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PUCL, April 2007

Routine, Mr. Commissioner?

Open Letter to Delhi Police Commissioner

Mr. K.K.Paul
Commissioner of Police :Delhi
Police Headquarters,
M.S.O. Building,
New Delhi-110 002

As PUCL fact finding team along with the local community representatives went to the Sulatanpuri police station on the evening of 28 April we saw six seven anxious women and three four nervous men standing in the lobby facing the cabin of the duty officer. We had gone there to collect information related to an alleged custody death of Maulana Kalimuddin who had died four days back under the same police station.

We asked to see the police station in charge who we were told was not there. Neither present was the additional police station in charge. We asked the duty officer , an Assistant Sub Inspector who was the highest ranking officer available, details regarding the alleged custody death. He told us indifferently that he was not authorized to do so.

Next we asked if we could have the copy of the FIR filed against the diseased who allegedly had beaten up a rickshaw puller and consequently in return was beaten up by the mob at 4 o clock in the morning of 24 April. To this he said that we should write an application and after this the copy of the FIR would be provided in a day or two. We complied with what he said and wrote and gave him an application to that effect.

Having done this we asked the officer about the complaint of poorly clad women and troubled men who were standing there in the lobby that their dear ones were in the police custody and they were not being let to see them. He answered that there was no one. We requested if we could see the lock up because these people would not lie and stand at late evening inside a police station for nothing. He agreed.

We proceeded to the lockup accompanied with a constable, we saw a constable without name plate sitting on chair in front of a room next to the lock up ( that we later came to know was the Maalkhana) and getting his hand massaged by an inmate.

As we had a glimpse into the poorly lit, unventilated room in which five six disheveled young men were huddled and were about to talk to them the constable got up swiftly, bolted the room and stood guard. He asked us to leave the place immediately. Meanwhile a few more constables came. They created a human chain, misbehaved and threatened us to leave. We told them that there were people inside this room and let us speak to them so that we could tell their worried relatives about them and that we came with the express permission of the duty officer. Reason would not work, we came back to the lobby.

We contacted the police commissioner of the district, Mr. Manish Aggarwal. He did not pick up the phone. The additional police commission Mr. Sagar Preet though was gracious enough to assure us that he would look into the matter.

Perhaps he would but as sensitive and responsible citizens of this country and resident of the capital the episode leaves us with a few questions:

1 Is it a routine and in line with the rule of the law in Delhi police stations to round up people and dump them in unventilated maal khanas like cattle?

2 Is it a usual practice to let harried relatives stand in the lobby and not tell them why their dear onesí liberty is at police menís custody and mercy?

3 Is it fair to create imagined rule centric procedures to give a copy of an innocuous piece of document like FIR to a creditable civil liberties organization of the country specifically when the matter relates to an alleged custody death?

Well Dr. Paul I think it is in the domain of your official responsibilities to at least ponder over these questions if not answer them.

If the answer to the above questions is YES, then I would submit that Delhi police stop spending exchequers huge amount of money on ad. blitz in print media showcasing itself as people friendly force with a pulse touching base line `CITIZENS FIRSTí and `WITH YOU FOR YOU ALWAYS.í

If the answer to above questions is NO, then in consultation with your colleagues, civil society groups and concerned citizens please do devise concrete strategies to ensure the rule of law and rid the organization of malaise that eats into its vitals, erodes its image and lowers its morale. As a police chief you owe this to the force and society at large!

Yours sincerely

Pushkar Raj, Secretary, PUCL .

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014