Leadership Vacuum

The recent riots in Delhi have proven that the IPS lacks capable leaders who can uphold principles and values

Sanjiv Krishan SoodS.K. Sood

Justice A.N. Mulla of Allahabad High Court in a judgment said, “I say with all sense of responsibility, there is not a single lawless group in the whole of the country whose record of crime comes anywhere near that of the organised gang of criminals known as the Indian Police Force.” The above was tweeted by Justice (retd) Markandey Katju of Supreme Court on 6 December 2019.

The statement appears to have been based on the conduct of Delhi police in the recent riots in Delhi. The CCTV footage circulated widely on social media showed them mercilessly beating students in the library at Jamia Milia Islamia University and breaking CCTVs with their sticks.

The same police passively facilitated masked goons to go on rampage at Jawaharlal Nehru University. None of these goons have been caught so far and brought before law even though many of them have been identified through the videos.

Conduct of police during the riots in the last week of February was the proverbial last nail in the coffin. The police actively joined rioters in throwing stones and egging them on to attack people belonging to the minority community.

Delhi police’s handling of these incidents, which have had a serious negative impact on the social fabric of the country, is a sad reflection on the lack of professionalism and leadership qualities in the IPS. Besides being unprofessional, the IPS leadership is severely compromised as was amply clear from the fact that a rogue minister like Kapil Mishra could get away by brazenly making an inflammatory statement with a DCP rank officer standing beside him. But for the total lack of action and abdication of responsibility on part of IPS leadership, the riots could have been controlled much earlier and wanton destruction of life and property prevented.

The Delhi High Court, too, commented upon the lack of professionalism of the police during the hearing of public interest litigations regarding filing of FIR against provocative statements made by political leaders.

Professional incompetence of IPS leadership was amply displayed in the handling of anti-CAA protests, incidents at JNU, Jamia and AMU. The Central Armed Forces (CAF) being repeatedly called to control law and order situation and conduct anti-militancy operations is a sad reflection of the IPS’ abilities to lead from the front and ensure professional conduct of large police force under their command.

In view of their inability to carry out even their original function of policing properly, their claims for retaining leadership positions in CAF is nothing but an effort to retain their hegemony in these forces.

The IPS officers through several articles published in print and electronic media indulge in an exercise commonly referred to as ‘Situating the Appreciation’ in military parlance. This is a term which alludes to the tendency of some commanders to extend imaginary arguments to justify a preconceived plan of action, in contrast to the scientific process of appreciating actual conditions to logically arrive at a solution.

In their anxiety to justify the hegemony of IPS officers in the CAF, these IPS officers advance several frivolous and imaginary arguments and keep repeating them periodically. That most of these arguments have been held to be illogical by the highest court of the country appears to be of no concern to the authors.

The officers of CAF had made several requests to the government before approaching the courts for redressing their grievances. It is, therefore, ironical for IPS officers to lament inadequate debate in the matters of career planning of CAF officers. It is these very IPS officers at the helm in these organisations who in cahoots with bureaucrats have scuttled all the requests of CAF officers, compelling them to approach the courts. Non-implementation of the directions of highest court in letter and spirit has once again compelled the cadre officers to go for contempt petitions.

The CAF officers do not crave for parity with civil services. All that they want is implementation of court orders regarding the grant of ‘Organised Status since 1986’ as upheld by the highest court of the land. This, besides implying upgradation of their financial status, also ordains that all posts up to the level of additional secretary (Additional DG in case of CAF) are filled through promotion of cadre officers as these are specialised jobs.

Courts have even given opportunity to the government to quote even one organised service in which any of the posts up to that level (other than requiring specialised skills not available within the cadre) is filled through deputation. The government has been unable to do that so far is ample proof of the genuineness of the grievance of cadre officers. Giving it a colour of interfering with government prerogative of deciding strategic command of these forces is thus odious.

Merit of the claim of CAF officers for appointment at higher strategic levels in these forces has also been supported by several detailed analytical studies commissioned by the government itself. These include the studies by IIM Kolkata, IIM Indore and also Pay Commissions. Even the Parliamentary Committee headed by former home minister P. Chidambaram has last year recommended that the CAF cadre officers should also be considered for appointment as director general of these forces.

Belittling tactical abilities to argue against CAF cadre officers being given higher responsibilities emanates from immature understanding of stakes involved. It is the tactical acumen at lower levels which is an indicator of strategic abilities which besides being inherent are honed through training, exposure and experience of performing at tactical levels. If the analogy generally put forth by IPS officers was taken at face value, then perhaps they would have been made the chief of army staff! The claim of IPS officers for strategic level posts in CAF also falls flat in view of the fact that they display a lack of both tactical and strategic understanding of their own profession of policing.

Considering merit as the sole criteria, the CAF officers are much better qualified to man the higher posts because they are trained and experienced in their respective work domain which the IPS officers lack. Entry level examination to assess merit is not relevant because each service evolves its own methodology of assessing suitability for the particular job description. The CAF cadre officers would happily undergo any of the testing procedures that the authorities deem fit, including that for the defence forces or for civil services examination. That said one can vouch for the fact that the rigour of the physical and mental aptitude tests for selection of CAF officers cannot be underestimated.

Further to obviate any chances of performance gap on attaining higher responsibilities a unique system of compulsory career courses has been put in place in the CAF. The CAF cadre officers are thus undoubtedly more meritorious than IPS officers to take up higher strategic responsibilities in these forces because the IPS neither have ab initio knowledge nor later exposure to the skills and attitude required for performing effectively in these specialised functions. In fact, the need for raising CAF for specialised functions like border guarding, internal security etc. arose only because the police was found wanting in performing those specialised tasks.

That these forces have developed adequate expertise and experienced cadre of officers to man higher officers needs no reiteration. That the IPS officers find themselves unable to manage such large forces is clearly discernible from several ill-conceived policy decisions pushed through by them. If this state of affairs continues, the professionalism in these forces is going to take a severe hit which may lead to compromise of national security.

The IPS officers are no longer willing to be deputed to these forces at functional levels because they are hesitant to take up tough assignments in remote areas and not because the states are reluctant to relieve them. This has been the case since the Eighties with over 80 per cent of vacancies reserved for IPS officers at the level of DIG and below remaining vacant in these forces.

CAF officers are fighting an existential battle for their rightful dues. Perks and privileges are secondary. In fact, it is the fear of being deprived of these which is driving the IPS officers to oppose implementation of court orders. Denial of rightful dues to officer cadre of these forces even after unambiguous pronouncement by the Supreme Court is a travesty of justice.

Goebbels would, however, have been very happy at the abilities of IPS officers to unleash the propaganda to undermine and tarnish image of CAF cadre officers.

(The writer is a former additional director general, Border Security Force)


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