Kiran Bedi (born 9 June 1949) is a retired Indian Police Service officer, social activist, former tennis player and politician who is the current Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. She is the first woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1972. She remained in service for 35 years before taking voluntary retirement in 2007 as Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development.
As a teenager, Bedi became the national junior tennis champion in 1966. Between 1965 and 1978, she won several titles at national and state-level championships. After joining IPS, Bedi served in Delhi, Goa, Chandigarh and Mizoram. She started her career as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Chanakyapuri area of Delhi, and won the President’s Police Medal in 1979. Next, she moved to West Delhi, where she brought a reduction in crimes against women. Subsequently, as a traffic police officer, she oversaw traffic arrangements for the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi and the 1983 CHOGM meet in Goa. As DCP of North Delhi, she launched a campaign against drug abuse, which evolved into the Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation (renamed to Navjyoti India Foundation in 2007).
In May 1993, she was posted to the Delhi Prisons as Inspector General (IG). She introduced several reforms at Tihar Jail, which gained worldwide acclaim and won her the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994. In 2003, Bedi became the first Indian woman to be appointed as a Police Advisor to Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the Department of Peace Keeping Operations. She resigned in 2007, to focus on social activism and writing. She has written several books, and runs the India Vision Foundation. During 2008–11, she also hosted a court show Aap Ki Kachehri. She was one of the key leaders of the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement, and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in January 2015. She unsuccessfully contested the 2015 Delhi Assembly electionas the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate. On 22 May 2016, Bedi was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.
Bedi speaking at IIT Madras, 2014
|Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry|
29 May 2016 
|Preceded by||A. K. Singh|
|Director General of Police|
9 June 1949
Amritsar, Punjab, India
|Political party||Bharatiya Janata Party|
|Spouse(s)||Brij Bedi (1972–2016; his death)|
|Children||Saina (born Sukriti), daughter|
|Parents||Prakash Lal and Prem Lata|
|Education||BA (Hons) English, 1968
MA Political Science, 1970
|Alma mater||Panjab University, Chandigarh
University of Delhi
|Occupation||Politician, social activist, retired police officer|
|Awards||United Nations Medal, 2004
Ramon Magsaysay award, 1994
President’s Police Medal, 1979
Early life and education
Bedi was born on 9 June 1949 in Amritsar, in a well-to-do Punjabi business family. She is the second child of Prakash Lal Peshawaria and Prem Lata (née Janak Arora). She has three sisters: Shashi, Reeta and Anu. Her great-great grandfather Lala Hargobind had migrated from Peshawar to Amritsar, where he set up a business. Bedi’s upbringing was not very religious, but she was brought up in both Hindu and Sikh traditions (her grandmother was a Sikh).Prakash Lal helped with the family’s textile business, and also played tennis. Bedi’s grandfather Muni Lal controlled the family business, and gave an allowance to her father. He cut this allowance when Bedi’s elder sister Shashi was enrolled in the Sacred Heart Convent School, Amritsar. Although the school was 16 km away from their home, Shashi’s parents believed it offered better education than other schools. Muni Lal was opposed to his grandchild being educated in a Christian school. However, Prakash Lal declared financial independence, and went on to enroll all his daughters, including Kiran, in the same school. Bedi started her formal studies in 1954, at the Sacred Heart Convent School in Amritsar. She participated in National Cadet Corps (NCC), among other extra-curricular activities. At that time, Sacred Heart did not offer science; instead, it had a subject called “household”, which was aimed at grooming girls into good housewives. When she was in Class 9, Bedi joined Cambridge College, a private institute that offered science education and prepared her for matriculation exam. By the time her former schoolmates at Sacred Heart cleared Class 9, she cleared Class 10 (matriculation) exam.Bedi graduated in 1968, with a BA (Honours) in English, from Government College for Women at Amritsar. The same year, she won the NCC Cadet Officer Award. In 1970, she obtained a master’s degree in political science from Panjab University, Chandigarh. From 1970 to 1972, Bedi taught as a lecturer at Khalsa College for Women in Amritsar. She taught courses related to political science. Later, during her career in the Indian Police Service, she also earned a law degree at Delhi University in 1988 and a Ph.D. from IIT Delhi’s Department of Social Sciences in 1993.
Inspired by her father, Bedi started playing tennis at the age of nine. As a teenage tennis player, she cut her hair short as they interfered with her game. In 1964, she played her first tournament outside Amritsar, participating in the national junior lawn tennis championship at Delhi Gymkhana. She lost in early rounds, but won the trophy two years later, in 1966. As the national champion, she was eligible for entry to the Wimbledon junior championship, but was not nominated by the Indian administration.
Between 1965 and 1978, Bedi won several tennis championships, including:
|Title||Year||Place||Notes / Source|
|Junior National Lawn Tennis Championship||1966||Amritsar|
|All-India intervarsity tennis title||1968||Vishakhapatnam||With her younger sister Reeta.The pair won the championship three years in a row.|
|Northern India Lawn Tennis Championship||1970||Chandigarh|
|Asian Lawn Tennis Championship||1972||Pune|
|All-India Hard Court Tennis Championship||1974|
|All India Interstate Women’s Lawn Tennis Championship||1975||New Delhi|
|National Women’s Lawn Tennis Championship||1976||Chandigarh|
|Gold medal, National Sports Festival for Women||1976||New Delhi||With her sister Anu|
Bedi was also a part of Indian team that beat Sri Lanka to win the Lionel Fonseka Memorial Trophy in Colombo.She continued playing tennis until the age of thirty, when she started focusing on her Indian Police Service career. In 1972, she married fellow tennis player Brij Bedi; the two had met on Service Club courts in Amritsar.
