Originally Published 2012-02-09 00:00:00 Published on Feb 09, 2012
We cannot overlook the fact that the country's courts continue to be the objects of terrorist attacks while looking at the 'disciplining' of a police constable in public view, for neglecting the checking duty at a New Delhi court.
Is discipline in Force a needless necessity?
Almost the entire print media in the Indian capital recently (on Wednesday, 8 February) carried a news report, many with pictures, of a Delhi Police constable doing somersaults, known in Force parlance as front-roll, under the orders of his superior officer.

Facts, based on the media account of the incident, reveal that the constable with the name of Dinesh Kumar was posted on security duty at the gate no. 6 of the Patiala House Courts on Tuesday, February 7, 2012. The constable, whose duty was to frisk everyone passing through the gate, was found talking on his mobile by his superior officer. Having found that the constable neglected his duty, the officer, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Seju P. Kuruvilla, took away his mobile phone and removed his badge besides asking him to do front rolls for an approximate distance of 250 metres in full public view.

According to media reports, the incident came to light when a group of lawyers and the public saw the constable doing front-rolls. The lawyers were "outraged" by this "bizarre" happening and complained to District Judge H S Sharma. They showed him a video clip, taken on the mobile, of the incident as a proof of the police officer’s "misbehavior" with his subordinate. In their complaint, the lawyers alleged that "this act was so humiliating that all advocates gathered there felt ashamed and protested, at which the Additional DCP misbehaved with the lawyers also".

Immediately swinging into action, the District Judge, according to media reports, ruled: "Let the copy of the complaint be sent to the Police Commissioner for appropriate action. The Commissioner is directed to proceed as per law against the erring official and report about the outcome of the action to this court within one month from today (Tuesday)".

"Advocates have been told that the mobile phone wherein the alleged illegal act of the erring official had been recorded be preserved so that the same could be shown to the authorities. The advocates are also liberty to get a CD of the video clipping prepared", the Judge said. The court also allowed the lawyers to "act against the alleged illegal act of the official as per law, if they so wish".

Earlier, on witnessing the constable undergo the alleged punishment, the lawyers had called for a PCR van. But the policemen, according to reports, did not "take any action against their senior" on the pretext that the constable would lose his job in case any complaint was made against the senior officer.

Demanding appropriate action against the erring official, lawyers termed the action of the senior police officer as "cruel, illegal, inhuman, derogatory and violative" and said that appropriate action alone would ensure that such incidents are not repeated in future.

Following this, lawyers also approached the Delhi Court which too have taken cognizance of the incident and sent notices to the Police Commissioner and others.

The incident indeed raises some basic issues, which if not addressed now, are going to create serious problems of governance. The core of the incident is the negligence of duty by personnel of the Force under which all Armed Forces, para-military outfits and State police oganisations fall.

It may be argued whether the punishment for an act of indiscipline should be given in full public view or not. But, in my understanding, unless a punishment was given for an act of negligence of duty, no force working under a command structure would be able to deliver. We should not forget that only a command structure in which the principle of hierarchy is one of the crucial principles can ensure optimum level of performance. No force can afford to let acts of indiscipline go unpunished. The day it begins to happen, the country would have to learn to live with fear, insecurity and acts of terrorism and violence.

Unlike lawyers and other professionals, the Forces have to often perform and deliver in utmost adverse circumstances. We cannot overlook the fact that the country’s courts have been the objects of terrorist attacks and continue to remain so.

Bomb blasts on 7 September 2011 at the Delhi High Court was one incident in which the Delhi Police and intelligence agencies had come under serious scrutiny. Lawyers, the judicial community at large and people were outraged at the incident and had demanded action against all erring officials.

What is perplexing to notice is the fact that lawyers who are organised into their respective Bar associations which often defend their respective acts of indiscipline when they refuse to defend an accused on some grounds or the other and also indulge in acts of demonstrations, sometime even inside courts, are demanding action against a senior police officer who was well within his right to discipline his subordinate without losing time so that an example could be set.

It is high time that all related issues are discussed at different public forums. The issue should not be allowed to affect the morale of officers and the command structure of the Force as it will have serious implications on national security. There is a need for a bigger debate on the issue.

(Dr. Satish Misra is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi)

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