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'CM could not have directed anybody to burn the body'

October 07, 2020 09:35 IST
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'The DM is the ultimate authority in such situations.'
'The CM could not have directed anybody to cordon off the family and restrict them from meeting the family.'

IMAGE: A protest to demand justice for the Hathras victim outside IIT-Bombay. Photograph: PTI Photo

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bisht's government is under pressure to suspend or transfer Hathras District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar who was caught on camera allegedly intimidating the family of the rape victim to echo the district administration's version of events that led to the cremation of the teenager who was allegedly raped and harmed -- she died in a Delhi hospital on September 29 -- at the dead of night.

The concluding part of Prasanna D Zore/'s interview with a former IAS officer about the Hathras incident and its aftermath.


Do you think that the DM, the SP and the DSP have been made the fall guys? Who do they receive their orders from?

That shouldn't be the case at all. The DM is not an ordinary pawn.

The DM is an IAS officer who has learned so much, studied so much, trained so much so that s/he act as per the rule of law in such situations. He is the ultimate authority in such situations.

The CM could not have directed anybody to burn the body.

The CM could not have directed anybody to cordon off the family and restrict them from meeting the family.

Rather than making this political, we must now put the foot down and say that if something happens in any district, the buck should stop at the DM's doorstep.

This is what needs to be conveyed and drilled into every person's (DM's or SP's) mind because the next day (in the future) if such a thing happens, the SP and the DM will know that they will not be able to push their responsibility upwards and say that I was acting under directions from the higher authorities.

They will then understand that they are on their own.

Even if directions come from the CM's office they will know that the buck is going to stop at their doorstep and they will be held responsible and accountable to the situation that unfolds because of their actions.

If this happens, then even if there is pressure from higher ups these law enforcers will know that the backlash will happen against them and not against the people they take their orders from.

They should know that there could be a high court trial, a media trial so that the responsible person will strictly act as per the rule of law.

If the person in authority (the DM or the SP) disobeys the orders from the above, the most that can happen is he will be transferred or suspended from service.

IMAGE: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra embraces the Hathras victim's family member at their home. Photograph: @INCIndia/Twitter

Do you think under the given circumstances, the Hathras DM could have acted on his own will to intimidate the family or was he under pressure to do that?

I think this question is immaterial. There is always pressure, one way or the other, on a person who is in a powerful position like a district magistrate, but they are there because they are learned, have been trained and prepared morally and lawfully to do the right thing even if under such kind of pressure.

So, whether there was pressure or whether there was no pressure is actually immaterial to this case, because an IAS (and IPS) officer is trained diligently to overcome such pressures. This responsibility cannot be pushed upwards or downwards (by the DM or the SP) or any other way.

In a district, the buck effectively stops with the DM and the SP.

The DM and the SP owes her/is allegiance only to the Constitution of India and people you have been assigned to serve. There is no other allegiance.

That is the reason why the Constitution has specific provisions, specific sections to protect the officers doing their duties.

When everybody was against the continuation of the civil services in the form of the IAS, Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel (the first home minister of independent India) said only one thing: We need an officer cadre which will not be afraid to speak up their mind. That is the only reason why we have these all-India services (Read what Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel said about the IAS (external link)).

The only reason why we have an IAS officer cadre is because they are supposed to be and have been trained to not be afraid of any higher authority or be bullied by their political process and by this virtue are duty-bound to protect India's Constitution and the people they serve.

Who does a DM gets her/his orders from?

Ideally, s/he reports to the principal or chief secretary, revenue or the divisional commissioner, a senior IAS officer with the responsibility of a few districts.

But in this case, because it is a law and order matter, he might have also got directions from additional chief secretary, or principal secretary, home, as to what needs to be done.

IMAGE: Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad 'Ravan' with the Hathras victim's family at their home in Hathras, October 4, 2020. Photograph: Kind courtesy BhimArmyChief/Instagram

There is lot of pressure on the UP chief minister to suspend the DM. What happens if the DM is suspended? What kind of repercussions could it have on the morale of IAS officers?

Suspension is very simple. It can be done pending an inquiry. He (the DM) will be asked to report to the headquarters and during this period he will be given 50 per cent of the basic salary and an inquiry will be initiated.

Once the inquiry happens, and if nothing comes against him then everything will be restored early enough. So, it will not be seen as negative for his career.

Whereas if the inquiry happens, and if certain disciplinary proceedings have to be initiated based on that, then punishment can come in, which can range from reducing the seniority, cutting down on a promotion, cutting down on scale, all sorts of things.

IMAGE: A protest against the Hathras crime at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, October 2, 2020. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo

As we speak, what are the chances that your phone is tapped and this conversation is being recorded by somebody? Recorded conversations between a journalist and family member of the victim are being leaked to the media...

I don't know. But if it is being tapped so be it.

This is my country and if I will speak against the wrongs.

Let them understand the issues; I am not saying anything wrong.

If somebody is listening in to my conversations I would take that as an opportunity to make them understand their mistakes and help them improve upon administrative lapses and better governance.

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