Indian Police Service career
As a young woman, Bedi frequented the Service Club in Amritsar, where interaction with senior civil servants inspired her to take up a public service career. On 16 July 1972, Bedi started her police training at the National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. She was the only woman in a batch of 80 men, and became the first woman IPS officer. After a 6-month foundation course, she underwent another 9 months of police training at Mount Abu in Rajasthan, and further training with Punjab Police in 1974. Based on a draw, she was allocated to the union territory cadre (now called AGMUT or Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories cadre).
First posting in Delhi
Bedi’s first posting was to the Chanakyapuri subdivision of Delhi in 1975. The same year, she became the first woman to lead the all-male contingent of the Delhi Police at the Republic Day Parade in 1975. Her daughter Sukriti (later Saina) was born in September 1975.
Chanakyapuri was an affluent area that included the Parliament building, foreign embassies, and the residences of the Prime Minister and the President. The crimes in the area were mainly limited to minor thefts, but political demonstrations (which sometimes turned violent) were a regular occurrence. During the 1970s, there were many clashes between Nirankari and Akali Sikhs. On 15 November 1978, a group of Nirankaris held a congregation near India Gate. A contingent of 700–800 Akalis organized a demonstration against them. DCP Bedi’s platoon was deployed to stop the protesters and prevent violence. As the protesters resorted to brick-batting, Bedi charged them with a cane, although there was no tear gas squad to support her unit. One of the demonstrators ran towards her with a naked sword, but she charged him as well as other demonstrators with a cane. Ultimately, her unit was able to disperse the demonstrators. For this action, Bedi was awarded the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry (1979), in October 1980.
In 1979, Bedi was posted to Delhi’s West District, where there were not enough officers to handle the high volume of criminal activity. To compensate, she started recruiting civilian volunteers. Each village in the district was night patrolled by six civilians led by an armed policeman. She enabled anonymous reporting of any knowledge about crimes. She clamped down on bootlegging and the illicit liquor business to reduce crimes in the area. Bedi implemented an open door policy, which encouraged citizens to interact with her. She implemented a “beat box” system: a complaint box was installed in each ward, and the beat constables were instructed to have their lunch near this box at a set time each day. She regularly asked people if they knew about the beat constable assigned to their area, and also walked with the constables to raise their self-esteem. Within 3 months, there was a reduction in crimes. There was a drop in cases related to “eve teasing” (sexual harassment of women) and wife beating. This gained her the goodwill of local women, who also volunteered their services to help fight crime in the area.
In October 1981, Bedi was made DCP (Traffic). The preparation for the 1982 Asian Games had caused traffic snarls in the city. The construction of 19 sports stadiums and several flyovers had resulted in a number of blockades and diversions. Bedi encouraged coordination between the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking and Delhi Development Authority. She clamped down on errant motorists with a heavy hand. She replaced challans (traffic tickets) with spot fines. Her team towed improperly parked vehicles using six tow trucks (“cranes”) for traffic control. This earned her the nickname “Crane Bedi”. On 5 August 1982, an Ambassador car (DHI 1817) belonging to Prime Minister Office was towed away by sub-inspector Nirmal Singh, as it was wrongly parked outside the Yusufzai Market at Connaught Place. Singh was fully supported by Bedi and her superior Ashok Tandon.
To raise funds for traffic guidance materials, Bedi presented Asian Games traffic management plan to a group of sponsors. The sponsors committed to providing road safety and other educational material worth ₹ 3,500,000. She also bought traffic police jeeps for her officers; for the first time, four wheelers were allocated to inspectors in the traffic unit. After the Asian Games were over, she was given Asian Jyoti award for excellence. She refused to accept the award for herself alone, and recommended that it be given to entire traffic unit.
Bedi did not spare errant motorists from the rich and influential section of the society, which resulted in a powerful lobby against her. Her victims included the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and her own sister-in-law. After the Asian Games were over, she was transferred to Goa for 3 years. According to contemporary rumours, Indira Gandhi’s aides R. K. Dhawan and Yashpal Kapoor, as well as her yoga instructor Dhirendra Brahmachari (whom Bedi had personally fined for a wrongly parked car), played a role in her transfer. According to another theory, the loss of revenue resulting from her experiment of holding classes for traffic violators (instead of fining them) was a major factor in her transfer.
Her 7-year-old daughter suffered from nephritic syndrome since the age of 3, and was seriously ill at the time. Bedi requested the Home Ministry to not to transfer her out of Delhi until her daughter’s condition became stable.According to Bedi, she had put herself in a “very vulnerable situation”, and the only people who could help her were the ones “who had been offended by my ‘equal enforcement of law'”.Her request was not entertained, and she had to leave behind her daughter, who was too ill to accompany her.
