It is irony of the times that we live in that Delhi Police personnel on Wednesday gathered outside the office of the Commissioner to ask for protection for themselves.

Astonishingly, a parking dispute at the Tis Hazari court complex in Delhi on Saturday snowballed into situation in which lawyers, who are supposed to be the custodians of law, resorted to beating up police personnel. They claim that the attack was a reaction to the police firing on them, injuring some of their colleagues. The police claimed they only fired in the air. Since Monday, lawyers in six Delhi district courts have been on strike, inconveniencing litigants.

A proper enquiry will be able to establish the exact sequence of events. But the violence by the lawyers reflects two unfortunate tendencies: the malaise in our society where instant justice by the mob is fast becoming the norm and also the growing gap between the police top brass and the beat constable.

Lax implementation

The main cause of the growing lawlessness in our society is the lax and partial implementation of the law.

In several instances, even the police do not seem to care for the law themselves. In 2016, for instance, it was the police who had connived with lawyers at Delhi’s Patiala House courts when student leader Kanhiya Kumar who was in their custody was beaten up badly by lawyers.

One of the lawyers involved in that attack boasted on camera about how he and his colleagues had thrashed Kumar. No action appears to have been taken either against that lawyer or to any one else involved in the assault. No wonder the lawyers at Tis Hazari believed that they had immunity from punishment, even if they attacked policemen on Saturday.

Policemen and their families protest at India Gate in Delhi on Tuesday. Credit: PTI

This sense of impunity also characterises the lynchings that have become more frequent in recent years. Members of lynch mobs boast about their acts on camera, encouraged by the fact that the attackers in previous attacks have been protected from justice because of investigations that have been botched up – often deliberately. A number of examples can be cited where even videographed proof and dying declarations of lynching victims have even not been taken on record. This is clearly done at the behest of politicians to protect criminals who are party supporters.

This aura of impunity was doubtless what allowed a mob on Hindutva supporters in Bulandshahr to kill Inspector Subodh Kumar of the Uttar Pradesh Police in 2018 as he tried to prevent them from creating trouble over an alleged case of cow slaughter.

For the police personnel on the ground, it isn’t just the pervasive sense of lawlessness that poses a challenge. They must also deal with ineffectual leadership from officers of the Indian Police Service. Tuesday’s protest in Delhi was a reflection of this.

Politicised leadership

It is becoming increasingly clear that the IPS leadership is totally politicised. Even though they routinely blame the political class for their problems, senior officers operate with the knowledge that political patronage will boost their careers and help them land prestigious postings.

IPS officers advocate police reform but are unwilling to change matters within their sphere of influence. They have no interest in improving the living and working conditions of policemen, whose barracks are mostly in a shambles. They speak of modernising equipment, communication systems and weaponry but show no interest in improving training standards.

It is high time that we pay attention to police leadership reforms. The relic of British era, the Indian Police Service is in urgent need of overhaul to compel them to come out of their ivory towers and lead from the front. Police leaders have to focus on making the organisation a “service” instead of a “force”.

Sanjiv Krishan Sood is a retired additional director general of the Border Security Force.