Though the Delhi Police have suspended an Assistant Commissioner of Police for slapping a young woman protester on Saturday, besides the Gandhi Nagar Station House Officer and the case Investigating Officer on allegations of offering hush money to parents of the five-year-old rape victim, legal experts insist that suspension per se is not a punishment.

“Suspension is not strictly a punishment. It is rather a precaution to ensure an impartial inquiry into the allegations made against the government official concerned. The official is placed under suspension so that he remains in no position to influence the inquiry. This is how objectivity of the investigations is maintained. Putting an officer on suspension may be just the beginning of an impartial enquiry into the alleged lapse and it must conclude with concrete outcome so that a message is given that serious lapses will have consequences,” said Anant Asthana, a lawyer at the Delhi High Court.

Retired Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi said according to rules, suspension is not a punishment. However, she said, it did impact the career of the officer involved as it can delay promotions, he gets half the salary and a departmental inquiry is initiated against him. Even if the officer gets a clean chit, the stigma of suspension remains. Therefore, although it is not a punishment per se, it is demeaning, she added.

While a departmental inquiry has been initiated against B.S. Ahlawat, the former ACP of the Khajuri Khas sub-division, sources said he was suspended on two previous occasions. “He was once accused of being involved in grabbing a property and in another case he faced allegations of torturing a theft suspect,” said a police source. However, Mr. Ahlawat was reinstated on both occasions after the charges could not be substantiated.

“A vigilance inquiry has also been initiated against the area SHO and the case IO. While the report is yet to be finalised, circumstantial evidence suggests that the local police failed to take swift action and did not even check the building from where the victim had gone missing… Then there would have been greater possibility of their tracing the victim early. This would have not only saved her from nearly 40 hours of trauma but would have also provided early leads on the identity of the accused and led to his prompt arrest,” said a police officer.

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