Bedi arrived in Goa in March 1983, on a three-year assignment. A few months after her arrival, the Zuari Bridge was completed but not opened to public; the state government wanted Indira Gandhi to come from Delhi and inaugurate it formally. However, they were not able to secure confirmation from Indira Gandhi for several days. The public had to use ferries to transfer their vehicles across the Zuari River. One day, during a patrol, Bedi noticed that there was a huge mess at the ferry boarding point. She drove to the bridge, removed the blockades and diverted the traffic waiting at ferry to the bridge. This unofficial inauguration angered many politicians. In November 1983, Goa hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM). Bedi involved NCC cadets in Goa for traffic regulation along the VIP routes.
Shortly after the CHOGM ended, her daughter’s medical condition worsened. Bedi applied for leave, so that she could go to Delhi and take care of her daughter. Until this point, she had not taken privilege leave in her decade-long career, and her leaves had always lapsed. Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rajendra Mohan recommended her leave application, but the leave was not officially sanctioned by the Goa government. Bedi left for Delhi anyway, since she had enough leaves in her account. Her daughter was hospitalized at AIIMS for one week. After her daughter was released from hospital, Bedi decided to stay in Delhi until her recovery. Bedi sent a personal letter to the IGP, as well as a detailed explanation to the Goa government, with medical reports and certificates. However, in a statement to United News of India (UNI), the Goa Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane declared her absconding and absent without leave. After seeing Bedi’s daughter’s condition in Delhi, UNI published a rebuttal to the Chief Minister’s statement. This made Goa government even more hostile to Bedi.
Back to Delhi
After being declared absent without sanctioned leave, Bedi was not given any assignment for six months. When her daughter’s condition became stable, she met the Union Home Secretary T. N. Chaturvedi, who reinstated her. She was assigned to the Railway Protection Force in New Delhi, as an Assistant Inspector General of Police. Six months later, after appealing to a senior official in Prime Minister’s Office, she was reassigned to the Department of Industrial Development, as a deputy director. There, she worked under the Directorate General of Industrial Contingency (DGIC), as a strike mediator between labor and management. Bedi left DGIC in October 1985, and shortly after her departure, the organization was wound up as part of an economy drive.
In 1985, Police Commissioner Ved Marwah made a special request for Bedi to be assigned to the police headquarters. There, Bedi cleared several pending files and sanctioned 1,600 promotions in a single day to motivate the staff.
Campaign against drugs
In 1986, Bedi became DCP of Delhi’s North District, where the primary problem was drug abuse. At that time, Delhi had only one centre for treatment of drug addicts – Ashiana, which was run by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation. With help from her superiors, Bedi set up a detox center in one of the police premises. The center relied on community donations of furniture, blankets, medicines and other supplies. It also received voluntary services from doctors and yoga teachers. Within a year, five more detox centers were set up. Each center was intended to serve up to 30 patients, but at one time, each center catered to around 100 patients. The initiative was widely noticed, and Bedi travelled all over India, giving presentations and lectures on the programme. Before she was transferred to a new post, she and 15 other police officers institutionalized the detox centers as Navjyoti Police Foundation for Correction, De-addiction and Rehabilitation. Bedi served as the General Secretary of the Foundation.
In the 1980s, Bedi attracted ire of Delhi politicians and lawyers. First, she ordered lathi charge on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assembly in Red Fort area, and arrested its leaders. A few months later, she arrested Congress(I) MP J.P. Agarwal for violating curfew orders.
In January 1988, the Delhi Police caught a man stealing from a girl’s purse at St. Stephen’s College. A few weeks later, he was arrested again for trespassing into a women’s toilet and writing obscene graffiti inside.One of Bedi’s officers arrested and handcuffed the man. When he was produced in the court, he was recognized as Rajesh Agnihotri, a lawyer practicing at the Tis Hazari Courts Complex. The man had given a different name when he was arrested, and his lawyer colleagues claimed that he had been falsely framed. The protesters also argued that lawyers must not be handcuffed even if there are proper grounds for their arrest. Bedi vociferously defended her officer’s action.The lawyers organized a strike and led a procession to DCP (North) office. Not finding DCP Bedi at the office, the lawyers manhandled Additional DCP Sandhu. This led to a scuffle between the cops and the lawyers. The lawyers escalated their strike, and several politicians supported the lawyers in demanding suspension of Bedi.
On 21 January, the police lathi-charged the striking lawyers in Tis Hazari complex. This further enraged the lawyers. On 17 February, a mob of an estimated 600–1000 people led by the Congress corporator Rajesh Yadav arrived at Tis Hazari court. The mob was armed with brickbats, hockey sticks and small rods. It raised slogans in support of Bedi and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It stoned the lawyers’ chambers and smashed the windscreens of their cars. The police force deployed in the area did not try to stop the mob violence, although some individual policemen tried to control the mob. Bedi denied any connivance in the incident. The police arrested Rajesh Yadav, and charged him with rioting and conspiracy. The Congress distanced itself from Yadav and ousted him.
