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From praises to brickbats, the eventful 4-month tenure of Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey

Several officers were in a proxy battle with him refusing to register cases he had been asking them to.

Idea Exchange, Mumbai Police Commissioner, Sanjay Pandey, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsMumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey.

In one of the last Facebook lives, through which he interacted with the citizens every Sunday, Sanjay Pandey, who took charge as the Mumbai Police Commissioner on March 1, said he was aware many officers were counting days for his retirement on June 30. It was him acknowledging the barely hidden tension between him and senior police officers during his four-month tenure that saw Pandey receive both praises and brickbats in equal amounts.

Citizens saw him as a commissioner who interacted with them, lent them his ear — literally as he shared his mobile number with them — and started Sunday streets where citizens could reclaim the streets every Sunday by conducting recreational activities. The police, especially the top brass that had to report to him, however, saw him as someone asking them to register cases that were “political” in nature.

Several officers were in a proxy battle with him refusing to register cases he had been asking them to. In one such instance, a senior inspector of a police station went on medical leave to avoid filing a case against a BJP leader while another was served a memo for not registering a case against a senior police official by the IIT Kanpur alumnus.

Having served in side postings ever since he re-joined the force after serving his resignation, the 1986-batch officer, who enjoys the reputation of being a “clean officer”, was relegated to side postings by the previous state governments. Many believed his record as a policeman who would not “listen” to the government of the day and go strictly by the book was what made previous governments wary of giving him an executive posting.

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From that end of the spectrum where he was in the no go zone for governments, Pandey, who was made the state’s acting DGP and later, in a rather unprecedented manner, the Mumbai Police Commissioner, was seen as having traversed to the other end of the spectrum where the Bombay High Court called him the “blue eyed boy” of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state when his continuation as the DGP was challenged in the Bombay High Court.

It was during his tenure that cases were registered against BJP leaders like Kirit Somaiya, Mohit Kamboj, Narayan Rane and Independent MLA Ravi Rana – who was vocal against the Shiv Sena. This prompted several BJP leaders like Somaiya to allege that he was working at the behest of the MVA government. Several officers in the force were also unhappy with Pandey asking them to arrest, chargesheet, file cases against officials in cases they were not convinced about. Some officers are said to have asked him to transfer them if he was not happy with them.

However, the constabulary, who Pandey had said was his priority, held him in high regard. After taking over as the acting DGP of the state, Pandey had sent a proposal that would ensure that constables would be promoted to as high as a Police Sub Inspector (PSI) rank as against the Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) rank they could aspire to. After the proposal was cleared, several lower rung officers were beholden to him for taking up their cause.

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Some senior officials in the force, however, argued that constables being promoted to PSI ranks was merely a superficial change as they were still being paid an ASI-level salary. Others, however, argued that for most of the constables, retiring as a PSI-rank officer was a matter of honour and their salaries and pension would eventually increase.

Pandey also held a regular ‘orderly room’ where he heard out grievances of the police and resolved them. On his Facebook wall, he would constantly put updates about several proposals or decisions that he said would help the lower rung officers.

Apart from the force, for the average Mumbaikar, Pandey characterised a Commissioner whom they could speak to. One of the first things Pandey did after being appointed Commissioner was share his mobile number on social media for people to contact him directly. He would also respond to people on Twitter and Facebook and try to speak to them directly.

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Thanks to the direct feedback he received from citizens, he realised that as against serious body offences or the underworld that at one point was a major headache for Mumbaikars, the issues now are related to harassment by housing societies, noise pollution due to construction work going on in the later hours among others.

He then held meetings with builders and housing societies asking them to resolve the issues. Later, however, he cracked a whip and even registered cases against builders who did not stop construction activities after the permitted hours. Sunday Streets was another concept that won him a lot of applause with people hitting the streets in large numbers.

Pandey also ensured that there was action taken against policemen who did not register FIRs, a common grouse among citizens. Thanks to him, the police started registering cases even in cases of mobile thefts which they usually avoided earlier.

He also took some decisions that were controversial and eventually had to be silently taken down like stopping the use of towing vehicles to clear the roads and seeking a DCP-rank officer’s nod to register a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act – a move that was challenged in the court.

During one of his last few Facebook lives, where he interacted with the citizens, he had said that while he only had a few days, each day had 24 hours and he would make them count. Pandey’s tenure will be remembered by different people for varied reasons and in that sense, it will be memorable. For many, the four-month tenure of Pandey felt much longer than it was.

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First published on: 30-06-2022 at 03:02:23 pm
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