Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Shrivastava says if investigation into riots cases, which is ‘based on scientific evidence’, points at a set of accused persons, the police will do their job
Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Shrivastava answered a range of questions from The Hindu on policing in the Capital, the impact of COVID-19 on the force and its role during the February communal riots in the city. Excerpts from written responses to questions sent to Mr. Shrivastava:
How many Delhi Police personnel have been afflicted by COVID-19? What steps have been taken to help the affected families?
Since the onset of COVID-19, 5,341 police personnel have been afflicted by the disease, of which 4,638 have recovered. We have unfortunately lost 22 brave men to COVID-19 in discharge of their duties. One of the hallmarks has been the manner in which the fallout of the pandemic was handled by the force. The officers and men continue to work hard, sincerely and relentlessly, in handling law and order, knowing well that it may expose them to the virus. We are encouraging them to build immunity against the novel coronavirus through Ayurvedic immunity drugs and yoga exercises. The Ministry of Ayush has provided us Ayurvedic medicines. SOPs and necessary infrastructure were created for afflicted policepersons to facilitate testing, hospitalisation, institutional quarantine etc. The health status of each affected policeperson is monitored at a senior level. Protective gear, including mask, is provided to all police personnel. Financial assistance and compensation is being provided to those who laid down their lives in the line of duty. During the crisis period the entire force has stood as one and the morale and camaraderie is high.
As Police Commissioner of Delhi, what are the major challenges on the law and order front during COVID-19 times?
Around 3 crore people reside in Delhi, including the floating population. Once the unlocking process began in June, one of the primary functions has been to ensure observance of COVID-19 protocols — of wearing mask, maintaining social distancing and hand sanitisation — without affecting the resumption of normal life. It is being achieved through meaningful prosecution and general awareness campaigns across the city. Resumption of religious, political and social activities without adversely impacting the observance of COVID-19 norms has remained a major challenge. The police force remains stretched to the maximum in keeping the crime situation under control while sparing sufficient manpower for other essential COVID-related duties. The exposure of police personnel to virus had to be regulated lest a large number of them go out of action as a result of sickness. Crime has been successfully checked despite its tendency to grow during adverse socio-economic conditions. The difficulties have further increased as jail capacities have reduced due to social distancing considerations in the jails.
Has the pandemic changed police work in any way?
Adapting to the changes in the environment is a pre-requisite to succeed during crisis period. Necessary changes in the manner of police working were made without losing effectiveness and compromising with the quality of work. Since it required minimisation of exposure of police personnel to the virus, physical meetings gave way to virtual meetings, social distancing among police personnel was achieved by hiring/taking over unused government buildings for the time being for work and use as barracks, going digital and paperless in a large way in place of files and paper reports. Videoconference is being used for examination of witnesses and complainants. It is used even for interrogating the accused, when a part of the investigation team joins through virtual means.
What are the new technologies Delhi Police has begun using to make it a modern, cutting-edge force?
During the COVID-19 period, we have been working at the back end to adapt to new technologies to make the functioning easy, efficient and transparent. Among the first is the introduction of the e-Beat Book. It enables a police officer in the field to access the various databases regarding crime, criminals, fingerprints, photographs, stolen vehicles, etc. Such an access while in the field facilitates instant decision-making that helps investigation and verification exercises. It has helped in curbing crime, arresting criminals and connecting with the residents.
Second, the Integrated Complaint Monitoring System (ICMS) is being tested for adoption soon. All complaints made to police either on paper, e-mail, social media, telephone, etc. will be monitored and the complainant informed about its progress. Since all the complaints are maintained digitally, its monitoring becomes easy and handling of complaints transparent.
Third, all final reports under Section 173 of the CrPC are being drafted digitally on the CCTNS platform. This is besides the recording of FIRs and maintaining crime and criminal data on the CCTNS.
Fourth, office working through e-Office has commenced in the Police Headquarters, which will soon be expanded todistrict and unit offices. e-HRMS (Human Resource Management System) will help attending to the grievances of the police personnel. The annual performance appraisal of all police personnel will be recorded digitally on e-Sparrow.
Fifth, a Social Media Cell has been created to attend to complaints/tweets on digital platform. There is a long wish list that is at different stages of implementation.
Will having three police ranges help Delhi Police in its law and order duties?
The different regions of Delhi have their own attendant issues requiring close supervision. Delhi is the national capital and issues need to be dealt adequately and promptly. Having three zones for attending to specific priorities of the respective regions would improve law and order management in Delhi.
