Noida Incidents - Collusion, Connivance, or Callous Incompetence

It was a bit queasy to read in a national newspaper about the Noida police "pressurizing into surrendering in court" a notorious criminal suspected to be behind last Tuesday's horrendous crimes of killing an ex-airhostess and shooting a former army lieutenant general! In the policing I knew, we did not pressurize or persuade criminals to surrender in court - we just went and arrested them, or at least endeavored sincerely to arrest.

What's more, it is learnt the criminal - Jatinder Yadav alias Lachchu, who was also wanted for previous crimes, actually did surrender and was remanded by the court in judicial custody - from where the police intend to get him on remand, to question him for his involvement in the latest crimes of April 8 in Noida.

The blatant shooting spree at point blank range in which retired Lt. Gen. T.J.S. Gill was shot and air-hostess Sheeba Thomas was killed has effectively spread terror and sent the sense of security around plummeting, as also shocked the collective conscience of the people; as did similar incidents that occurred in Delhi's Kalkaji, Masjid Moth and Ashok Vihar areas just a day earlier.

It now turns out the two reported Noida incidents were preceded by three other similar earlier the same night - which were not acted upon promptly by the police dispensation there, despite knowledge - resulting in the more serious shootings that followed. Such callousness does not help improve the already low police image, nor does it help the 'police cause' while defending the services they otherwise render.

In police parlance 'persuading', 'pressurizing' or letting a criminal surrender in court was always viewed with suspicion and considered as conniving or colluding with the criminal by affording him an opportunity to escape being 'properly' interrogated by the police. In fact the practice has always been the other way around - with police parties lying in wait outside court premises to nab a criminal when he makes the attempt, whenever there is the slightest hint of a possible surrender.

Also, more often than not, notorious wanted men have been known to surrender before courts in districts not their own, or of neighboring states. Till Delhi Police gained its reputation for 'encounters' most wanted Uttar Pradesh gangsters were known to surrender in Delhi for fear of being eliminated by trigger-happy, medal-seeking cops back home. This would more often than not be achieved through a known Delhi Police contact who could then claim credit for the arrest.

To facilitate local jurisdiction, a minor offence like one under the arms act would at best be foisted on the criminal - with full cooperation from the criminal of course! The surrendered daku could then cool his heels in a Delhi jail in relative safety away from his tormentors till the heat wears off or it is convenient perhaps for him to secure bail and re-emerge on the scene when his political mentors are back in the saddle.

Not only Uttar Pradesh gangsters but other criminals and wanted suspects did it too: Sushil Sharma of the infamous Tandoor murder case of the mid-1990s tried similarly to surrender in a court in Chennai and ultimately did succeed in surrendering before a suburban court in Bangalore Rural District - in an attempt to be incarcerated in a Karnataka jail just so he could escape the clutches of Delhi Police which had launched a nation-wide hunt for him.

More recently, the now convicted IPS officer R. K. Sharma had surrendered before a court in Ambala when Delhi Police were gunning for him in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case.

The incidents of Delhi and Noida catapulting to the fore negative aspects of police laxity, perceived incompetence and/or collusion has come at a time when the police leadership in the country is battling to highlight the grossly discriminatory treatment that's been meted out to the police services in the recently publicized recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission.

Police in the country are a demoralized lot today, with each successive pay commission downgrading their pay structure and increasing the existing disparities vis-'-vis corresponding levels in other services. Relegating the police in whose hands the internal security of the country and its people is entrusted to a pedantic and plebian status does not augur well for the nation or its people. Neglecting any further the just demands of the police services will only be to the detriment of the already dying criminal justice system in the country.

Back to the Noida incidents, the Mayavati government, it appears, has acted - albeit superficially and to save face - axing the station house officer and the control room in-charge concerned by placing them under suspension for laxity in the performance of their duties.

Finding scapegoats to put the blame on post the incident is all very well. But does this really hold water? What about addressing the maladies that perennially plague police functioning? What about changing the collusive police mind set and non-responsive attitudes? More importantly, what about some dignity of a decent pay to possibly lift them out of the morass of corruption? And, lastly, what about providing the basic policing infrastructure of manpower and equipment needed?

(Maxwell Pereira is a former joint commissioner of Delhi Police. He can be reached at mfjpkamath@gmail.com)


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