For the next two months, the lawyers stopped courts from functioning in Delhi and neighbouring states, demanding Bedi’s resignation. The strike was called off after the Delhi High Court constituted a two-judge committee to investigate the matter. Known as Wadhwa Commission, the committee consisted of Justice DP Wadhwa and Justice NN Goswamy. KK Venugopal, the lawyers’ counsel, produced evidence that on 17 February, all police stations in the zone knew that a 2000-strong mob was heading towards Tis Hazari Courts Complex, where the lawyers were on a hunger strike. Despite this, no police force was deputed to protect them. In its interim report, the Commission expressed concern over police lapses. The judges said that they wanted to investigate the matter further, and recommended transfer of five police officers (including Bedi) out of North Delhi, during the investigation period. Even before the report was made public, in April 1988, the Union Government transferred Bedi to the post of Deputy Director (Operations) in the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), also in Delhi. Two days later, the four other officers mentioned in the report were also transferred.
The members of the Delhi Bar Association were not satisfied with Bedi’s transfer, and wanted her suspended. However, the Police Commissioner Ved Marwah refused to suspend Bedi. The Commission’s final report, released in April 1990, censured all the parties. The report stated that the arrest of Rajesh Agnihotri was justified, but his handcuffing was illegal. It also concluded that an “indiscriminate and unjustified” lathi-charge on the lawyers was ordered by Bedi, and that she had connived with the municipal councillor to organize the mob attack on the lawyers. The scholarly legal commentary was divided, with some supporting Bedi, citing her “unblemished” service record.
After Bedi was censured by the Wadhwa Commission, it was decided to transfer her out of Delhi. She wanted a challenging posting in either Andamans, Arunachal Pradesh or Mizoram. She hoped that this would lead to her reassignment to Delhi Police after a few years (after “hard” postings, government servants are unofficially entitled to a post they desire). She requested Joint Secretary (Union Territories) to transfer her to Mizoram, a remote border state in North-East India. When she didn’t get any firm response, she wrote to the home secretary Naresh Kumar. Along with Bedi’s batchmate Parminder Singh, Naresh Kumar convinced the Joint Secretary to transfer her to Mizoram. They pointed out that officers who were given Mizoram posting refused to go there, while Bedi was volunteering to go there. Bedi reported to the Mizoram Government in Aizawl on 27 April 1990. Her designation was Deputy Inspector General (Range). Her parents and her daughter also moved to Mizoram.
Consumption of alcohol, especially home-brewed rice liquor Zu, was very common in Mizoram. Several of Bedi’s officers were alcoholics. At first, she didn’t stop them since Zuwas a part of Mizo culture, and she didn’t want to be seen as someone who interfered with the local culture. Later, she opened an indoor de-addiction facility for alcoholic policemen. The major crime in the district was heroin smuggling across the Burmese border. A number of teenagers were drug addicts, with proxyvon and heroin being the most common drugs. Most of the repeat criminal offenders were alcoholic. Since Mizoram was a Christian-majority state, Bedi utilized Christian prayers to reduce drug and alcohol-induced criminal behavior. She declared Saturdays “prayer and rehabilitation day” at district police stations, despite protests from the Superintendent of Police, who was an atheist. Every Saturday, past criminals would be brought to the police station to pray and learn and to receive treatment for alcoholism.
While in Mizoram, she completed a major part of her Ph.D. research. (Later, in September 1993, she was awarded a doctorate by IIT Delhi’s Department of Social Sciences, for her thesis on Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence.) During her stay in Mizoram, she also started writing her autobiography.
In September 1992, her daughter Sukriti applied for a seat in Lady Hardinge Medical College (Delhi), under a quota for Mizoram residents. Students of Mizoram launched a violent agitation against the allocation, on the grounds that she was a non-Mizo. Sukriti had topped the merit list with 89% marks, and was given seat from the Central pool, according to the government guidelines. Mizoram’s Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla asked her to surrender the seat in “the larger interests of the state”, although he accepted that “there was nothing illegal in her daughter getting the seat”. Bedi refused to surrender the seat, saying that her daughter deserved the seat.
As the protests turned violent, Bedi received threats that her house would be set on fire. Her superiors told her that they could no longer protect her. She left Aizawl after submitting her leave application. Her parents and daughter had already left for Delhi by this time. Lal Thanhawla accused her of insubordination.
As Delhi Prisons Inspector-General
After leaving her Mizoram assignment incomplete in September 1992, Bedi had to wait eight months for a new posting. In May 1993, she was posted to the Delhi Prisons as inspector general (IG). The Tihar Jail of Delhi was built as a four-jail complex with a capacity of 2,500 prisoners. However, by the time Bedi became its in-charge, its prisoner population varied from 8,000 to 9,500. About 90% of its inmates were undertrials, who had been accused of non-bailable offences. Some of them had been waiting for years to get a trial in a badly clogged court system. The prison had a budget of ₹ 15 crore, which was just enough to pay for basic expenditure, leaving little for welfare programmes. Tihar was notorious as a violent and unmanageable place, and no officer wanted to be posted there. The post had been lying vacant for nine months, before Bedi was posted there.
Bedi decided to turn Tihar into a model prison. She introduced several reforms. She arranged separate barracks for the hardened criminals, who had been using their time in prison to recruit gang members, sell contraband and extort money. These prisoners unsuccessfully challenged Bedi in court for unfairly segregating them.
