Additional Director-General of Police R.P. Sharma, who is in the thick of controversy with the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) staff going on strike demanding withdrawal of cases booked against its engineers by the Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF), says the strike is a farce.

Speaking to The Hindu, he said that the ‘real picture’ was that there isn’t a single pourakarmika on strike. “The truth is that they have all withdrawn the strike. The entire thing is a misrepresentation by those who want to create hype around this.” Questioning the legality and rationale of such a collective demand, he said there are several vested interests at play, particularly those accused of various illegalities.

BMTF, he said, had sent a formal representation to the Urban Development Department in which he and others have expressed their views on the task force’s autonomous structure, and on why such a body is essential and needs to be strengthened.

‘Violating the Constitution’

Reacting to demands that BMTF’s police powers be withdrawn and that it be brought under the BBMP Commissioner, Mr. Sharma said: “Any depreciation of police powers or deviation to the existing structure of the institution will contravene the provisions of the Constitution of India and other statutory rules.”

Mr. Sharma pointed out that the strikers’ action “indirectly hampers the judicial order and such interference can amount to criminal contempt of judicial process.” “As a police investigator, all I have to say is that if they wish to question the legality of [our] actions, then the proper way to do it would be to raise the issue in legal forums. Instead, they are sitting in shamianas outside the BBMP and on the roads.”

The controversy

The major bone of contention here is a 1996 Government Order that gives the BMTF the powers of a police station. BBMP sources revealed that a draft with alterations to this order is under way and is presently with the Commissioner. However, attempts to bring the BMTF under BBMP may be contested on the grounds that other civic agencies such as the BDA are also in the ambit of BMTF’s duties.

The smear campaign against the BMTF has not spared its chief. Allegations of Mr. Sharma violating building norms while constructing a house in Doddagubbi raised a storm in the BBMP Council when councillors across parties criticised BMTF’s functioning and took exception to the treatment of BBMP engineers as “criminals”.

They were referring to the FIRs filed against BBMP engineers, including the Engineer-in-Chief, for not acting against complaints of building plan violations. The councillors said BMTF’s powers must be clipped by bringing it under the purview of the BBMP Commissioner.

Why it was constituted

To this, BBMP Commissioner M.K. Shankarlinge Gowda said the BMTF had been formed in 1996 to protect the property of civic agencies like the BBMP and BDA. According to the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act 1976, it has to be governed by rules prescribed by the Commissioner. However, no rules have been framed so far.

Further, according to the Karnataka Civil Services Rules any inquiry authority has to get a letter from the “appointing authority”, before taking action against any government employee.

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