Sources said the move is aimed at making city safer, specially for women, since the Delhi Police does not come under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government. Women safety was a major poll issue during the last assembly polls and the Aam Aadmi Party had promised several measures to improve security in the city.
The move comes at a time when the Delhi government is engaged in a tough battle with the Centre over its jurisdiction in several matters, including transfers and posting. The Delhi chief minister has already demanded the lieutenant governor that he should be consulted in the transfer and posting of senior police officers. HT had also reported that the government demanded a say in the appointment of the Delhi Police commissioner.
Recently the government had also decided to empower the sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) who will be able to carry out surprise inspection inside the buses and will be able to book those found harassing women passengers.
Senior government officials said about 100-odd government magistrates (including district and sub-divisional magistrates) will patrol Delhi’s streets in the night. A roster is being prepared.
Sources said this may be perceived as a way of the government ‘policing the police’, but hastened to add that the presence of the magistrates on roads will ensure that police will do its job more efficiently.
“This will send a strong message to the people and assure them that the public spaces are safe for them. A district magistrate can issue an arrest warrant, directing the police to take action if they find a woman being harassed. An MLA doesn’t have such administrative powers,” a senior Delhi government official explained when asked about what impact the decision would have on the ground.
The issue was discussed at a meeting and a formal order may be issued in this regard soon. Sources said crime-prone areas in the capital are being mapped and the magistrates will take a round of those areas at night in their vehicles. Officials said the district magistrates will also be asked to make a list of the areas under their jurisdiction where patrolling needs to be enhanced.
Recently, the government had also identified dimly-lit spots in the city and streetlights and night patrolling is in the pipeline to improve security there. The district magistrates and SDMs have already been shouldering some of the responsibilities that were traditionally not considered the domain of the government, including checking illegal constructions and encroachment.
The government was also planning to set up a quasi civic body which may bring it in confrontation with the municipal corporations.