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The Secret of Magisterial, Judicial & Commissions of Enquiries
|by Mahesh Chandra Dewedy|
On 16th July, 1957 when for the first time I entered B. Sc. (1st. year) Statistics class, Dr. Adhikari, the professor, had started thus,
Students, who had come from Convent background understood the meaning of the wisecrack and had a hearty laugh, and Desi students like me, who did not understand either head or tail of this, also followed suit in order to escape looking too Desi.
Later, when I joined district Jhansi as A. S. P., Mr. Goel, an extremely pragmatic and successful S. P., had advised me in a similar vein,
The government is well aware of these facts. Therefore, in order to defuse such situations, it has created certain instruments called enquiries- Magisterial Enquiry, Judicial Enquiry and Commission of Enquiry. Remember that the more bombastic is the name of the enquiry, the more likely its report is to be of no consequence. In their effect, if not in content, the reports of these enquiries rank successively in the order of lies, white lies and Statistics. So learn to cool a hot situation by recommending one of such enquiries. If the circumstances are such that comparatively quick conclusion of enquiry is called for, then recommend Magisterial Enquiry; but, in this there will be some risk of adverse report against police. If you do not mind continuation of enquiry for 4-5 years but are keener that everybody should escape punishment, then recommend Judicial Enquiry. And if you want to be absolutely certain of no punishment to anybody but do not mind the continuance of enquiry for decades, then recommend Commission of Enquiry.”
I could not control appearance of a broad smile on my face, while I was trying to assimilate the true meaning of his words. The S. P., who was looking at me intently to see that I were not taking his advice as a joke, added,
These observations of the S. P. appeared more as a rhetoric than truth to me, because they were exactly opposite of public perception. But as I grew in the administration, I realized that the S. P. had only revealed the truth quite truthfully.
The first corroboration of S.P’s advice came when I was S. P. Pilibhit. On hearing the complaint of a village woman that not only her complaint of theft had not been written at the police station, but the Sub-Inspector had also misbehaved with her, I ordered a Dy. S. P. to conduct a quick preliminary enquiry so that exemplary punishment could be awarded to the guilty. I had assured the woman that the erring official would be dealt with severely. On seventh day when I called the enquiring officer to know about the enquiry’s progress, he dropped a surprise-bomb on me,
I was furious for my inability to punish the guilty and remained tense for more than a week, but I had to remain content with simply transferring the Sub-Inspector to an insignificant post.
During British period and for more than a decade thereafter the C. I. D. enjoyed such a high reputation for efficiency and integrity that everybody dissatisfied with investigation by local police requested for a C. I. D. investigation. But our Netas soon managed to ensure that C. I. D. became so ineffective and biased that demand for transferring investigation from district police to C. I. D. started coming from the guilty accused persons rather than from the complainant. This maneuverability of C. I. D. became clear to me when during my posting as S.P. Basti, a truck driver was badly thrashed by the son of an M. L. A. for delay in giving pass to his car. The M. L. A. was close to the C. M. I ordered arrest of the accused, but the S. O. did not muster courage and came out with an excuse that the accused had fled to Nepal. The opposition was crying foul and the matter was taking serious political overtones. Then a senior police officer close to C. M. advised me to send a request for transferring the investigation to C. I. D. on the ground of its being politically important. I did the same and the case was transferred to C. I. D. promptly. The investigating officer of C. I. D. happened to be a man with some guts. He issued a warrant of arrest of the accused. Before this warrant could be executed, this officer was transferred and another ‘suitable’ officer was posted in his place. He withdrew the warrant and started reinvestigation of the case. This ‘suitable’ officer took ‘suitably long’ time in investigation and ultimately gave a ‘suitable’ report that no arrest is called for because no independent witness had corroborated the allegation.
Magisterial enquiry is mandatory in case of firing by police. But in other cases also in which public are agitated about any police action or inaction, it is often used as an instrument of placating the public. The executive magistrates take fairly long time in completing the enquiry, which pacifies the forgetful public. Moreover, on conclusion of magisterial enquiry, any departmental or judicial action can be taken only after a senior police officer carries out departmental proceedings or registers a criminal case and investigates. It is interesting to know that British people created no such institution of executive magistrates in their own country (Britain), where the Police was made directly responsible for its acts - bad or good. But in countries under British rule this institution was created by the British to act as a buffer between the police and the public.
