Quick Take

Delhi police protest: Mutiny in the Ranks

| Updated on November 06, 2019

Police personnel hold a candle light protest at Delhi Police Headquarters over alleged repeated incidents of violence against them by lawyers, in New Delhi.   -  PTI

The Centre has to seriously address the underlying issues that provoked the policemen in Delhi to agitate against their superiors this week

There are serious underlying issues behind the seemingly spontaneous rebellion in the Delhi police ranks this week. The anger and aggression of the constabulary that spilled outside the Delhi Police headquarters this Monday following a clash between lawyers and policemen last week is not an impromptu act of mutiny but the result of decades of suppressed angst in the ranks. Over 80 per cent of the police force, not just in Delhi but across the country, comprises of the constabulary that has been the victim of total indifference and failure of the Central and State Governments to change an oppressive Colonial policing system.

Specifically with regard to the Delhi police that function under the direct command of the Union Home Ministry, three main issues have agitated the constabulary which concern a near absence of promotional avenues, working conditions that dictate a 24-hour work day with no guidelines to specify shifts or duty-hours and denial of the right to form any association or union to non-gazetted personnel under the Police Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1966.

The absence of promotional avenues is a straightforward issue concerning more than 80 per cent of the police force i.e. the constabulary which forms the interface of the police with the people. Constables, if they are lucky, get promoted once in their entire service tenure and acquire the rank of Head Constables. In Delhi Police, the approximate percentage of the personnel promoted during their service is between 30-40 per cent. An absurd distinction in Delhi is an order issued by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi on October 28, 2016 that classified all Constables who have completed 15 years of service as Head Constables (Special Grade) but clearly underlined that they are only designated as Head Constable without the salary/perks or rank of the Head Constable. What they typically get by way of this designation is the uniform of a Head Constable with no financial upgradation whatsoever. How the sheer callousness of such orders and total stagnation in their careers affect the morale of the force and their incentive to work is not particularly difficult to fathom.

Further, according to the Indian Police Act as well as the Delhi Police Act, a policeman is deemed to be on duty all 24 hours a day. In response to an RTI filed during the pendency of an ongoing case in the Delhi High Court, the authorities clarified that there are no clear guidelines/rules/rosters that specified work-hours or shifts of the policemen. The interpretation of the statutes is thus entirely discretionary and the constables are left to the mercy of their supervisors on when they can go home or be recalled for duty. The wretched living quarters in the backyard of most police stations are home for a majority of the police force for most of their service tenures.

It would be instructive to illustrate the restriction on the right to form association through an example. A particularly enterprising Constable, Babu Lal Mitharwal appealed to the CAT against higher salary and perks allotted to those admitted in service after 2006. The CAT allowed his petition and Mitharwal was granted parity in service with full arrears. But this order did not simultaneously induce parity for others in the same rank and when 150 other Constables approached CAT for implementing the scale in their individual cases, the Home Ministry went to the Delhi High Court to get the original order in Babu Lal Mitharwal’s case struck down. The High Court decided in favour of granting parity in salary for all, [ushing the Home Ministry to implement the order.

These policemen, who are expected to work 24-hours a day with practically no scope of promotion, are routinely denied even the small perks that they won after much agitation and a historic strike in 1967 that led to the grant of what was commonly known as Metropolitan Allowance or “Hardship Allowance”. The Union Government abolished this grant on July 1, 2017 because “no demand was received from the ministry for its continuation”. Why no demand was received for the continuation of this particular allowance was because non-gazetted personnel in the Delhi police have no right to association or representation and therefore there was no one on their behalf who could tell the Government that they want the allowance to continue!

It is callous and utterly discriminatory to let 80 per cent of the police force work in such abysmal conditions while the top layer comprising IPS officers enjoy whatever perks the ostensible police reforms have resulted in. If the Centre is serious about internal security, the underlying but serious issues of the constabulary have to be immediately addressed.

Published on November 06, 2019

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