“Do you know why I am here? (then without waiting for or even expecting a reply) because the Principal is out on tour. But that does not mean that things are not being supervised. When the Principal is out on tour, I hold the fort and when I am on tour, the Principal looks after my work.” was the introductory statement of the ‘venerable’ vice-principal of Police Training College (P. T. C.), Moradabad to our class. I harbour a gut feeling that anybody with rotund body and a rounded, hairless, shiny top has got to be ‘venerable’. The vice-principal, whose flesh was filling every cubic centimeter of the office chair and leaving much to spare, had started the class by thus imposing his authority, which, as was apparent on his face, seemed to add an aura of venerability around him. Despite the awe, some of us could hardly suppress our smile - which was fairly broad despite our efforts to the contrary - on hearing the last sentence of his authoritative statement.
On having completed the training at Mount Abu, the eight I. P. S. officers allotted to U. P. cadre had come here only the day before for training in state laws and state practices. And this was our first class in the P. T. C. After his introduction, the Vice Principal came out with another weighty statement,
“The first lesson that I wish to teach you is that you should forget all that you have learnt at Mount Abu and remember only that which you will be taught here.”
Now this was too much for us to digest without a hearty laugh because our main training center was C. P. T. C. Mt. Abu where we had undergone a tough and thorough police training for one full year and here we had come only for 10 weeks’ familiarization with U. P. State’s special laws and practices. Thereafter the Vice Principal told us many things about the futility and impossibility of doing the police work successfully while adhering to the laws and rules. Later, in our career, all of us were to realize the truth inherent in the teachings of the Vice-Principal. Everybody concerned with the criminal justice system - complainant, policeman, advocate, judge and the accused - know it that in most of the cases neither the F. I. R. lodged by the complainant, nor its investigation by police, nor evidence produced by defense counsel, and not even the judgment is based on whole truth. In fact, the bias of the laws and rules in favour of the accused and standards of our adherence to truth and morality are such that any investigation and trial of a case based solely on laws and rules is - saving rare exceptions - is bound to result in letting the criminal go scot-free.
Unfortunately the persons administering such a criminal justice system hesitate to speak openly about the weaknesses of the system - more so, in a police training college. Instead, they try to overcome these weaknesses and get results by violating the laws and rules. The venerable Vice- Principal was only speaking the truth that a police officer can achieve success in his work not by adhering to laws and rules but by acting in good-faith of public service.
During his lecture the Vice-Principal maintained such a poker face that I am yet to discover how much serious or humoristic he was when he concluded his lecture by the following sermon,
“Soon you will be posted as Superintendents of Police of a district. Remember that control of dacoity is very important for a Superintendent of Police; and, if a Superintendent of Police cannot control dacoity, he should commit suicide, resign, take leave and go home - and do it strictly in that order.”
A year later, during my posting as Circle Officer, Phulpur in Allahabad I learnt that the knowledgeableVice-Principal might have been hinting at learning some novel ways of controlling dacoities. In a circle neighbouring mine dacoities had become very frequent and the S. S. P. expressed his utter displeasure to the concerned circle officer. The circle officer ran around day and night but dacoits ran faster than him and the number of Special Reports of dacoities kept on increasing. So the clueless circle officer proceeded on two months’ leave. The S. S. P. ordered that the charge of this circle be taken over by a veteran circle officer Mathura Singh. And lo and behold, from the day Mathura Singh took over charge of this circle, the number of special reports of dacoity came down to almost zero. The S. S. P. apparently felt relieved, but I was beyond my wits to understand the magic wand applied by Mathura Singh which appeared to have turned all dacoits into sadhus. One day during a gossip session of circle officers, I lauded the achievement of Mathura Singh and asked him about such extremely effective steps taken by him. He seemed to have smiled at my childish query, and told patronizingly,
“Give me any circle, and I guaranty control of dacoities within two days.” Having said that he excused himself and after his departure I repeated my query to another veteran circle officer. This circle officer’s disclosed,
“Mathura Singh is known far and wide among police officers for immediate control of dacoities. No sooner he is given charge of a circle, he calls all the Station Officers (S.Os.) and tells them in no uncertain terms that he hates seeing a special report of dacoity; if he sees the first he will recommend award of adverse entry to the S.O and on second report he will get the S.O reverted. Thereafter no F. I.R. of a dacoity is written at the police station; even when it is impossible to shirk writing F. I. R. like a dacoity accompanied with murder, the report is written u/s 460 I.P.C. which is a crime defined as committing murder while having entered a house at night for theft.”
This revelation made me understand why no Superintendent of Police commits suicide, resigns, takes leave and goes home even when the dacoits make hay in the sunshine of police laxity.