Judicial enquiries are ordered in matters of greater importance and are often of lesser value. My posting in Basti gave me opportunity of facing two judicial enquiries – one against myself and another against a Station Officer. They were a great eye-opener to me.
The facts in the first case were that I had got a case of cheating and misappropriation of funds registered against Mr. Pande, a ruling Congress party M. L. A. and his shadow (a police constable) after collecting foolproof written evidence against them. On coming to know of this, the M. L. A. sent a telegram to the C. M., Speaker and I. G. (head of state police) that I had attempted to commit his murder by firing at him when he was moving in his constituency on a bicycle (during those days M. L. A. moving on a bicycle was not the eighth wonder of the world). Next day in the Vidhan Sabha he narrated the so-called murder-attempt with eyes full of tears. As the matter related to an M. L. A’s security and dignity, entire House got up and in unison demanded my arrest. The I. G. rang me up to know the facts. Luckily for me at the time of reported murder-attempt I was at the house of a local minister, whose Bhabhi had died that very day. I told the I. G. accordingly and he communicated the same to the C. M. But the M. L. As. - particularly belonging to opposition- insisted on a high level enquiry and did not allow the House to carryon business. Then to placate them, the C. M. ordered a judicial enquiry. The judge took long time in completing the enquiry, where I had to appear repeatedly to defend myself along with an advocate. At long last the judge gave the true report that the allegation was false, concocted and with a motive of getting the S. P., who had registered criminal case against the M. L. A., punished. This report of the judicial enquiry was probably not read even by a Babu of the secretariat because no action was initiated against the M. L. A. The criminal case registered by me against the M. L. A. and his shadow was investigated by the C.I. D., which submitted charge-sheet against them (it may or may not be a coincidence that the charge-sheet was submitted after the M. L. A. was defeated in the election). But when the trial commenced, he had again become M. L. A. of ruling Janata Dal. The trial was about to result in his conviction, when the M.L. A. got the case withdrawn by order of Mr. Banarasi Das, the then C. M. The obliging C. M. not only withdrew the case but also made him a minister. And then this minister got his shadow promoted soon to the rank of Head Constable. This incident made me wise about two golden rules: First- ‘Unless a police officer has masochistic tendency of enjoying one’s own discomfiture, one should not indulge in the totally futile attempt to get a politician punished for his crimes.’ Second: ‘Proximity to a maneuvering politician is surest way to promotion irrespective of one’s deeds.’
I had to face the second judicial enquiry because on receiving information of communal tension due to cow slaughter in a village, Station Officer of police station Dudhara, district Basti had badly thrashed some Muslims of the village which was notorious for cow slaughter. Cow slaughter, being a communally sensitive matter, the incident had assumed considerable political importance not only locally but also in Lucknow. Local M. L. A., who was a Muslim, was leading the Muslim group which demanded severe action against the S. O. I had transferred the S. O. to another Police Station and asked the Circle Officer to conduct preliminary enquiry into allegations of excessive beating, so that further action could be taken (a preliminary enquiry is mandatory before commencing departmental action). But the Muslims were not satisfied, so the government ordered a judicial enquiry. A retired judge of the High Court started the enquiry and after about 4 years submitted a report which appeared simply amazing. The main recommendations of the report were,
1. Due to cow slaughter a serious communal situation had developed and the S. O. had handled it very wisely by applying necessary force.
2. For having acted so wisely the S. O. should not only be awarded but also be promoted.
The moral of this story for me was that if a police officer wanted accelerated promotion, he should create a situation culminating in a judicial enquiry against himself.
Commissions of enquiry consist of members, who are mostly persons retired from very senior posts. They are too well aware of the fruitlessness of their report to take their work seriously. Their primary aim wisely remains to procrastinate the enquiry so as to ensure continuance of the pay and perks enjoyed by them. During my police career I read reports of umpteen numbers of commissions and also about the disdain with which they were treated by the government. I also got an opportunity of facing National Police Commission, whose recommendations made in 1981 are awaiting implementation even after passage of 31 long years despite Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order to implement them without delay. Thus I can say with confidence that in case of allegations against someone, if one manages to get a Commission of Enquiry set up against oneself, then one would be safe for at least 32 years (2013-1981), which period is enough for retirement from service, if not from life.
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Mahesh Chandra Dewedy
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