Dr. Kiran Bedi: Life Story of First Woman IPS Officer who is Indian Social Activist and Former-Tennis Player

Kiran Bedi

Dr. Kiran Bedi: Life Story of First Woman IPS Officer who is Indian Social Activist, Former-Tennis Player, 24th Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry

Kiran Bedi is an Indian social activist. She is also a former-tennis player. In 1972, she became the first Indian woman to join the officer ranks the Indian Police Service (IPS). From 28th May 2016 to 16th February 2021, she was the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.

Before taking voluntary retirement in 2007, she as a Director General at Bureau of Police Research & Development, she served for 35 years.

In 1966, she was crowned the national junior tennis champion. She secured several titles at various national & state-level between 1965 & 1978.

She served in Delhi, Chandigarh, Mizoram & Goa after joining IPS. She began her career as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in the Chanakyapuri, Delhi. In 1979, she received the President’s Police Medal. Later in next year, she moved to West Delhi.

Subsequently, she served as a traffic police officer. She oversaw traffic arrangements for 1982 Asian Games & in 1983 the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

She also launched a campaign against drugs abuse as a Deputy Commissioner of Police, North Delhi. That campaign evolved into the Navjyoti India Foundation in 2007.

She was posted to the Delhi Prisons as Inspector General (IG) in 1993. Her reforms at Tihar Jail won her the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994.

Kiran Bedi became the first Indian and first woman to be appointed head of the United Nations Police and Police Advisor in the United Nations Department of Peace Operations in 2003.

She resigned in 2007, as she wanted to focus on social activism & writing. She was the one of the key leader of Indian Anti-corruption movement during 2011.

Later in January 2015, she joined Bhartiya Janata Party. Unfortunately, she could not win as the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate in Delhi.

Early life of Kiran Bedi:

Kiran Peshawaria was born on 9th June 1949 in Amritsar, Punjab, India. She was born to a well-to-do Punjabi business family.

She is the second child of Prakash Lal Peshaearia & Premlata. She has three sisters named Shashi, Reeta & Anu.

Kiran Bedi was brought up in both Hindu and Sikh traditions as her grandmother was a Sikh, although her other family members were Hindu.

In 1954, she started her formal studies at the Sacred Heart Convent School in Amritsar. She also participated in National Cadet Corps (NCC), among other extra-curricular activities.

Later she, joined Cambridge College, a private institute that offered science education and prepared her for matriculation exam.

In 1968, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in English from Government College for women at Amritsar.

In the same year, she won the NCC Cadet Officer Award. She obtained a Master’s degree in Political Science from Panjab University in Chandigarh in 1970. She worked as a lecturer at Khalsa College for Women in Amritsar.

She also earned a Bachelor’s of Law from the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi in 1988 and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi’s Department of Social Sciences in New Delhi in 1993.

In 1972, she married tennis player Brij Bedi. They met on Service Club courts in Amritsar. The couple have a daughter named Sania Bedi. Her husband died in 2016.

Career of Kiran Bedi:

Career in Tennis:

At the age of 9, she started playing tennis, as she was inspired by her father. In 1964, she played her first tournament outside Amritsar, in 1964.

Kiran Bedi participated in the national junior lawn tennis championship at Delhi Gymkhana. She lost in early rounds, but came back to win the trophy two years later, in 1966.

She was eligible for entry to the Wimbledon junior championship, but unfortunately was not nominated by the Indian administration.

She was a part of Indian team that beat Sri Lanka to win the Lionel Fonseka Memorial Trophy in Colombo. Until the age of 30, she continued to play tennis, later she focused on IPS career.

Kiran Bedi’s Career as IPS:

She attended the service club Amritsar. Because of that she inspired to take up public service career. She started her police training on 16th July 1972 at National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie.

At that time, she was the only women in a batch of 80 men. She was the first women IPS officer. Later, she got training at Mount Abu, Rajasthan & further training with Punjab Police.

Delhi posting:

In 1975, her first posting was to the Chanakyapuri subdivision of Delhi. She became the first female to lead all male contingent of the Delhi Police at the republic day parade in the same year.

She was awarded the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry (1979), in October 1980. She was posted to Delhi’s West District in 1979. Within 3 months she reduced crime rate there.

She became DCP (traffic) in October 1981. She was there for the preparation of 1982 Asian Games. After the Asian Games she was awarded by Asian Jyoti Award for excellence.

But she refused to accept t for herself alone as it should be given to entire traffic unit. After the Asian Games, she was transferred to Goa for three years.

As her 7-year-old daughter suffered from nephritic syndrome since the age of 3, and was seriously ill at that time, she requested Home Ministry to let her stay in Delhi for her daughter’s treatment.

