More teeth for police flying squad

Right now at least 24 scooterists would be thanking their stars that a Head Constable of Delhi police and his assistant Constable who had sought money from them for not implicating them in false cases are facing departmental action. Both were caught red-handed by the Flying Squad of the Vigilance Department of Delhi police, which swung into action after a five-year gap this past week.

The two police personnel -- Head Constable Preet Pal and Constable Chattrapal -- were arrested on the charge of misusing their official position and accepting money from a scooterist whom they had threatened to implicate in a false case for not possessing the vehicle insurance papers.

The two might consider themselves unlucky for having fallen into a trap laid by the Flying Squad, which had been defunct for nearly half a decade. The squad was revived by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Vigilance), Mr S.K. Gautam, and as he had received a complaint that Head Constable Preetpal and Constable Chattrapal had forced a man to part with money by threatening to book him, it was first used on them.

The two personnel had stopped Ajay Joshi near Minto Bridge, while he was riding a scooter, and asked him to show his licence. He did as told. But then the cops asked for the insurance papers. Though he also showed them the insurance papers, the cops noted his registration number and threatened to fine him Rs 2,200 if he did not cough up Rs 550.

The two cops, who were indulging in the extortion racket, were caught by the Flying Squad on June 29 evening. A sum of Rs 1,000, allegedly collected from other scooterists, was found on them along with a list of 24 registration numbers of two-wheelers. The accused had demanded money from all these two-wheeler riders.

Ever since the Vigilance Department came up with this catch, it has been receiving a steady stream of information through telephone calls and letters from people, who have been complaining of similar harassment in other parts of the city.

The Joint Commissioner of Police (Vigilance), Mr Satish Chandra, says: ``The department would intensify action against wrong- doers''. Stating that additional manpower has been sought for the Flying Squad, he points out that the present strength of an Assistant Commissioner of Police and an Inspector was just not enough.

As of now the Flying Squad also does not have a separate vehicle to itself and the vehicle of the ACP is being used for the job. Things are expected to change for the better soon as the Vigilance Department now wants to give the squad more teeth.

A brainchild of former Commissioner of Delhi police, Mr Ved Marwah, the Flying Squad never really lived up to its expectations. For obvious reasons it remained an ignored baby. ``When you don't supervise operations, people don't work. And that is precisely what happened here,'' says Mr Chandra.

But now plans have been put into motion to streamline the squad. Mr S.K. Gautam says besides acting on specific complaints, the squad would also act on its own and nab wrongdoers with the help of decoy customers. The operations would be akin to the special drives which have been undertaken against Traffic personnel by the department in the past.

Of late, the Vigilance Department has also increased supervision at police stations. There have been nearly half-a-dozen special checks by Vigilance officials in police stations in the recent past for examining the conduct of the personnel there. In three instances the personnel were found in the wrong as they refused to register complaints and departmental action was initiated against them.

As in the case of the two nabbed accused -- whose misconduct was reported to the New Delhi district police, which subsequently placed them under suspension -- the Vigilance Department has now come to the conclusion that rather than booking the guilty for extortion and other small criminal charges it is better to take departmental action against them.

When a criminal case is registered, the complainant is forced to do the rounds of courts for years and this leaves him a harassed person. Besides, if the complainant later retracts under some pressure, the accused personnel stands to get all the benefits for the period he is kept out of service.

On the other hand, in case of departmental action, the statement of the complainant is recorded by senior officials within months and the accused personnel loses all benefits after his dismissal. Having learnt these facts the hard way, the police have now started initiating departmental action against all corrupt officers.

Though mostly the Vigilance Department remains mired in complaints against officials, Mr Gautam says efforts are being made to increase supervision at the ground level. This is expected to deter the cops on the road and in police stations from indulging in wrong practices, provide direct relief to the general public and improve the image of the police force.