For other prisoners, Bedi arranged vocational training with certificates, so that they could find a job after their release. During her tenure, Indira Gandhi National Open Universityand National Open School set up their centers inside the prison. Legal cells were set up to help the undertrials. Bedi banned smoking in the prison. The move faced a lot of resistance from the staff as well as the prisoners. She introduced yoga and Vipassana meditation classes to change the prisoners’ attitudes. She organized additional activities such as sports, prayer, and festival celebrations. She also established a de-addiction center, and pulled up or imprisoned the staff members involved in drug supply. A bank was also opened inside the prison. A bakery and small manufacturing units, including carpentry and weaving units, were set up in the jail. The profits from the products sold were put into the prisoners’ welfare fund.
Bedi went on daily prison tours, observing the staff, listening to prisoners’complaints, inspecting food quality and evaluating overall management. She developed a panchayatsystem, where prisoners who were respected for their age, education, or character represented other inmates and met every evening with senior officers to sort out problems. She also established petition boxes so that prisoners could write to the IG about any issue. While the jail had suggestion boxes earlier too, the jail staff would destroy the complaints received through these boxes. On the other hand, the prisoners writing to Bedi received acknowledgment and information about the status of their petition.
In this prison reform programme, Bedi involved outsiders – including NGOs, schools, civilians and former inmates. As a result of Bedi’s reforms, there was a drop in the fights and disturbances in the jail. Even the hardened criminals, who had been isolated in separate barracks, started behaving well. Bedi then arranged for them to attend education and meditation courses.
In May 1994, Bedi organized a ‘health day’, during which around 400 doctors and paramedics were invited to attend to Tihar’s patients. Based on visits to two of Tihar’s adolescent wards, a cardiologist associated with the Delhi Government’s AIDS Control Programme, claimed that two-thirds of the inmates had acknowledged engaging in homosexual acts. He recommended distribution of condoms in the prison, a move supported by Delhi’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and National AIDS Control Organisation. However, Kiran Bedi opposed the move pointing out that there were no HIV+ prisoners in Tihar. She stated that the distribution of condoms would encourage homosexual activity (illegal as per Section 377) among criminals. Based on a survey conducted through petition boxes, she claimed that incidence of consensual homosexual activity was negligible, and that the doctor’s claim had hurt her prisoners. In response, the activist group ABVA filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court demanding distribution of condoms in Tihar. Bedi termed the move as an attempt to force “western solutions” on “Tihar Ashram”, and filed a counter affidavit opposing the demand.
Removal from Tihar
Bedi’s reform programme at Tihar received worldwide acclaim. But it also attracted envy from her superiors, who accused her of diluting prison security for personal glory. She was not on good terms with her immediate supervisor in the government, the Minister for Prisons Harsharan Singh Balli. Many members of Balli’s party, the BJP, had not forgiven Bedi for her lathi charge on the party’s assembly in the 1980s. However, until March 1995, Bedi was on good terms with BJP’s Delhi Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana. Khurana was a prisoner in Tihar during the Emergency, and appreciated her work for prisoners.
In 1994, Bedi was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Nehru Fellowship. The Magsaysay Foundation recognized her leadership and innovations in crime control, drug rehabilitation, and humane prison reform. The US President Bill Clinton invited her to National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.. When the Delhi Government refused to let her accept the invitation, Bedi lobbied with the Union Home Ministry to get the clearance. However, the Home Minister S.B. Chavan declined the permission. Clinton repeated the invitation in 1995, and this time, Bedi approached the media. The New York Times published a report stating that “several politicians and her superiors were feeling cut up with her assertive style and the success that followed her”. Under pressure from the public and the media, Chavan allowed Bedi to attend the Breakfast. However, this episode won her several detractors in the government.
Sometime later, Bedi was invited by the United Nations to discuss social reintegration of prisoners at the Copenhagen Social Summit. When the Delhi Government refused to permit her, Bedi met the Minister of State for Home Rajesh Pilot on 4 March 1995. The meeting got extended, because of which Bedi had to cancel an appointment she had with the Chief Minister Khurana. Pilot gave her the permission, but this irked Khurana, who later exclaimed “If she thinks we have no importance, then why does she want to work for the Delhi Government?” While Bedi was in Copenhagen, the prominent farmers’ leader Mahendra Singh Tikait was imprisoned in Tihar after a rally, and sought the BJP leaders’ help in getting a hookah inside. However, the jail authorities refused to give permission for a hookah, since Bedi had earlier declared Tihar a no-smoking zone.
Subsequently, Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor P.K. Dave wrote a letter to the Union Home Secretary K. Padmanabhiah, accusing Bedi of “manipulating foreign trips”, and leveled other charges against her. Dave accused Bedi of “compromising” the prison’s security by allowing visitors – including American officials and foreign TV crews – inside the jail, without the Delhi government’s permission. Another charge was that she had allowed NHRC representatives to meet TADA detainees from Kashmir, who had raised anti-national slogans. In her defence, Bedi argued that the TADA detainees had gone on a relay hunger strike demanding speedy trials. She also stated that the foreign TV crews had only shot the Vipassana meditation classes, and that she had the right to admit them under the rules. She also pointed out that the Union Government had itself asked her to allow the Americans – Lee P. Brown and Christine Wisner (wife of Frank G. Wisner) – inside the prison.
