Heading for another confrontation with the Sheila Dikshit government over control of the police, the Centre has overruled the state’s objections to the Delhi Police bill that will determine how the 85,000-strong force is run.
The chief minister had led a frontal attack on the union home ministry last September with the Delhi assembly passing a resolution demanding the Capital’s legislators be heard before the Centre finalised the legislation. She had said the new bill, which seeks to replace the existing 35-year-old law, would turn Delhi into “a police state”.
But a ministry official has now said there will be no changes in the bill despite Dikshit’s reservations, and there was no way the ministry would seek the opinion of MLAs for a law to be made by Parliament.
There were also hints that the elected government did not really have a role in the process; in the matter of law and order, it was the lieutenant governor and not the CM who was the voice of the Delhi government.
In fact, Dikshit had made this point during the recent anti-rape protests to ask for control over the police. Her supporters recommended involving the CM in the selection of the police commissioner. “That would ensure the relationship between the police and the elected government is not adversarial,” one said.
The Delhi Police have received a lot of flak for the December 16 gang rape, first for failing to prevent the gruesome crime and then for insensitive handling of the investigation. The justice JS Verma panel report, released last week, has also called for urgent police reforms.
As a result, government sources said, the bill - which had been pending with the law ministry - has been put on the fast track. The law ministry is learnt to have cleared it last week and it would be put up for cabinet approval soon.
However, the draft bill - which comes a good six years after a stinging judgment from the Supreme Court - is nowhere near perfect. The ministry hasn't incorporated its own recommendation for a fixed two-year term for state police chiefs. In the Capital, the commissioner will get the two years only if he/she is not due to retire earlier than that.
And then, there will be a Police Complaints Authority but you cannot go to them if, say, the police do not register your FIR. You can complain against the police only in case of custodial death, grievous hurt, rape and illegal detention.