The confrontation between Delhi’s AAP government and its police, which reports to the Centre, escalated Friday with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seeking the suspension of four police officers he accused of failing to do their duty and demanding that the city administration be given control of the police force.
Kejriwal met Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and informed him that “he will be forced to sit on a dharna along with his cabinet colleagues and MLAs” outside Shinde’s North Block office from 11 am on Monday if the four officers are not suspended before 10 am that day.
A statement from the chief minister’s office said that “Kejriwal has appealed to the people of Delhi to join the dharna and particularly those facing hardships due to non-cooperative and unprofessional attitude of the police are welcome to join the CM”.
While Shinde said Kejriwal’s demands would be examined, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung ordered an independent inquiry into the allegations against the officers and its report was expected in four weeks.
But Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi came out in support of his men and said he would be able to act against them only after the inquiry report is submitted.
The Delhi government and police are locked in a face-off over three incidents that took place this week.
Minister Somnath Bharti has accused the Malviya Nagar police of not cooperating with him while conducting a raid on Africans he alleges are involved in a drug-and-sex racket in Khirki Extension.
Another minister, Rakhi Birla, has accused the Sagarpur police of shielding members of a family who allegedly burnt their daughter-in-law over dowry demands.
The police has alleged that the two ministers interfered in their investigations in these incidents.
The government wants two SHOs and two ACPs suspended in connection with these incidents as well as the alleged gangrape of a 51-year-old Danish woman Tuesday.
On Friday, Kejriwal, Bharti, Birla and another minister, Manish Sisodia, held talks with Shinde for nearly 20 minutes and placed their demands.
Kejriwal cited what he said was the rising crime graph in the city and the expectations of Delhiites not being met by the police.
“People come to us demanding answers whenever a crime takes place. They do not look for the Union home minister. So it is high time the Delhi Police was handed over to the Delhi government,” he said after the meeting.
He also said that, if necessary, the security of the NDMC area and Lutyens’ zone could be controlled by the Centre, but stressed that law enforcement duties for the rest of the capital should be brought under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government.
Kejriwal said the government had demanded suspension of the policemen claiming they were negligent in the discharge of their duties in connection with the three cases. Shinde said he had set a deadline of Monday to ascertain if there were any lapses on the part of the police in the gangrape of the Danish woman.
Kejriwal’s colleagues accused the police of being “anti people” and said the force needed to be “fixed”.
Kejriwal also defended Bharti, who has been accused of racism for his comments on the origin of those involved in the Khirki incident. He said all information about the case had been relayed to the police control room.
“He had informed the PCR about the nature of the illegal activity, and it was the police’s responsibility to bring women constables because women were also involved in the incident. And Bharti called them citizens of Uganda and Nigeria as he was informed by the residents of the village,” Kejriwal said.
While defending Bharti, Sisodia said the AAP government was being accused of “vigilantism” for no reason.
“The commissioner has argued that it is not the right time for the suspension of the officials… It means nothing… We are not the Shiela Dikshit government to sit quietly by making excuses that police does not come under our jurisdiction. This government will have to do its duty,” Sisodia said.
He also accused the police of being “anti-people” for refusing to raid the premises in the absence of a warrant. “The police does not demand warrants while raiding poor people or razing their jhuggis. Under Section 42(1) of the Narcotic Drugs And Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, if you have information of a drug deal happening, you can raid the premises without a warrant,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, the CM and his three ministers met Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. The meeting was also attended by Police Commissioner Bassi and Special Commissioner Deepak Mishra.
“The L-G’s office has ordered an independent probe into the matter. The high-level inquiry will be headed by retired judge B L Garg. The committee is expected to give its report in four weeks,’’ sources in the L-G’s office said. The government’s demand for suspension of the officers, however, was turned down by Jung.
Bassi also met Shinde after the minister’s meeting with Kejriwal.
“Our job is to protect the people of Delhi. whatever my officers told me is prima facie correct. As the Delhi Commissioner of Police, I always stand by my men,” Bassi said. “The LG has ordered an inquiry. I will be able to take action only after the report comes.”