Another charge against Bedi was giving undue favours to the notorious criminal Charles Sobhraj. At that time, the Delhi Jail Manual (written in 1894 and modified in 1988) listed a number of prohibited articles, one of which was a typewriter. However, the manual also gave the jail superintendent the power to allow any of these prohibited items in special cases. Using this power, Bedi permitted Sobhraj the use of an electronic typewriter (Sobhraj had already been given a manual typewriter before Bedi became the officer in-charge). Bedi had also allowed NGOs to start typing classes for prisoners, but Sobhraj claimed that he was using the typewriter to write her biography, which gave the authorities a reason to accuse Bedi of misusing her powers. Khurana also alleged that Sobhraj had been supplied with a pipe and foreign-made cigars, a charge refuted by the testimony of Sobhraj’s former cell-mate. The prison manual also had an antiquated rule which stated that “caught escapees will wear a red cap”. Sobhraj had escaped in 1986, before he was recaptured. Khurana alleged that Bedi had specially exempted him from wearing a red cap. However, a senior jail officer stated that he had never seen the ‘red cap’ rule being implemented in Tihar. PK Dave and Madan Lal Khurana got Bedi removed as the prisons in-charge on 3 May 1995. When her transfer was announced, the Tihar inmates went on a hunger strike to protest it, while some of the warders celebrated it by distributing sweets. Bedi accused “unethical politicians” of “telling lies, making false allegations and misinforming people”. She alleged that her supervisors in the government had no “interest, vision or leadership”. She argued that she should not have been transferred on the basis of unverified charges, and demanded an inquiry committee. Rajesh Pilot defended her publicly, but the Union Government did not officially support her. Khushwant Singh described her transfer as “a victory for a handful of small-minded, envious people over a gutsy woman”.
After her removal from Tihar, Bedi was posted as head of training at the police academy on 4 May 1995. Her designation was Additional Commissioner (policy and planning). She served as the Joint Commissioner of Police of Delhi Police. Later, she served as the Special Commissioner (Intelligence) of Delhi Police.
On 5 April 1999, she was appointed as Inspector-General of Police in Chandigarh. Her mother accompanied her, but soon suffered a stroke and went into coma. Bedi requested a transfer back to Delhi, where her family would be able to take care of her mother. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs transferred her back to Delhi on 15 May. However, her mother died in Delhi three days later, after having been in coma for 41 days.
In 2003, Bedi became the first woman to be appointed the United Nations civilian police adviser. She worked in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. In 2005, she returned to Delhi after her UN stint. The Delhi Bar Association lobbied to ensure that she didn’t get a post that would put her on track to become Delhi’s police chief. The lawyers, who had still not forgiven Bedi for the 1988 controversy, wrote to government authorities arguing that Bedi’s appointment to a top most might “unnecessarily create a conflict between the legal fraternity and the police”. She was made the Director General, Home Guards. Before her retirement, she was serving as the Director General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development.
In 2007, Bedi applied for the post of Delhi Police Commissioner. She was overlooked in favour of Yudhvir Singh Dadwal, who was junior to her, reportedly because the senior bureaucrats saw her as too “outspoken and radical”. Bedi alleged bias, and stated that her merit had been overlooked. She also proceeded for a three-month ‘protest leave’, but canceled it later. Journalists like Karan Thapar and Pankaj Vohra criticized her for crying bias, and stated that her service record was tainted with controversies like incomplete Goa, Mizoram and Chandigarh assignments; the lawyers’ strike controversy; and the removal from Tihar.
Bedi resigned from police service in November 2007, citing personal reasons. She stated that she wanted to focus on academic and social work.
The Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation founded by Bedi and her colleagues was renamed to Navjyoti India Foundation in 2007. Since its establishment, the Foundation received strong support from the local communities, as well several Indian and foreign charitable trusts and government bodies. Over next 25 years, it provided residential treatment to nearly 20,000 drug and alcohol addicts. It also started crime prevention programmes such as education of street children and slum kids. It established 200 single-teacher schools, vocational training centers, health care facilities and counselling centers for the vulnerable sections of society. In 2010, it also established the Navjyoti Community College, affiliated to IGNOU.
Bedi set up India Vision Foundation (IVF) in 1994. IVF works in fields of police reforms, prison reforms, women empowerment and rural and community development. In police reform area, Bedi emphasized better training, while opposing hazing of trainees. She opposed frequent transfers, stating that these lead to poor cadre management. She also proposed creation of a new level of police administration, which would protect rank-and-file officers from politicians and bureaucrats. In women’s rights area, she has advocated equitable educational opportunities and property ownership (including co-ownership) for women. She has emphasized faster empowerment of rural women.
She is a social commentator and trainer and frequently speaks on various social issues like education, domestic violence & others. During 2008–11, Bedi hosted the reality TV show Aap Ki Kachehri on STAR Plus. In this court show, Bedi resolved everyday conflicts in a simulated courtroom. In 2008, she launched the website http://www.saferindia.com/kiranbedi/ to help people whose complaints are not accepted by the local police. In 2010, she was invited as Speaker in Washington by TEDx.
