A detrimental debate
The ongoing IPS vs CAPF struggle is an unnecessarily politicised (and publicised) affair that must be swiftly resolved least internal security of the nation comes under risk
The recent debate and court cases between CAPF cadre officers and IPS officers on deputation to CAPFs is a well-publicised affair. But perhaps what may slip our attention in the barrage of #IPSGoBack and #ApnaTimeAayegaCAPF trends on social media is the fact that CAPFs like CRPF, CISF, RPF, etc., were created as part of the Armed Forces of the Union of India with the specific purposes of deployment in the states in aid of civil authorities to maintain public order, internal security, border management, providing security to high-risk individuals and vital installations among others. The Government of India structured these forces in such a manner so as not to infringe upon the federal structure of the Constitution by which police and public order are state subjects. No CAPF outfit operates in any area within India which does not belong to some state and is not in any police district that is headed by a uniformed civil servant. CAPFs while on internal security duties, aid and assist the state police and operate only under the direction of the district in-charge such as an SP. Even forces like the BSF and ITBP that provide border security operate within the border strip which is not a federal territory but in fact belongs to a state, in close coordination with local state police and intelligence forces.
The Indian Police Service, on the other hand, is one of the three All India Services and also the main coordinating service between the Central and state governments with regards to policing and internal security. It owes its present shape and character directly to the vision of the architect of United India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. IPS officers, who are common to the Union and states as per the Constitutional scheme, play an important role in the overall security architecture of the country. Services of the members of the IPS are utilised in carrying out day to day policing functions, law and order duties as well as for strategising the fight against insurgency, militancy and terrorism in various parts of the country in leadership roles of state police organisations as well as CAPFs.
All CAPFs have traditionally been led by senior IPS officers and cadres of officers of the CAPFs are recruited for a middle management role similar to the role of the state police service in state police forces, for assisting the top leadership of their respective organisations. This vilification campaign of 'end IPS hegemony' which has now reached the steps of the Supreme Court is a highly misguided and misunderstood narrative that has now taken the form of a rather systematic and politically driven movement, which if left unchecked, could result in altering the very structure of the internal security apparatus in the country, with consequential erosion of states' capacity to maintain public order and security while also impacting national security at the level of the Central Government.
To begin with, the Delhi High Court's recent judgements in this matter are somewhat perplexing as it has no jurisdiction whatsoever with regards to All India Services and OGAS (Organised Group A Service). Moreover, internal security is a sovereign function and it cannot be at the mercy of some disgruntled CAPFs officers. The issue in question here isn't about IPS vs CAPF, it's about efficient utilisation of state infrastructure in maintaining law and order. Should CAPF cadre officers have better career prospects and remuneration? Absolutely! Should the internal security apparatus be tweaked for the same? Not in the slightest. Here is why.
CAPFs are raised, trained and deployed for very specific tasks. If deployed for anti-Naxal operations, their objectives, by way of their functioning, is limited to maintaining the status quo and ensuring a strong presence of force. If required, they are equipped and taught to engage the enemy better than state police forces ever can, for they operate with a 'no casualty' motto. However, what they lack in their training and modus operandi are mediation skills and moderation in the use of force. If left under the command of their cadre officers, they do not understand the sensibility of democratic aspirations and are prone to use excessive force. Examples of excesses committed by CAPFs and the Army surface not very infrequently.
I have seen this occur on many occasions during my 33 years of service during which I have also held command of various armed police units. In July 1997 for example, during a protest against the desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar's statute in Ramabai Nagar in Mumbai, State Armed Police Force used excessive force and gunned down 10 civilians of the Dalit community (besides severely injuring 2 dozen more) because at the time of the incident there was no officer of the civil police present. The presence of force and the use of force are two very different aspects of policing. Instead of containment like in this case, such situations often create more problems than they solve and sow distrust between society and government; because from the public's perspective, all Police, civil, home guard or CAPF is the same and representative of the State's power. IPS officers, all of whom start their careers at the district level, develop years of experience in community policing, dealing with the public, political parties and social and government institutions. They know how to strike a balance between placing restrictions and ensuring freedom based on circumstances and do not shy away from striking a compromise — a skill that is crucial for democracies to succeed. With their diverse postings, they bring in fresh ideas and tactics to an otherwise regimented and monotonous armed unit. They are therefore better suited to take command of armed battalions on deputation.
Mere knowledge and theory is a burden while mere bravery and force could be counterproductive. A true leader requires the combination of both — knowledge and action and herein, IPS officers act as a bridge between civil and armed police.
The prime order of police is the maintenance of law and order rather than enforcement. Take the case of the Supreme Court's 1994 judgement, wherein it ruled that playing of 'azaan' from loudspeakers is prohibited. Even though it is the law, the police, nationwide, do not enforce this because of maintaining social harmony. Even our criminal justice system is based on the principle of reform and not punishment. CAPFs are deployed only in extraordinary situations and as such require officers who understand the terrain, polity and socio-cultural environment of an area.
If we commit the mistake of handing over the reins of CAPFs to its cadre officers, who is to say that similar demands may not be made by those serving in the CBI, IB or ED in the future? Similarly, Central Civil Service officers may also demand that with them being the backbone of Government of India Ministries, they should be given preference over IAS officers on deputation from the states. Furthermore and more importantly, such a move would shrink the all India character of the IPS and reduce it to a state cadre service wherein officers would have overarching loyalty to the local leadership which may be contrary to the overall perspective of national unity and integrity. Even from a political standpoint, lawmakers have a fear of the unknown when dealing with agency and unit heads who have never faced the political and social pressures of a thriving democracy like ours. The pending litigation in the Delhi High Court needs to be dealt with on priority.
The writer is a BJP MP and former Mumbai Police Commissioner. Views expressed are personal