Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has been advocating a special security force, a Mahila Suraksha Dal, to prevent crime against women in the national capital. To what extent is it legally tenable?
"Under no circumstances, will a state have two police forces, unless they have separate functions. Their powers have to be different. But the idea is absurd," says Ved Marwah, former Delhi Police commissioner and ex-governor of Manipur and Jharkhand.
Law and order is a subject under the state list of the Constitution. However, for Union Territories (and, Delhi is one), law and order is a subject matter for the Union government. The police reports to the Union home minister and his ministry pays for the salaries, accommodation and infrastructure. Also, Delhi Police derives its powers from the Delhi Police Act, 1978.
"There shall be one police force for the whole of Delhi and all officers and subordinate ranks of the police force shall be liable for posting to any branch of the force," reads the Act.
The Act has provision for appointing civilians as special police officers (SPOs). Every SPO, appointed by the commissioner, may "have the same powers, privileges and immunities and perform the same duties and be subject to the same authorities as an ordinary police officer".
But AAP is unlikely to go this way, as SPOs would have to work under the Delhi Police Commissioner. It is unlikely Delhi Police, too, would extend this courtesy to the AAP, given the recent controversy between them.
So, what is the way out for the activist chief minister, who has taken on both Delhi Police and its master, the Union home ministry, for lack of security in the national capital? Kejriwal can have a department akin to the Delhi Home Guards; the latter reports to the Delhi government. The Home Guards don't have police powers but assist police in managing traffic signals, sundry work at police stations and patrolling the streets.
An AAP spokesperson said they were not looking for a police force. "It would be similar to resident welfare associations appointing security guards in their societies. We would first identify the crime-prone areas and then take the help of retired army personnel and policemen to man these."
The AAP has already been accused of being vigilantes and creation of such a force could lead to confusion. "Women groups have not asked for it. I am totally against setting up such a force, primarily because of accountability issues. The police can still be held accountable. Leaving such a force to mohalla sabhas would result in incidents like Khirki (in South Delhi, where AAP activists were accused of molesting and harassing African nationals in the name of busting crime syndicates)," says Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association.
Last Tuesday, the Delhi government constituted a committee under the chief secretary to look into the matter and asked for a report by February 15.
R K Singh, former Union home secretary and now a member of the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, says the Union government had suggested Delhi Police recruit more women in the force as a measure to prevent crime against women. "We asked them to reserve 30 per cent of seats for women in the force and they have started the process," he said.
The related demand for Delhi Police to be under the city government is an old one. A Bill to confer statehood on Delhi was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2003. Even then, the Union government had kept the police out of the proposed state's purview.