, that far from "an outstanding record", your service record is good reason why you don't deserve to be Police Commissioner?
9. In fact, if your service record was so good, wouldn't the Lt. Governor, Tejinder Khanna, whose Special Secretary you were during his first tenure, have insisted on your appointment as Police Comssioner? The fact that he didn't shows that he too thinks you are not fit for the job.
10. Finally, you've said Dadwal's appointment was wrong not just because your merit was overlooked but also your seniority. But if you don't deserve the job on merit should you get it because of seniority?
Of course, Kiran Bedi does have considerable strengths. She's brave, she leads from the front, her constables are fond of her and she's outspoken. And I'm sure there's more. So, as far I'm concerned, it's an even greater pity I could not ask her these questions about her service record. Her answers would have established if her record is outstanding or if we've been misled into believing it is. Her silence means we don't know. But what should we make of her decision to cancel her 3 month protest leave and resume office?