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Political supervision of policing needs to be defined and delineated.
The key issue in Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s “dharna” against the Union home ministry demanding a clean up of Delhi Police is the political control of the police. Though the AAP wants Delhi Police to be brought under the Delhi government, it has failed to explain how the government will oversee the police. Going by the direct orders that AAP ministers gave the police last week, the AAP government has failed to shed the attitude that the police should be subject to the will of the political executive.
Around midnight last Wednesday, Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti, accompanied by television crews and AAP volunteers, demanded that the Malviya Nagar police search a house and arrest foreign nationals suspected of prostitution and drug trafficking. Later, while rebuking the police for refusing to search the house, Bharti exclaimed, “If the police do not even listen to the law minister, what will the common man do?”
Then, last Thursday, Delhi Women and Child Development Minister Rakhi Birla demanded that the Sagarpur police break in and search a house at the centre of a dowry harassment case in which a woman had allegedly been set ablaze.
The fact that the ministers demanded that the police immediately act on their orders — bypassing law and procedure — should ring alarm bells. There is nothing wrong with the political executive bringing the police’s attention to crimes, and calling for action. In fact, we need politicians to engage with local communities to find out their concerns and safety needs. But giving direct orders to search and arrest is undue interference in policing. This is precisely what people hoped the AAP would work to change.
The National Police Commission, in its review of policing in India from 1979-81, categorised police tasks into three areas: investigative, preventive and service oriented. It stated that while the executive may provide direction to the police on the latter two tasks, the investigative tasks of the police are beyond any kind of intervention by the executive. In other words, decisions about who to investigate, search, question, detain, arrest and prosecute are decisions for the police alone to make.
The AAP is calling for Delhi Police to be directly under the supervision of the chief minister. This is understandable because policing must be locally supervised. However, policing will continue to fail the common man unless this supervision is defined and delineated. Otherwise, one set of masters will merely be replaced by another.
Although the problem of illegitimate interference in Delhi Police is a complex one, the solutions are clear. It is important to legally define the government’s role in policing. continued…