In October 2010, Arvind Kejriwal invited Bedi to join him in exposing the CWG scam. Bedi accepted the invitation, and by 2011, the two had allied with other activists, including Anna Hazare, to form India Against Corruption (IAC) group. Their campaign evolved into the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement. Anna Hazare planned an indefinite hunger strike to demand the passage of a stronger Jan Lokpal Bill in the Indian Parliament. On 16 August 2011, Bedi and other key members of IAC were detained by the police, four hours before the hunger strike could start. Bedi and other activists were released later on the same day. After twelve days of protests and many discussions between the government and the activists, the Parliament passed a resolution to consider three points in drafting of Lokpal bill.
Some members of parliament proposed to bring a breach of privilege motion against Bedi and other activists for allegedly mocking the parliamentarians during the Lokpal bill protests, however they withdrew these notices later.
During the anti-corruption movement, Bedi faced controversy when some newspapers questioned discrepancies in her past travel expenses between 2006 and 2011. In 2009, for example, Bedi was invited as the keynote speaker at a conference arranged by Aviation Industry Employees Guild. She accepted the invitation without a speaking fee, but her NGO was to be reimbursed for travel expenses. Bedi’s travel agent Flywell, invoiced her hosts business class fare for air tickets, but arranged Bedi to travel in economy class. Between 2006 and 2011, there were several discrepancies in travel-related expense statements, as well as instances where she travelled at no cost to her hosts for a cause. In these cases, Bedi stated she did not personally receive or incur the disputed difference, only India Vision Foundation did, an NGO she headed. In November 2011, the Delhi Police, under directions of the additional chief metropolitan magistrate, registered an FIR – police case for cognizable offense – against Bedi for allegedly misappropriating funds through Indian Vision Foundation and other NGOs. The investigation that followed found no evidence of fraud against her or of siphoning of NGO funds for personal use, and subsequently filed closure of the case.
Bedi split from IAC after a faction led by Arvind Kejriwal formed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2012.AAP went on to form a short-lived minority government in Delhi with Kejriwal as Chief Minister (CM). During the 2014 Indian general election, Bedi publicly supported Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Kejriwal, on the other hand, contested the election against Modi. After Modi won and became the Prime Minister of India, Bedi stated that she was ready to be BJP’s CM candidate in Delhi, if such an offer was made to her. Eight months after Modi’s election, she joined BJP in 2015. She was BJP’s Chief Minister (CM) candidate for the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, in which Arvind Kejriwal was AAP’s CM candidate. She lost the election from Krishna Nagar constituency to AAP candidate SK Bagga by a margin of 2277 votes, and AAP came to power again with an absolute majority after one year.
As Lt Governor of Puducherry
On 22 May 2016, Bedi was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.
Bedi has authored the following works:
- Kiran Bedi (1985). Demand for Swaraj: (1905–1930). ABS.
- Kiran Bedi (2006). It’s Always Possible: One Woman’s Transformation of Tihar Prison. Himalayan Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-89389-258-6.
- Translated into Marathi as इट्स ऑलवेज पॉसिबल (ISBN 8177663534)
- Kiran Bedi; Parminder Jeet Singh; Sandeep Srivastava (2001). Government @ Net: New Governance Opportunities for India. SAGE. ISBN 978-0-7619-9569-2.
- Kiran Bedi (2003). As I see. Sterling. ISBN 978-81-207-2938-4.
- Kiran Bedi; T M Dak (1 January 2005). What Went Wrong?…….And Continues. UBSPD. ISBN 978-81-7476-444-7.
- Translated into Marathi by Leena Sohoni as व्हॉट वेंट रॉंग? (ISBN 8177664700)
- Kiran Bedi (2006). It’s Always Possible: One Woman’s Transformation of Tihar Prison. Himalayan Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-89389-258-6.
- Kiran Bedi (2006). Galti Kiski (in Hindi). Diamond. ISBN 978-81-7182-899-9.
- Kiran Bedi (2006). Yeha Sambhav Hai (in Hindi). Diamond. ISBN 978-81-288-0466-3.
- Kiran Bedi (2008). Empowering Women… As I See… by Kiran Bedi. Sterling. ISBN 978-81-207-9126-8.
- Translated into Marathi by Madhuri Shanbhag as अॅज आय सी… स्त्रियांचे सक्षमीकरण… (ISBN 8177664875)
- Kiran Bedi (2008). Leadership & Governance… As I See… by Kiran Bedi. Sterling. ISBN 978-81-207-9168-8.
- Translated into Marathi by Madhuri Shanbhag as ऍज आय सी… नेतृत्व आणि प्रशासन… (ISBN 8177664875)
- Kiran Bedi (2008). Indian Police… As I See…. Sterling. ISBN 978-81-207-3790-7.
- Translated into Marathi by Madhuri Shanbhag as अॅज आय सी… भारतीय पोलीस सेवा… (ISBN 8177664875)
- Kiran Bedi; Pavan Choudary (2010). Broom & Groom. Wisdom Village. ISBN 978-93-80710-01-3.
- Translated into Hindi as कायदे के फायदे (ISBN 9789380710037)
- Translated into Marathi as कायदे नेक फायदे अनेक (ISBN 9789380710044)
- Translated into Gujarati as આવો આપણે સભ્યતા કેળવીએ (ISBN 9789380710051)
- Kiran Bedi. Be the Change: Fighting Corruption. Sterling. p. 2012. ISBN 978-81-207-9174-9.
