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What needs to be done to make Delhi a safer city

December 19, 2012 00:29 IST

Society must share the blame with the police who have at least quickly identified and nabbed the culprits.

Let us see how fast the other wheels of the criminal justice system grind to award the accused exemplary punishment, says retired Indian Police Service officer Anil Chowdhry.

There is understandable widespread anger and outrage over the shocking incident which took place on Sunday evening (not in the late hours of the night) in South Delhi, considered a posh area in the city.

The unfortunate victim could have been anybody's daughter or sister returning after seeing a movie, an evening show.

One has been watching emotional statements being made, especially by lady members of Parliament, expressing their shock and concern over the insecurity of women on Delhi roads on the electronic media, nonstop.

There are also reports of protest marches taking place near the place of occurrence. And of the Delhi police commissioner being summoned to Parliament by the Union home minister.

These would be followed by animated debates among ex-police officers (like me), editors, representatives of women's civil rights groups, anchored by well-known television personalities continuing well into the night. Write-ups in the print media shall follow.

But would such outbursts in Parliament and the media result in tangible action to make Delhi a safer city? I think not.

Having seen similar outbursts in the past, as a member of the security/police fraternity for almost four decades, I am extremely sceptical.

The criminal justice system in the country, largely inherited from the British, is slow, tardy, tedious, and not suited to present Indian conditions. It has failed to act as a deterrence for perpetrators of such beastly crimes.

Family and social sanctions are also slackening; that it needs to be overhauled, is acknowledged.

Several committees appointed to go into this, including the Justice Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice Reforms, the Madhav Menon Committee (of which I was also a member) to draft a policy on the criminal justice system, and the most recent Soli Sorabjee Committee reports/recommendations are all, I am sure, gathering dust in the ministries of law and justice and home.

Has anyone at the policy-making level in the government even found the time to read them, I wonder?

There are just too many stake holders (public, police, prosecution, the judiciary, prisons, legislators, bureaucracy at the Centre and in the states, and finally the political leadership) who need to evolve a consensus for a revamp of the system.

Quite frankly, our policy makers have neither the energy/stamina, nor the inclination/ time to bring about the required changes. For reasons known to all, robust and effective governance is gradually disappearing from our country.

On the current state of policing in the capital, I ask the following questions:

  • Why don't we see more police officers at senior levels (inspectors, assistant and deputy commissioners of police) performing mobile patrolling duties on the roads?
  • Why are only static and picket duties mainly being performed by constables and head constables?
  • Why is so much police manpower being wasted in providing protection to so-called VIPs of various hues, many with dubious and criminal backgrounds?
  • Why is the citizen-police ratio not being improved?
  • Why is the Delhi metropolitan police so ill-equipped in terms of training, technology and equipment?
  • Finally, when will policing be freed from political and bureaucratic shackles to make it answerable to the people, who it is meant to serve?
  • Now some questions on the city's public transportation system which the incident also raises:

  • Did the private operator's bus involved in the crime, reportedly engaged by a school to ferry students, have a permit to ply commercially?
  • Why is the present system of granting driving licences, particularly of commercial vehicles, not made more stringent and includes verification of the character and antecedents of the applicants?
  • Why is the capital city still deprived of an efficient, safe and secure public transportation system, forcing commuters like the hapless victim to take rides in unauthorised vehicles, and tolerate the rude and indisciplined behaviour of taxi and autorickshaw drivers?
  • Why does Delhi not have a unified transport authority like London and New York for granting licences, improving the road networks, traffic engineering, education, management?
  • Society must share the blame with the police who have at least quickly identified and nabbed the culprits. Let us see how fast the other wheels of the criminal justice system grind to award the accused exemplary punishment.

    Of course, the incident should and could have been avoided if the deficiencies in the existing systems enumerated above did not exist. Family and social sanctions to check such ghastly behaviour need to be made more stringent.

    Anil Chowdhry is a former secretary (internal security), Government of India.

    Anil Chowdhry, IPS (retd) in New Delhi