Unfortunately, her request was not entertained, and she had to leave behind her daughter, who was too ill to accompany her.


In 1983, Kiran Bedi reached Goa for three years. A few months later, she unofficially inaugurates the Zuari Bridge in Goa.

Goa hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) in November 1983. For that, she involved NCC cadets in Goa for traffic regulation along the VIP routes.

Shortly after the closing of CHOGM, her daughter’s medical condition worsened. So, she applied for a leave for the first time in her career.

Goa government did not sanction the leave but she left as she had many leaves in her account. The Chief Minister of Goa Pratapsingh Rane declared her absconding and absent without leave.

After seeing her daughter’s condition in Delhi, UNI published a rebuttal to the Chief Minister’s statement. This statement made Goa government even more hostile to her.

Back to Delhi:

She was not given any assignment for six months. As her daughter was stable, she met the Union Home Secretary T. N. Chaturvedi. He restarted her.

This time she was assigned to the Railway Protection Force in New Delhi as a Deputy Commandant. After six months she was reassigned to the Department of Industrial Development, as a deputy director. She left DGIC in 1985.

Police Commissioner Ved Marwah made a special request for Kiran Bedi to be assigned to the police headquarters in 1985. To motivate the staff, she cleared many pending files & sanctioned 1600 promotions in a single day.

Kiran Bedi’s Campaign against drugs:

She became DCP of Delhi North District in 1986. At that time rampant drug abuse was the primary problem. At that time there was only a single center for the treatment in Delhi.

It was named Ashiana & was run by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation. Kiran Bedi set up a detox center in one of the police premises with the help of her superiors.

Within a year they set up more five detox centers. Before the transfer she along with 15 other police officers institutionalized the detox centers as Navjyoti Police Foundation for Correction, De-addiction and Rehabilitation. She served as the General Secretary of the Foundation.

Lawyers’ strike:

Kiran Bedi attracted ire of Delhi politicians and lawyers in 1980s. She ordered lathi charge on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assembly in Red Fort area, and arrested its leaders.

Again few months later, she arrested Congress(I) MP J.P. Agarwal for violating curfew orders.
Once her officer arrested a man named Rajesh Agnihotri, a lawyer practicing at Tis Hazari Court’s complex.

The protestors argued that he should not handcuffed as he was a lawyer. For that the lawyers organized a strike and led a procession to DCP (North) office.

In absence of Kiran Bedi the lawyers manhandled Additional DCP Sandhu. The lawyers in demanded the suspension of Bedi.

After a big issue the police arrested Rajesh Yadav, and charged him with rioting and conspiracy. For next two months, the lawyers made strike. It was called off after the Delhi High Court constituted a committee for investigation.

Later judges said that they wanted to investigate the matter further. They recommended transfer of five police officers (including Kiran Bedi) out of North Delhi, during the investigation period.

In April 1988, the Union Government transferred Kiran Bedi to the post of deputy director (Operations) in the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), also in Delhi.

Four other officers were also transferred. The members of Bar Association wanted the suspension of Kiran Bedi, they were not satisfied with transfer.

However, the Police Commissioner Ved Marwah refused to suspend Kiran Bedi. As of the commission’s final report the arrest of Rajesh Agnihotri was justified, but his handcuffing was illegal.


After lawyer’s issue it was decided to transfer her out of Delhi. She requested to transfer her to Mizoram, a remote border state in North-East India. Kiran Bedi was volunteering to go there.

She reported to the Mizoram Government in Aizawl on 27 April 1990 as a Deputy Inspector General. She moved with her daughter & parents.

Many of her officers there were alcoholic. She opened an indoor de-addiction facility for alcoholic policemen.

A number of teenagers were drug addicts there. Most of the repeat criminal were alcoholic. As Mizoram was a Christian-majority state, Kiran Bedi utilized Christian prayers to reduce drug and alcohol-induced criminal behavior.

She declared Saturdays “prayer and rehabilitation day” at district police station. She completed a major part of her Ph.D. research in Mizoram.

She was awarded a doctorate by IIT Delhi’s Department of Social Sciences, for her thesis on Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence in September 1993. She started writing her autobiography during her stay at Mizoram.

As Delhi Prisons Inspector-General:

She was posted to the Delhi Prisons as inspector general (IG) in May 1993. Her post had been lying vacant for nine months, before Kiran Bedi was posted there.

She decided to turn Tihar into a model prison. For normal prisoners, she arranged vocational certified training, it may help them to find job after releasing.

In fact, Indira Gandhi National Open University & National Open School set their centers there. Smoking was banned there. She also introduced yoga & meditation classes, sports, festival celebrations etc.