- Kiran Bedi (2012). Dare to Do, for the New Generation. Wisdom Village. ISBN 9789381431436.
- Translated into Hindi as निडर बनो (ISBN 9789380710341)
- Kiran Bedi; Pavan Choudary (2013). Uprising 2011: Indians Against Corruption. Wisdom Village Publications. ISBN 978-93-80710-44-0.
- Kiran Bedi;(2016). Dr. Kiran Bedi : Creating Leadership.. Diamond Books Publications ISBN 978 93 51659-78-5
- Kiran Bedi (2016). Himmat Hai Kiran Bedi Diamond Books Publication. ISBN 978-81-7182-991-0.
Kiran Bedi along with three of her sisters were born to the family of Prakash Lal Peshawaria and Prem Lata Peshawaria. She met her future husband Brij Bedi on tennis courts of Amritsar. Brij, who was nine years older than her, played university-level tennis at the time. On 9 March 1972, the two married at a simple ceremony at the local Shivalaya temple. The two have lived separately for most of their married life. The couple had a daughter in 1975; originally named Sukriti, she later changed her name to Saina.Bedi’s elder sister Shashi had a bitter experience with an arranged marriage, which affected her deeply. She ended her first serious relationship because her partner wanted a dowry and a domestic role for her.
Awards and recognitions
|Cadet Officer Award||1968||National Cadet Corps||Performance as an NCC cadet|
|President’s Police Medal for Gallantry||1979||President of India||Conspicuous courage in preventing violence during Akali-Nirankari clashes|
|Asia Region Award||1991||International Organization of Good Templars, Norway||Drug prevention and control|
|Ramon Magsaysay Award||1994||Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, Philippines||Government service|
|Fr Maschio Humanitarian Award||1995||Fr Maschio Platinum Jubilee Celebration Committee, Don Bosco Matunga||Social reforms and community services|
|Lion of the Year||1995||Lions Club, KK Nagar||Community service|
|Joseph Beuys Prize||1997||Joseph Beuys Foundation, Germany||Holistic and Innovative Management (Prison reform)|
|Pride of India||1999||American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI)||Commitment towards human welfare|
|IIT Delhi Alumni Award||1999–2000||Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi Alumni Association||Outstanding Contribution to National Development|
|Morrison Tom Gitchoff Award||2001||Western Society of Criminology, United States||Actions that have significantly improved the quality of justice in India|
|United Nations Medal||2004||United Nations||Outstanding service|
|Mother Teresa Memorial National Awardfor Social Justice||2005||All India Christian Council||Reforms in prison and penal systems|
|Most Admired Woman in the Country||2006||The Week|
|FICCI Award of Excellence||2008||FICCI Ladies Organisation||Being an outstanding woman achiever|
|Kumarappa-Reckless Award||2008||Indian Society of Criminology||Outstanding contribution in the areas of criminal justice administration|
|Nomura Award||2013||Nomura Group||Humanitarian work|
|L’Oreal Paris Femina Women Award||2014||L’Oréal and Femina||Social impact|
In 2005, CUNY School of Law awarded her an honorary Doctor of Law degree in recognition of her “humanitarian approach to prison reforms and policing”.
The Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation received the 1999 Serge Sotiroff Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to international drug control efforts.
Documentaries and biographies
The following films, documentaries and TV programmes are based on Bedi’s life:
- Kartavyam (1990), is a Telugu film based on Bedi. It was dubbed into Tamil as Vyjayanthi IPS. The movie was remade in Hindi as Tejaswini.
- Doing time, Doing Vipassana (1997), documents Bedi’s initiatives for the practice of Vipassana meditation at Tihar
- I Gandhis fotspor / In Gandhi’s Footsteps: Kiran Bedi’s Humanitarian Revolution (2004), a documentary by the Norwegian filmmaker Oystein Rakkenes. Awarded Best Documentary at the Indo-American Film Festival in Atlanta in 2006.
- Kiran Bedi: Yes Madam, Sir (2008), a documentary produced by Australian filmmaker Megan Doneman.Narrated by Helen Mirren it was filmed over a six-year period and premiered in 2009. It was adjudged the “Best Documentary” at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
- Kannadadda Kiran Bedi (2009) is a Kannada film, starring Malashri as a fictionalized interpretation of Bedi
- Carve Your Destiny, a 2014 film directed by Anubhav Srivastava, features Bedi.
Biographies of Bedi include:
- Parmesh Dangwal (1996). Panjabi di daler dhi: Kiran Bedi (in Punjabi). Abhishek.
- Meenakshi Saxena (2000). Kiran Bedi, the Kindly Baton. Books India International. p. 232.
- Parmesh Dangwal (2004). I Dare!: Kiran Bedi: a Biography. UBS. ISBN 978-81-7476-483-6.
- Translated into Sinhalese as Parmesh Dangwal (2004). Man baya nâ. Samayavardhana Pothala. ISBN 978-955-570-325-3.
- Siddharth Iyer (2012). Kiran Bedi: The Woman of Substance. Diamond. ISBN 978-93-5083-669-9.
- Reeta Peshawaria Menon and Anu Peshawaria (2014). Kiran Bedi – Making of Top Cop. Diamond. ISBN 9789351654988. . A 32-page comic book biography authored by Kiran Bedi’s sisters Reeta and Anu.