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The Rediff Interview/IPS officer Y P Singh

December 14, 2004

Y P Singh resigned after nearly 20 years in the Indian Police Service citing corruption in the force and lack of encouragement from higher-ups.

After learning of Singh's decision, director general of police (retired) S S Puri, had said: 'It's a sad day for the IPS and the Maharashtra police when upright officers feel coerced to leave public service before completing their tenure.'

A Maharashtra cadre officer, Singh spoke to Senior Copy Editor Salil Kumar and Senior Correspondent Vijay Singh about, among other things, corruption in the police force. The concluding segment of a two-part interview:

Part I: 'It's easy to shake hands with the corrupt'

In your book Carnage by Angels, you portray an officer getting his lessons in corruption from a constable. Is that how it happens in reality too?

Those who want to learn these things do so by any means. Many people pick up the ropes during training at the police academy itself. When they are later posted to various districts, they begin interacting with people.

Some citizen may come and say, 'Arre sahab, hum to policewalon ke mitr hain' (Sir, I am your well-wisher). Then he will start giving you ideas. At that time, people come to know who is corrupt.

Corrupt officers find a link to bribe-givers. The link-man collects the bribes on their behalf. A junior officer -- generally of the rank of sub-inspector -- acts as the link. In a month or two, new officers become well-versed with the system.

You don't need a lot of expertise to learn these things.

There are a limited number of officers in a state. So, if an officer does something in one district, everyone in the state comes to know what kind of a person he is. Wherever he is transferred, agents and corrupt policemen approach him. He will enter into an unholy nexus with them.

How is corruption institutionalised? How are bribe amounts fixed?

It depends on the earning potential.

Take the customs department for example. Consider a telephone instrument that costs Rs 100 and the total customs duty on it amounts to 60%, which is Rs 60 in this case.

A corrupt customs officer will put the value of the phone at just Rs 10. Hence, the duty amounts to Rs 6 causing a loss of Rs 56 to the exchequer.

Of this, 20% or Rs 11 is paid as bribe to the customs officer.

That is how a bribe amount is calculated. It is a percentage of the duty the government loses.

Y P SinghWhich postings are favoured?

Those in the customs department though with liberalisation the pickings have reduced. Another is the income tax department.

One dishonest income tax officer, during his service of 35 years, is capable of causing a loss of around Rs 1,000 crore to the exchequer. Money that could have been spent to build infrastructure, hospitals, schools, pensions.

These officers are educated, Class I officers who enjoy a certain standing in society. Yet, they are worse than gangsters.

A corrupt police officer posted in Mumbai can affect the lives of several thousand people. For example, he can convert thousands of women into prostitutes. If, on an average, each woman entertains 10 customers daily and each of them has five relatives -- parents, wives and kids, in all, the officer would have somehow influenced the lives of all these people.

Why doesn't the CBI or the Anti-Corruption Bureau stop this loot?

It is not just one person who gets the money. It goes right up to the top brass. If those below try to stop the flow of bribes, their career will be ruined. There are many ways to do it. After all, everybody makes mistakes and it is easy to institute an enquiry.

Hence, those who are into illegal businesses begin by seeking permission from the Anti-Corruption Bureau, CBI and other people in authority.

For example, even a constable can keep a check on ladies bars. Toh businessman pehle hafta dega, phir bar shuru karega (so a person will first pay bribes and then start his business).

Same with customs and other departments. If someone wants to commit fraud, he will first fix the amount of bribe and then begin his operations.

Small offences one can commit, but if you want to do something big, you cannot do it without the help of those in authority.

Aren't you painting a very grim picture of the police force?

I am only painting a realistic picture. It is an open secret, a fact known to all. When you see illegal activities all around, you see so many illegal buildings coming up, do you think nobody knows about them?

If you really want to see for yourself, just visit a colony housing income tax officials and then one housing employees of the postal department.

Go to the post and telegraph colony in Matunga [in northcentral Mumbai]. There will not be a single car. Then go to the customs colony, which houses mostly Class III officers. You will find cars, cars, cars, cars, cars all over the place. But they are drawing the same salary.

Why do people give statements to the police and later recant, like Zaheera Shaikh [the prime witness in the Best Bakery case]? How can it be stopped?

Unquestioningly accepting a statement given to the police would be wrong because it may have been made under duress.

There are two types of statements made to the police. In the first, a person admits doing something illegal but offers no details. This is meaningless. It comes under Section 25 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It is not admissible in court.

In the second, he accepts his crime and also reveals details, leading to recovery of material that can be used as evidence. This comes under Section 27. This statement is admissible as evidence.

Police officers should prefer confessions under the latter to make their case stand scrutiny in courts.

What about videotaping confessions?

It is not done because it is not admissible as evidence in court. Videotaping has no meaning if the confession is made just before the police.

On suspicion that a witness may turn hostile, there is a provision under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code where a confession can be recorded in front of a magistrate at the time of investigation.

Consider the case of the Kanchi seer, if he was making a confession, the police had the option of recording it in the presence of a magistrate.

Now the police claims he confessed while the seer denies it. What does it show?

For a quick trial, an investigation should be foolproof and credible.

If all police officers know these laws, then why don't they use it?

They should. If a confession is genuine, no one will hesitate to confess in the presence of a magistrate.

But the police may not be confident that a suspect or witness will accept his guilt before a magistrate. Hence, a lot of cases fail at the trial stage. Policemen don't use the various provisions of the law.

How much do you identify with Raghu, the protagonist of your novel Carnage of Angels?

It is more of assimilation... a novel close to reality.

In the book, Raghu joins the force as a sub-divisional police officer. He goes to present his credentials to the superintendent of police of Kolhapur but is made to wait for two hours. Later the SP screams at him for not saluting properly. Does that incident have any basis in reality?

This generally happens. The trick is -- lame them and tame them. Seniors rag junior officers till he is intimidated and looks up to them for approval. Then, he can be managed.

Why were you overlooked for promotion?

My batch comprised 82 officers. All except me have become either deputy commissioners or joint commissioners. I am still a deputy commissioner of police-rank officer. Favoured people get all the good postings.

Is it true you plan to start a law firm with retired director general of police S S Puri?

Yes. I will start it in March 2005.

Have your children expressed a desire to join the IPS?

Of course. They have a fascination for the IPS. They don't understand. They see only the uniform, vehicle, bungalow. My daughter wants to join the IPS and come back as a commandant in the same place from where I was once sacked. She says 'this is my dream because you were thrown out from there.'

My daughter is only in the fourth standard but my son is older. He is in Class X, he will understand.

Design: Rahil Shaikh

The Rediff Interviews

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