A bank, bakery, carpentry, weaving unit were set in the jail. She daily visited prison for observing staff & prisoners complains, food quality etc.

For all these, she involved outsiders like NGO’s, Schools, Civilians & Former inmates. As a result, there was a drop in the fights in the jail.

She also organized ‘Health Day’ there. BJP’s Delhi Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana was a prisoner in Tihar during the Emergency, and appreciated her work for prisoners.

Kiran Bedi was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the Nehru Fellowship in 1994. The US President Bill Clinton invited her to National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Under pressure from the public and the media, S. B. Chavan allowed her to attend the Breakfast.

Again, Kiran Bedi was invited by the United Nations to discuss social reintegration of prisoners at the Copenhagen Social Summit.

The Delhi Government refused to permit her.  Again a charge against Kiran Bedi was giving undue favors to the notorious criminal Charles Sobhraj. Sobhraj escaped in 1986, before he was recaptured. Khurana alleged that Bedi had specially exempted him from wearing a red cap.

PK Dave and Madan Lal Khurana removed her as the prisons in-charge on 3 May 1995. On the announcement of her transfer, the Tihar inmates went on a hunger strike to protest it, while some of the warders celebrated it by distributing sweets.

After the removal of Tihar Jail, on 4th May 1995 she was posted as the head of training at the police academy as Additional Commissioner (policy & planning).

She was appointed as Inspector-General of Police in Chandigarh. As her mother suffered a stroke & went on coma, she requested a transfer back to Delhi for her proper treatment.

She was transferred back to Delhi on 15th May. In 2003, she became the first woman to be appointed as the United Nations Civilian police adviser.

She returned to Delhi in 2005 after her UN stint. She was posted as the Director General, Home Guards.

She was serving as the Director General of the Bureau of Police Research & Development before retirement. In November 2007, she resigned from police service as she wanted to focus on academic & social work.

Social activism:

In 2007, the Navjyoti Delhi Police Foundation, which was founded by Kiran Bedi along with her colleagues was renamed as Navjyoti India Foundation. They also established the Navjyoti Community College in 2010. It was affiliated to IGNOU.

In 1994, she set up India Vision Foundation (IVF). It works in fields of police reforms, prison reforms, women empowerment and rural and community development. She also emphasized faster empowerment of rural women.

During 1008 to 2011, she hosted the reality TV show Aap Ki Kacheri on Star Plus. From 10th to 14th December 2021, she was one of the speakers in Bhagavad Gita Summit during Gita Jayanti at Dallas, Texas, US.

She spoke along with other notable personalities like Swami Mukundananda Ji, Dr. Menas Kafatos, Mr. Shiv Khera, Brahmacharini Gloria Arieira and others.

Anti-corruption movement of Kiran Bedi:

Arvind Kejriwal invited her to join him in exposing the CWG scam in October 2012. By 2011, they along with Anna Hazare & other activists form India Against Corruption (IAC) group.

Anna planned an indefinite hunger strike to demand the passage of a stronger Jan Lokpal Bill in the Indian Parliament.

Kiran Bedi with some key persons were arrested & released for that. In November 2011, the Delhi Police, registered an FIR – police case for cognizable offense – against Bedi for allegedly misappropriating funds through Indian Vision Foundation and other NGOs.

In 2012, she split from IAC after a faction led by Arvind Kejriwal to form the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). During 2014 Indian General election, she publically supported Narendra Modi (BJP).

In 2015, she joined BJP, she was the CM candidate of BJP doe 2015 Delhi Assembly Election. Unfortunately, she lost the election from Krishna Nagar constituency to AAP candidate SK Bagga by a margin of 2277 votes. On 22 May 2016, Kiran Bedi was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.

Kiran Bedi as Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry:

On 29th May 2019, Kiran Bedi took oath as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. She broke convention by addressing the gathering at the oath ceremony.

As of Bedi, she was there “on a mission to make the Union Territory of Puducherry a Prosperous Puducherry”. She also gave “the TEA (Trust, Empowerment, Accountability) mantra to officers to work towards this mission”.

She opened the gates of Raj Nivas to the public. She personally began to step out on weekend mornings for doing the rounds on a cycle, on foot, by car, or, sometimes, even by bus and other public transport.

It helped in solving sanitation issues, de-silting water channels, encouragement of cleanliness, solving garbage issues, and reviving the beaches, to mention a few.

She celebrates nearly every festival in Puducherry on the lawns of the property like Pongal, Diwali, and Christmas.

In 2019, when celebrated her 70th birthday, she began ‘Mission Green Puducherry’ by planting saplings along the Kanagan lake in Puducherry. On 16th February 2021, she resigned as the lieutenant governor of Puducherry.

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