Minimum government: On breakdown of governance in Delhi

The Centre faces a trust deficit as it seeks to restore public order in riot-hit Delhi

The communal violence that has claimed 42 lives since Sunday has been subdued but tensions continue to simmer in Delhi. Stories of human courage and camaraderie that shone through amid orchestrated mayhem offer hope, but what rankles is the complete breakdown of governance from top to bottom in the national capital. Several credible accounts of horrendous acts of omission and commission by the Delhi Police have emerged. Instead of taking the police to task and wringing them into action, the Central government and the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor have fielded the Solicitor-General to shield them from judicial scrutiny. The Centre’s position in the court that action cannot be taken against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders who made incendiary speeches until the police had perused all such speeches is analogous to arguing that one criminal cannot be probed unless all others are also probed — a bizarre logic. The Delhi High Court, which took up the matter with the urgency that the situation demands on Wednesday, incapacitated itself a day later as a different bench headed by the Chief Justice D.N. Patel put the case off to April 13. Meanwhile, Kapil Mishra, one of the BJP leaders against whom police action was sought, called for a rally on Saturday, purportedly for peace but clearly intended to stoke the fire. The arguments of the country’s law officer were a public admission of the government’s refusal to act against members of the BJP. With such blatant partisanship and abdication of responsibility, the government cannot be expected to stop violence and restore communal peace.

Meanwhile, the Delhi police have acted swiftly against Tahir Hussain, an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Councillor accused of involvement in murder and keeping sticks, stones and petrol bombs on the terrace of his house that was surrounded by a mob. The AAP has since suspended him from membership, and endorsed the police action against him. While the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act took a communal turn in several places, a counter-mobilisation also on communal lines has pushed the city to the brink in recent weeks. Right to assemble and protest is a fundamental right, but its exercise has to be in accordance with requirements of public order. It is the duty of the police to ensure that constitutional guarantees are upheld on the one hand, while, on the other, life and work goes on normally for the general population. The Central and Delhi governments, the police, and the judiciary have come up short against these markers of the rule of law. They are all facing a severe deficit of trust among the citizens. Peace and normalcy can be achieved only through restoration of the majesty and impartiality of the government. Unfortunately, there is no effort visible in that direction.

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This article has been corrected for a spelling error.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 8:32:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/minimum-government-the-hindu-editorial-on-breakdown-of-governance-in-delhi/article30945538.ece

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