Women’s safety continues to be an area of major concern in the city…
Women safety continues to be one of the top priorities for Delhi Police. One cannot deny the concerns every resident of Delhi has for women’s safety. Any crime against women is a threat to the very dignity of society. In the past nine months of the current year, crime against women has come down by approximately 30% compared to the same period last year. However, that leaves no room for complacency. A series of crime prevention measures, which include increased deployment in areas frequented by women, deployment of women police personnel as beat officers and in PCR vans, introduction of a number of women safety projects/apps such as Himmat Plus, Sashakti, Shishtachar, anti-stalking helpline 1096, finalisation of cases involving crime against women in 60 days, investigation of cases by women police officers, improving lighting in dark spots, installation of CCTV cameras, etc. have helped in keeping a check on crime against women. We are committed to making Delhi safer for women.
You took over as Police Commissioner in the middle of the Delhi riots, in which more than 50 people were killed. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval himself had to go to north-east Delhi as a confidence-building measure. The rioting continued in Delhi for four days. Did Delhi Police fail in performing its duties?
Delhi Police has a very good record in handling law and order, crime prevention and other areas requiring police attention. I am sure all possible measures were taken to maintain law and order in the city. It is not fair for me to comment on this issue for want of first-hand knowledge about the factors that were taken into consideration.
There are several videos allegedly showing police complicity during the riots, including that of policemen beating and asking a Muslim to sing the National Anthem. The man died. It’s been over seven months, what action has been taken against the policemen involved?
An FIR has already been registered in the matter. The video shows some police personnel assaulting and coaxing a few persons later identified as Faizan and four others. From the CCTV camera installed nearby and video clippings, some headway has been made. The police personnel on duty near the location have been examined. Delhi Police will not spare anyone who exceeded his brief.
The Delhi Minorities Commission in its report on the riots linked Kapil Mishra’s February 23 speech to the outbreak of violence. Why has no FIR been registered against the BJP leader for inciting violence?
I am not sure how it [the DMC] has come to this conclusion with the limited information and details it has. A chargesheet has already been filed in the court on the conspiracy leading to the communal riots. The police are mandated to investigate into the complaint recorded in the FIR and submit a final report (chargesheet) in the concerned court of law. It is in the court where every evidence produced by the police is evaluated and where it may be contested. Others cannot usurp the role of the police and create a false narrative. The court of law is the correct forum for this purpose. Investigation is judged on the basis of evidence and not perception. However, it has already been clarified that the investigation has concluded that riots and stone throwing took place at Chand Bagh on February 23 at 11 a.m. and the first injured reached the hospital at 12.15 p.m. as a medico-legal case. The video that shows Kapil Mishra talking to the media was taken around 3.30 p.m. on February 23. Therefore, on this count itself it is very clear that the riots had started much before Kapil Mishra was videographed making the statement.
Has any explanation been sought from DCP (North East) Ved Prakash Surya as to why he was seen in the frame when Mr. Mishra spoke of removing protesters from the Jafrabad area?
DCP (North East) Ved Prakash Surya was handling the law and order situation arising from the communal riots that took place on February 23 around 11 a.m. It is for this reason that he had already put on anti-riot gear and was in the affected area when Kapil Mishra arrived at Maujpur. Since stone throwing had taken place before the video was shot, they [stones] can be seen lying on the road in the videos.
Former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur has said that almost every State has weaponised sedition as a means of silencing critics. Do you agree with him?
I will refrain from commenting on the statement.
Civil society groups, many retired police officers and intellectuals have condemned what they describe as a crackdown against young activists who came to the fore in the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens…
I have already replied once before on this issue. Like in all cases we commenced the investigation with an open mind and relied heavily on scientific evidence, such as CCTV footage, WhatsApp chats, cellular connectivity, recovered deleted mobile phone data, geo-location, DNA analysis, Vahan database, facial reconstruction, fund flow analysis, etc. If the investigation based on scientific evidence points at a set of accused persons, the police will do their job. Besides scientific evidence, Delhi Police has examined a large majority of persons who either have a role in the north-east Delhi riots or have information that helped to arrive at the truth. It has questioned persons without regard to their religion and party affiliation. It has arrested 1,616 persons irrespective of their caste, religion, occupation or affiliation. Those arrested are almost equally distributed among both communities. I am sure the other community/group does not fit into the category of “young activists”. You should be equally concerned about them as well.
On January 5, masked persons carrying rods and sticks entered Jawaharlal Nehru University campus and thrashed students and teachers. There has been no arrest in the case so far. The video of a woman identified as Komal Sharma — associated with the ABVP — holding sticks inside the JNU campus was widely shared. Has any action been taken against Ms. Sharma and others behind the violence that night?
Delhi Police is investigating three cases related to the JNU incidents that occurred in January. The FIRs disclose names of students belonging to both [contending] factions in JNU. They have been examined in the cases. Komal Sharma was also examined. The case will be finalised soon. However, no person has been arrested in the cases.