Under the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act 1993, the subjects of police, public order and land are administered centrally. The police commissioner is appointed by the Union home ministry (MHA) and reports almost exclusively to the L-G, Delhi, and to the Union home secretary. But, never to the chief minister.
Over the past two decades, chief ministers have expressed anger, annoyance and helplessness, appealing to the MHA that the control over the police should be given to the state government.
It is time to do something concrete.
No system of police accountability to the citizen exists in Delhi which is a fundamental requirement in a civilian state. In a democratic society, only the political process and the elected representatives can keep the police accountable and responsive to the needs of the people. And bringing the police under the Delhi government does not imply that each of the 350-odd elected MPs, MLAs and municipal councillors start telling the police what to do.
If the police are brought under the state government, the force would function just as the massive departments of education, public works or even transport work. Simultaneously, a grievance redressal mechanism should be established for receiving complaints and getting them investigated impartially. A government which provides electricity, water, public transport, education and health to its people should also command direct support from the police.
The suggestion is threefold: First, place Delhi Police under the Delhi government as far as public order, crime and investigation are concerned. This can be done by bringing a Presidential notification whereby the Central government delegates its powers but continues to ultimately retain control. In the unlikely event of a chief minister taking a confrontationist approach using police machinery, the powers can be withdrawn and the Centre would be able to exercise all powers through the lieutenant-governor. (It is one the lines of how President's rule is imposed in the states under Article 356).
Secondly, a grievance redressal machinery should be set up to examine complaints against the police and to take follow-up action thereon. Several working models of this system are available across the world. This statutory mechanism would deal with complaints such as police harassment, negligence, falsification of records and misconduct and dispose them.
Third, the area under NDMC which houses Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament and major central government offices, should continue to be under the lieutenant-governor along with functions related to state visits, security and intelligence gathering --- which are not related to day-to-day lives of citizens. The L-G should also have the authority to recommend withdrawal of powers from the state government, if he senses politicisation of the police.
Delhi has evolved into a city of over 20 million. No constitutional head or bureaucrat can represent the people's interests with sharp differences of interests and lifestyles at play. Only the elected representative of a constituency can act as a buffer to interact with the government on public concerns. This can be achieved by making the chief minister answerable if the police fail to perform. The sooner that is done the better.
The writers is former chief secretary, Delhi