New Delhi, Feb. 15: Unlike Arvind Kejriwal who has not had a moment of rest after giving up his day job, Vijay Pal is making the most of the longest paid leave in his 20-year career.
Inspector Pal has a country cousin from Haryana to thank — Kejriwal. But the police officer’s family is worried the good times are over with the resignation of the chief minister.
When Kejriwal was chief minister, he had taken the extraordinary step of sleeping on the road to press the demand that Pal and four other officers of Delhi police be suspended. The five were eventually sent on leave — a face-saver that was snatched by Kejriwal to call off his dharna in the Republic Day week.
It is this paid leave that Pal and his family are enjoying now in their village in Rewari, Haryana — the state from where the Aam Aadmi Party leader also hails.
Pal was station house officer of Malviya Nagar police station when he refused to follow the orders of then Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti to raid houses on the suspicion that they were harbouring drug and prostitution rackets. As part of an agreement, Pal and another officer were sent on leave, pending the outcome of a judicial inquiry.
The inquiry may find Pal innocent or guilty. But the immediate concern for the family is that the paid vacation may be over soon.
“Kejriwalji’s resignation is bad news for my family as they think I will have to go back and join the force soon. My wife and parents were very happy after I was asked to go on leave as I hardly spent time with them earlier. I also do not complain as I am getting my full salary,” Pal, 45, told The Telegraph over phone.
Kejriwal had ended the dharna on January 21 after a judicial inquiry was ordered by lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung. The inquiry is being conducted by a retired additional district and sessions judge, B.L. Garg, and the report is still awaited.
Pal has been on leave from January 21 night — 25 days and counting. Pal has since taken up farming and is growing vegetables on his ancestral land, apart from spending time with his family members.
“Earlier, the maximum leave I got during my 20-year-old career as a Delhi police officer was 15 days at a stretch. It has been a blessing in disguise for my family,” Pal said.
The other officer who has been sent on leave is Sanjay Singh, the inspector in charge of the police PCR van in central Delhi on the night a Danish woman was gang-raped in Paharganj.
Both officers are eligible for full salary and perks as leave is not punishment. If the inquiry clears them, they can rejoin. If found guilty, they can be suspended — a dreaded punishment because it halves salary and impacts the career ahead.
In spite of getting to spend time with his family, Pal said, he was missing his first love: the uniform that made him join Delhi police as sub-inspector in the 1990s.
“I get calls from my colleagues and friends everyday…. I am sure I will come out clean in the inquiry report,” he said.
Assistant commissioner B.S. Jakhar, who was among the five whose suspension was sought by Kejriwal, said: “We are accountable to the people and we have to work within the framework of the law of the land. It’s very unfortunate that policemen were targeted for discharging their duty.”
No action was taken against Jakhar as demanded by Kejriwal for failing to act against his subordinate officer Pal. Jakhar, who had told the law minister not to cross the limit, was also among those who protected the chief minister when he went to the Rail Bhavan toilet to relieve himself during his dharna.
Recalling the night the officers were ordered to raid homes of African women in south Delhi, Jakhar said: “We have follow the Criminal Procedure Code. The police cannot raid a house and arrest a person without any rhyme or reason.”
Additional deputy commissioner P.S. Kushwaha, one of the officers in charge of south Delhi, said the inquiry against Pal and Singh were going on and the chief minister’s resignation would have no bearing on it.
“The inquiry was ordered by the lieutenant governor and the retired sessions judge is heading it. The officers will be asked to rejoin duty if they get clean chit after the inquiry,” Kushwaha said.