Balaji Srivastav named new Delhi Police commissioner

Updated on Jun 30, 2021 03:34 AM IST

The current police chief, SN Shrivastava, who was appointed on March 1, 2020, will retire on Wednesday. He, too, was given additional charge as police commissioner last year, and formally appointed last month.

Balaji has at least three years in the service until his retirement in March 2024.(ANI file photo)
Balaji has at least three years in the service until his retirement in March 2024.(ANI file photo)

Balaji Srivastav, 57, an Indian Police Service officer of the 1988 batch has been given additional charge as the Delhi Police commissioner, effective Wednesday. In an order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Balaji has been given the charge of the 80,000-strong police force of the national capital in addition to his current post of special commissioner (vigilance).

The MHA order appointing Balaji said that he will hold the additional charge until the appointment of a regular incumbent or till further orders.

The current police chief, SN Shrivastava, who was appointed on March 1, 2020, will retire on Wednesday. He, too, was given additional charge as police commissioner last year, and formally appointed last month.

The new police chief, Balaji has previously worked as director general of police of Puducherry and Mizoram. Before returning to Delhi in 2015 for a short stint as the special commissioner of different units such as the Economic Offences Wing, Special Cell and Intelligence, he was with the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) for nine years. The Delhi Police, in a statement on Tuesday, said that he handled sensitive assignments during those nine years.

Balaji has at least three years in the service until his retirement in March 2024.

He has a graduate degree in economics from St Stephens College and a master’s from the Delhi School of Economics. He returned to the Delhi Police in December 2020 from Puducherry, where he was the DGP.

Senior officers in the Delhi Police said the new chief has taken over at a crucial time. “There are many important things happening in the national capital. The first one is managing the farmers sit-in protest at the three borders. The farmers have been protesting at the borders for the last seven months. The courts are also hearing many cases of the 2020 Delhi riots. Our cases will have to stand the scrutiny of the court. He was not in the force when the riots happened or the people were arrested. And apart from this, there is the possible the third wave of Covid-19. For the past year, the police have been actively involved in different capacities in dealing with the pandemic,” said a senior police officer, who asked not to be named.

Following Balaji’s appointment, Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal is likely to transfer several senior officers. Special commissioner Taj Hassan, who is a batch senior to Balaji, is likely to be transferred out of Delhi. Balaji has superseded Hassan and another senior officer of his cadre, Satyendra Garg, currently the police chief of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Hassan and Garg are from the 1987 batch.

The 15-months investigation of the riots under SN Shrivastava

For an officer who was suddenly brought from the Central Reserve Police Force during the 2020 Delhi riots to stop the violence, the investigation of the riots under former commissioner Shrivastava has been criticised by many people from the civil society. Activists have alleged that under him, the Delhi Police arrested notable faces of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, alleging that they conspired to orchestrate the riots. The Delhi Police have denied the allegations and maintained that they have evidence against the arrested people. At least 53 people died, while 600 others were injured when riots between Hindus and Muslims broke out in different parts of north-east Delhi.

Many activists have also criticised the police for using the draconian anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against student activists, making it difficult for them to get bail. Three such arrested student activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha were recently granted bail in the case by the Delhi high court, which, in its order, was also critical of the police’s investigation. Other arrested people such as Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam -- booked under this law for alleged conspiracy -- are still in jail.

In September last year, retired IPS officer Julio Ribeiro and nine other retired bureaucrats wrote an open letter to Shrivastava, questioning the riots probe, accusing him of implicating anti-government voices, while being lenient to many others from the ruling party. This prompted another group of retired bureaucrats to come out in support of the city police by writing a letter of support.

The Delhi Police have registered at least 755 FIRs and arrested at least 1818 persons for their alleged role in the violence during the riots. The police have claimed that the sit-in anti-CAA protests were used as a meeting point to discuss and plan the riots, an allegation which has been denied by protesters and counsels of the arrested people. Police filed charge sheets against at least 1553 persons.

The clashes started when groups of people -- one supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act and another opposing it -- clashed near the Jafrabad metro station on the evening of February 23. It snowballed into large-scale Hindu-Muslims clashes in parts of north east Delhi between February 23 and 27.

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