Commissionerate system comes under fire after Dera Sacha Sauda arson in Panchkula | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Commissionerate system comes under fire after Dera Sacha Sauda arson in Panchkula

A section of Panchkula administrative officials claim a lot of chaos prevailed over the appointment of duty magistrates and issuing of prohibitory orders when the dera followers started converging on the city ahead of the verdict in rape cases against their sect chief on August 25.

punjab Updated: Sep 07, 2017 14:21 IST
Vivek Gupta
At least 35 people were killed in clashes between security forces and Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Panchkula on August 25.
At least 35 people were killed in clashes between security forces and Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Panchkula on August 25. (HT File )

The Panchkula commissionerate system that was set up in 2011 to ensure better policing has come under the scanner days after the violence following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, which left at least 35 people dead.

A section of Panchkula administrative officials claim a lot of chaos prevailed over the appointment of duty magistrates and issuing of prohibitory orders when the dera followers started converging on the city ahead of the verdict in rape cases against their sect chief on August 25.

Under the traditional system of policing, a district magistrate (DM) or deputy commissioner (DC) has the overall control over the law and order. But under the commissionerate system, magisterial powers are vested in the commissioner of police (CP), DCPs and ACPs, and they do not need orders from the executive magistrate to control a mob in a major crisis.

Even as a large number of police officers of the rank of DCPs and ACPs were deputed in Panchkula from other districts ahead of the verdict, every sensitive spot had Haryana Civil Services (HCS) officers as executive magistrates to accompany them in order to give orders to open fire.

Sources said there was at least one duty magistrate who refused to sign the orders, claiming that he was not consulted when police opened fire on the crowd.  “What is the relevance of a commissionerate system if police are not self-reliant in crisis situations despite enjoying all powers and deliberately use executives as their shield?” questioned an official, on the condition of anonymity.

Less control, more accountability

An administrative official said the DM has little control over law and order under the commissionerate system but even then her office was made answerable for the assembly of crowd even as the prohibitory orders were issued by the police department by virtue of its powers.

It was Panchkula’s suspended DCP Ashok Kumar who had issued the orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Later, it turned out the orders just prohibited carrying of weapons and not gathering of five or more persons. Vivek Atray, a retired bureaucrat who has previously held the post of DM in Panchkula, said police need better training. “The commissionerate system is well-established in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai. But in Haryana, system is confined to a few places. When cops are posted in cities having the new system, they are not fully aware of the procedures,” he said.

While Panchkula commissioner AS Chawla has maintained there was no coordination issue during the violence, DC Gauri Parashar Joshi is not coming on record on the issue. Home secretary Ram Niwas could not be contacted for comments on the issue.  

‘Meant for big urban clusters’

After Faridabad and Gurgaon, the Panchkula-Ambala commissionerate came into existence in August 2011. A senior bureaucrat said it was a ploy of the then government to give more powers to police in important areas.

Even as Ambala moved away from this system in October 2016, following alleged pressure from Ambala legislator and senior minister Anil Vij, Panchkula still has it, even as many believe it does not qualify for it.

“The commissionrate system is meant for urban areas where police are given more powers to control spurt in crime. But Panchkula is not highly urbanised and here the system is extended to semi-urban and rural areas, against the rules,” said another official.