Saturday, August 09, 2008

Supreme Court cracks the whip on police for refusing to file FIR's

Most people have their own story about their interactions with the police force, especially in their stronghold (police stations). Let me give an instance of what happened in a police station when I made the mistake of losing a draft (actually the draft did not reach the destination when it was sent via courier, but for the bank, I had lost the draft). I had the counterfoil of the draft, so approached the bank for how to reclaim my money. And this started the adventure.
Given that the draft was sent to an education institute, we did not know that the draft had not reached till it was around 3 months later, since that was the last date of the money to be received; and the institute contacted me. After some back and forth, they convinced me that they had not received the money and things would be terminated unless I sent them the money.
I contacted the bank, and guess what ? They told me a whole lot of things to do - get a notarized affidavit for having lost the draft, get a note from the institute acknowledging that the money was not received, and .... get a FIR from the police station about having lost the draft (since a draft is different from money; more importantly, RBI regulations apparently require it). So, I managed to convince the bank that the institute will not give me a letter; affidavit was made. Now for the police station. That was fun.
First, where was the draft lost ? "Well, it was sent by courier and never reached". I knew I should have made up a story about having lost it at home, or somewhere else that was definite and that did not cause any jurisdictional problems. The police station totally refused to cooperate, since they did not believe it to be their problem. Beaten, I managed to convince the bank after around an year of discussion and got my money back.
Okay, why this long story ? Well, people have faced problems in getting FIR's filed for far more serious stuff - for fraud, criminal assault, modesty / molestation / rape, etc. The weaker you are, the more difficult it is for you to get the police to file an FIR. Having more FIR's filed is liable to get you in the dock when a starred question comes up in the assembly / parliament about number of unsolved cases, so easier option is to try and reduce the number of FIR's filed. Well, the Supreme Court has jumped right in:

Commoners, often harassed by the police's refusal to register FIRs (first information reports), have turned the tables on the men in khaki, thanks to the Supreme Court. Stating that officials in India understood only the "crack of a whip", the apex court on Friday ordered that a policeman turning away a person without registering his complaint could face contempt of court charges and cool his heels in jail if he failed to justify non-registration of the FIR.
The court has provided a detailed mechanism to citizens to make the police accountable. The bench comprising Justices Agrawal and G S Singhvi said if the police refused to register an FIR, the aggrieved person could move the area chief judicial magistrate with a complaint against the concerned officer.

If you read the linked news, you would be able to figure out the mechanism as well as the reasons behind this move. In addition, most states did not even respond to the notice by the Supreme Court, making the court even angrier.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:42 AM