As criticism of his handling of the JNU sedition row grows, Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi remains defiant, defending his force, insisting arrested student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was not assaulted in the Patiala House courts and that rampaging lawyers did not warrant detention.
He even said a “conscious decision” was taken by police to exercise “utmost restraint” on Wednesday, when Kumar’s bail hearing was to come up two days after rampaging lawyers overran the court premises attacking journalists and students.
“Preventive detention is not a rule but an exception,” Bassi said Thursday in an interview to HT.
“It is exercised only when there is adequate ground, only in extreme circumstances,” Bassi said, insisting the violence a day ago didn’t fit the bill.
“The situation at Patiala House courts was different. The lawyers were protesting within the court premises where district judges sit. Any use of force or preventive detention was uncalled for and would have led to an adverse fallout.”
Wednesday’s violence was the second time in three days that lawyers ran amok, this time even slapping and punching JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar as he was being escorted inside for the bail hearing.
The police had plenty of time to secure the court premises after the first incident on Monday. But Bassi defended the decision to exercise restraint.
“In fact, many policemen deployed inside the court were without lathis to avoid the chance of any unwarranted escalation. Use of force to maintain order is always the last resort. Non-use of force against so-called miscreants was a conscious decision,” he said.
He explained the logic behind this surprising tactic: “The place is not suitable for the use of water cannons unless trouble occurs outside the boundary walls. Use of teargas would have impacted the functioning of all courts. It is our time-tested experience that whenever lathicharge is done in closed spaces, collateral damage outweighs the objective sought to be achieved in dealing with miscreants.”
An FIR under sections of physical assault was registered against “unknown persons” on Kanhaiya Kumar’s complaint late Wednesday.
But Bassi continued to insist the student leader was safely escorted to the courts and was not beaten up. “The complex was full of people and policeman who had formed a ring around him. There was a lot of pushing and pulling. However, his safety was ensured. Policemen escorting Kanhaiya have denied the allegations of him getting beaten up by lawyers.”
Asked if the police were dragging their feet on the sedition case against Kumar, considering investigators are yet to put forth any concrete evidence to support the charge, the police chief who retires at the month-end said, “During police custody, Kanhaiya showed remorse. He even issued an appeal stating he is not anti-national and respects the Constitution. He said he condemns the act and offered to cooperate. That is why we decided to take a relatively lenient view. However, this does not mean we do not have sufficient evidence against him.”