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Home secretary comes under fire

New Delhi, Jan. 23 (PTI): Union home secretary R.K. Singh faced the ire of the Justice J.S. Verma committee, which said he should have sought an apology from Delhi police for failing to protect citizens instead of praising the force in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape.

Singh got the rap for praising Delhi commissioner Neeraj Kumar at a news conference after the force arrested six persons in connection with the gang rape in Delhi of a 23-year-old paramedical student, which sparked nationwide outrage.

“The commissioner of police was given a pat on his back by no less than a person holding the post of home secretary. I was shocked to see that,” Verma told a news conference here after submitting a report on measures to improve laws dealing with sexual offences against women.

He said the least the home secretary should have done was to seek an apology for the failure of the police to protect citizens.

Commenting on the protests, Verma complimented the youth for their mature response. “Youth has taught us what we, the older generation, were not aware of. I was struck by the peaceful manner in which the protests were carried out... the youth rose to the occasion,” he said.

However, the panel was critical of the police response to the protests.

“The lathicharge on peaceful demonstrators after the December 16 gang rape has scarred Indian democracy,” it said.

The panel also noted the “peculiarity” of the Delhi government not having any control over police, which reports to the Union home ministry.

This is the reason given publicly by chief minister Sheila Dikshit for the absence of responsibility of her government, it said.

“This ambiguity must be removed forthwith so that there is no divided responsibility in Delhi in respect of maintenance of law and order. Such a step is also essential to maintain accountability,” the committee said.

The panel was of the view that the “undisputed facts” related to the incident “unmistakably” disclose the failure of many public functionaries in traffic regulation, maintenance of law and order and more importantly, “their low and skewed priority” in dealing with complaints of sexual assault.