The Prakash Singh inquiry panel, whose report was made public by the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government on Tuesday, said then director general of police Yashpal Singal remained confined to Chandigarh and did not lead the force from the front. “The DGP was content with issuing some orders and did not care to inspire or motivate the personnel in the field. He found time to visit the places affected by violence on 23 and 24 February (after the violence had stopped). It would have been better if he had visited by chopper at least the districts worst affected while the agitation was at its peak,” according to the report.
The committee was also disappointed that the DGP did not even have a video conference with the superintendents of police when they were battling a very critical law and order situation. “A police chief is expected to lead from the front in a crisis situation. Singal, unfortunately, did not give that impression,” Singh wrote in his findings.
The inquiry report, which submitted to the state government on May 13, said that additional director general (law and order) Muhammad Akil could have gone to the districts, but the officer told the committee that he was prevented from going on tour during the worst period of riots because the DGP wanted him by his side.
HOME DEPARTMENT REMAINED DORMANT
The probe report came down heavily on the state home department also, calling it a ‘washout’. “The department remained dormant and officers in the field felt leaderless. The only smart move from the headquarters was the deputation of senior IAS and IPS officers to some districts to assist the local officers. The senior officers did whatever fire-fighting they possibly could,” according to the report.
The panel said the then additional chief secretary, home, PK Das could not produce before the committee even one page of directions or instructions which he may have issued to the deputy commissioners or the superintendents of police. “The home department should have played a more active role…….the committee was told that necessary directions were given through WhatsApp. Social media is a useful channel. However, it should be used to supplement the regular, time-tested, official channels and not to substitute it,” it said.
Commenting on erosion of authority of the home department, the report said that over the years, the former chief ministers with a view to concentrating powers in their own office eroded the authority of certain institutions. “The office of the chief secretary in the state does not command the power or enjoy the prestige it does in most of the states. The home department also plays a somewhat subsidiary role in matters relating to law and order. These distortions need to be corrected if we do not wish to see a similar administrative paralysis in the event of a major challenge to law and order situation in future,” it said. Das had also explained to the committee the institutional decay and the erosion in the authority of the home department in the state. NO CONTROL ROOM, SITREP
The retired IPS officer, who had served in various positions in the state and central governments, questioned the procedural lapse, pointing that there was no state control room – it is a standard practice in most states to have a control room in a critical situation – during the riots or system of situation reports (Sitrep) being sent by district on a daily basis when the situation was really serious. “In most states, when there is serious law and order situation, the deputy commissioner/district magistrate and the SP send a joint Sitrep to the home department, DGP and other concerned officers every evening to keep them posted of the latest development. The practice ensures that the DC and the SP work in close coordination,” the panel wrote, expressing disappointment.
The committee, which has indicted 90 police and civil officers, felt that the contingency to send senior officers from the headquarters should never have arisen and established institutions and the recognised hierarchy should have been able to rise to the occasion, howsoever serious, and deal with it. The problems arose because institutions had been subverted, procedures had been corrupted and the police organisation in particular had been politicized to an extent where it has become almost dysfunctional and incapable of handling very grave situations, it said.
Commenting on the crux of the problem, the retired IPS officer hit out at the recruitment of constabulary in the state, which, in his words, has been tainted for the last more than a decade. “Men have been enrolled in khaki not for their merit but for their background and the satisfaction they gave to the political masters or their agents. Postings even at the district level are not always done on merit and there are extraneous considerations which weigh with the home department and the police headquarters,” he wrote.