Above: Delhi CS Anshu Prakash (third from right) and other bureaucrats on a candlelight protest march to Rajghat
What is the truth behind the alleged thrashing of Delhi’s chief secretary at the chief minister’s residence? India Legal’s investigation shows that the real “slap” was political pressure
~By India Legal Bureau
Even as AAP MLAs Prakash Jarwal and Amanatullah Khan remain in judicial custody following their arrest by the Delhi police for their alleged physical assault on the Capital’s chief secretary, Anshu Prakash, on February 19, doubts are being raised about the veracity as well as the real nature of the “assault”.
According to several reliable sources, what is being portrayed in the police records as a violent assault on the senior bureaucrat leading to the FIR, may not have been anything more than an “iritated nudge” of the elbow by a frustrated MLA attending the meeting. And Prakash could have been pressured into filing an FIR reluctantly in order to exaggerate the incident to make it a legally culpable offense.
In fact, Arvind Kejriwal is so insistent that the incident has been fabricated as a continuing practice of harassment of his government that he has recommended that all future meetings between his ministers and government officials be videotaped and live-streamed.
Anshu Prakash is a 1986 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories cadre. The St Stephen’s-educated Economics Honours graduate was made the chief secretary of Delhi in December 2017. He is reportedly mild-mannered and usually avoids confrontation.
From reliable accounts, India Legal has been able to piece together the scenario which led to the latest ugly showdown in the continuing political fracas between Delhi’s babudom, backed by the centre, and the beleaguered AAP legislature led by a much-harried yet feisty Kejriwal:
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
- On February 19, Kejriwal summoned Prakash to his residence for a late night meeting with select legislators and ministers. This is not unusual. A chief minister has this privilege.
- The main bone of contention was Prakash having overruled the CM’s and his cabinet’s decision to release certain public service ads. Prakash insisted he would only be guided by the lieutenant-governor of Delhi on this issue.
- With the turf battles with former Lt-Gov Najeeb Jung, who had stifled several AAP initiatives at the behest of the centre, still rankling, the AAP MLAs at this meeting began an excited banter, and one of them poked Prakash in the ribs to drive home a point.
- There was no incident of “slapping” or any organized physical assault reported by any witness. And nor did Prakash file any immediate formal complaint.
- He did, however, report the matter to the Delhi police, but refused to file a formal complaint. Nor did he complain of any illegal confinement.
- Apparently, on the advice of higher big-shots in the home ministry, police authorities guided Prakash to file an official complaint, as well as subject himself, reluctantly, to a medical exam—18 hours—after the incident, on the basis of which the police was able to take the AAP MLAs into custody. No other witnesses were recorded. Sources told India Legal that the language of the complaint was drafted by the police authorities with the help of prosecutor Sidharth Luthra.
- That was not all. The PR machinery also went into top gear and several protest letters were sent, possibly with the subtle warning that IAS officers should be spared this kind of ignominy when chains of commands are split as in the case of Delhi’s appointed lieutenant-governor and elected chief minister.
And worse, the law enforcement authorities are dangerously politicized and become an instrument of naked state power rather than the upholders and protectors of citizens’ rights and safety.