In a conversation at the peak of the IPL betting controversy last year, Dr Satyapal Singh, who prides himself on his ability to deliver extempore speeches on spiritualism and vedic philosophy, had remarked, “Policing is only for my livelihood… my real interests are different.”
A 1980-batch IPS officer, Singh was due to retire in 2015 but became the first police commissioner of Mumbai to quit the post last week. Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil has accepted the resignation, clearing the decks for Singh’s entry into politics. Having joined the BJP Sunday in his home district, Meerut, Singh is likely to contest the elections from UP.
Singh is a postgraduate in chemistry and a doctorate in public administration. He also did an MBA course in Australia, besides holding an M Phil degree. Before joining the IPS, he had wanted to be a scientist.
Perceived as a tough cop who shoots from the hip, Singh was appointed Mumbai commissioner in August 2012, after his predecessor Arup Patnaik was shunted out for his handling of the Azad Maidan clashes earlier that month. During his tenure, Singh often courted controversy on account of the opinions he aired in public.
At a discussion on women’s safety organised by Loksatta in January last year, Singh drew sharp criticism for a comment that sex education would lead to more crimes against women. He contended that there is a higher rate of such crimes in countries that have sex education in their curriculum.
Following last August’s gangrape of a photo-journalist in Mumbai, Singh again came in for flak for his attempts to justify moral policing, and for saying Mumbai’s “promiscuous culture” is partly to blame for a decline in women’s security.
His pet project as Mumbai CP, ‘Mission Mrityunjay’, an outreach programme aimed at roping in college students to help detect crimes, was also questioned by the state minorities commission over its legitimacy and the choice of name.
In June 2011, weeks after being appointed chairman of a special investigation team constituted by the Gujarat High Court to probe the killing of Ishrat Jahan, Singh was replaced after requesting the court to relieve him. Among various reasons, Singh had cited differences with the other two members.
Before heading Mumbai police, Singh served as additional director general (law and order) for the state, as well as ADG (establishment). He has also been commissioner in both Pune and Nagpur. In Pune, he had introduced initiatives to curb terrorism and reduce traffic. At the same time, he courted controversy by attempting to ban the use of scarves by women to cover their faces while driving. He was also in the news for his differences with then minister of state Ramesh Bagwe of the Congress, whose passport was held back due to his alleged criminal record. And it was during his tenure that Pune saw the German Bakery blast of 2010.
Singh was also posted as joint commissioner in charge of the crime branch from March 2003 to June 2004, when gangland activity was at its peak in Mumbai. That tenure saw several encounter killings in Mumbai with specialists such as Daya Nayak, Pradeep Sharma and Vijay Salaskar given the licence to take on the underworld. It was during this stint that the 2003 Gateway of India blasts took place; he is credited with having been the officer at the helm when the case was detected.
Singh has said his priorities will now be “nation-building and world peace”. Having authored Talash Insaan Ki, which deals with “mankind’s continuous quest in search of the truth”, he intends to complete three more books. One will be on communal harmony, one on challenges faced by the Indian police. The third, Timeless Time, will deal with several questions that have no answers — including, in his own words, “Why Tuesday comes after Monday and not Wednesday”.