Policing – Achieving Dynamic Equilibrium: Hathras Lessons, Need to Evolve & Change Tracks by Rupin Sharma IPS

Policing - Achieving Dynamic Equilibrium: Hathras Lessons, Need to Evolve & Change Tracks by Rupin Sharma IPS

Kohima, October 05 (NEx): As the series of articles on ‘Law in Motion’, written by Shri Rupin Sharma, IPS, continues to educate people about the process of Law in matters of crime, today, the author focuses on the recent incident that has sent shock-waves throughout the country, – ‘Hathras and many more which have gone un-noticed’, and highlights on ‘Policing; Achieving Dynamic Equilibrium.’

Policing – Achieving Dynamic Equilibrium, Hathras – Lessons and Need to Evolve and Change Tracks:

While the Law in Motion series continues, my conscience as well of the entire nation has been shocked by the widely publicised Hathras incident and many more which have gone un-noticed. Not only the police and administration but the politicians and the image of the country has taken a beating. The un-interrupted coverage and rant by certain sections of media does highlight the problems but it also highlights the fissures and a ‘not so appropriate image’ of the country.

Needless to say, it creates fear and phobia too in the minds of the weaker and under-privileged sections. It may therefore only be appropriate to address some of the issues for the public and policy makers alike so that we can devise solutions rather than be left behind in this race with deviants and criminals. A short break from creating awareness to focussing on possible solutions is therefore desirable.

A number of incidents reported countrywide, which have grabbed headlines for wrong reasons. A lot of blame has come to police for inaction or delayed action and inability to attend to complaints and complainants in a timely manner. While police is the primary and initial interface for the governments for public in distress, a lot of flak also comes on the ruling governments and political dispensations.

The CrPC (Section 154) provides for registration of FIRs (First Information Reports) if a cognizable offence is reported to police. However, it is a common perception and knowledge that all reports of cognizable offences (where police can arrest without warrant) are not registered as FIRs.

This non-registration of FIRs is on account of a number of factors, some of which may be as follows:

1. That Cognizable offences are not made out by report;

2. That the police does not want to increase its workload in investigation;

3. That increased registration gives a statistical impression that crime and law and order are not under control;

4. Distance of the victim or place of occurrence from the police station;

5. Delay in reporting of crime or incident to the police station or magistrate;

6. Disputes on the exact police jurisdiction where either the crime took place or the victim resides or where the crime (FIR) should be registered;

7. That the complainants are under-privileged or uneducated or from poor or weaker section and do not know the legal processes/formalities;

8. That the police is perceived as corrupt or biased or inaccessible for a common man;

9. Lack of adequate staff for investigating incidents reported to police – the number of officers available or the quality of manpower available which can undertake investigation into incidents reported to police;

10. Inadequate infrastructure by way of shortage of vehicles, office stationery, funds to support investigation (FSL reports, copying of electronic evidence, TA-DA for police officers travelling outside for investigation, feeding of prisoners (accused/suspects) in police lock-ups, cameras for taking photographs, laptops/PCs for writing cases diaries or police reports, money for making telephone calls or sending information to accused persons/suspects or even to colleagues for assistance in investigation – usually police station staff are expected to fend for themselves, etc.;

11. Informal and casual interference by seniors or extraneous elements and personal prejudices;

12. Non-availability of time for investigation due to other law and order work in the jurisdiction;

This list is indicative and the reasons can be almost endless. Add to these the individual attitudes, attributes, differences and prejudices of the ‘frontline policemen’ and the problems get compounded many times.

Policing Short-cuts:

These result in minor crimes not being registered as either FIRs or even as Station Diary/ General Diary entries and perhaps action under Section 107 is not initiated.

Police also resorts to opening of informal ‘complainants and inquiry registers’ where the reports made to police – whether on cognizable or non-cognizable cases are kept as loose sheets without record, almost till posterity or till the complainant has been made to do a few rounds to the police station to check up the status.

These practices do not have the sanction of law and are irregular and sometimes unlawful or even criminal (where it is mandatory to register FIRs).

Sometimes, this results in smaller instances like stalking (physical or cyber stalking) or eve-teasing or misdemeanours going un-noticed and unattended by the law enforcement officers, and this tends to embolden the deviants to continue their misdeeds, sometimes resulting in disastrous consequences and crimes.

Prompt action by police would send signals to the public at large about the police being effective, efficient and trustworthy.

However, there are a few basic hurdles in achieving these goals:

The political overtones and responsibility

Law and order as per the Constitutional scheme of things is a State subject which means that the State police and judiciary works under the State government. While judiciary is mostly independent of executive control, police is works under the control and directives of the executive.

Unfortunately, the parameters being used for depicting that law and order and crime are under control in the country are nothing less than archaic. The mind-set of the political executive and the bureaucracy is even more archaic.

The single biggest factor used to assess whether law and order is ‘under control’ is the statistics on the various crimes reported in the State. These State-wide figures are then broken down to the level of the ranges, police districts and then to the police stations. Any district which reports more crime over the previous years is looked down upon. The same sentiment percolates to the police station level.

A statistical increase in number is seen as a deterioration of law and order and the police establishment is castigates as being inefficient and ineffective.

While there are general directives to ‘control law and order’, the policeman in the district and police station translates that into registering and reflecting diminishing statistics in its records. This leads to the public been shooed away or discouraged from filing Incident Reports (INCREPS) to the police station, either orally or in writing. Resultantly, police controls the ‘crime figures and statistics’ but not the crime. The crimes still take place, going unreported at times and un-registered at others while on still other occasions, despite being reported, not being reflected in the statistics because either GDE/SDE are not made or FIRs are not lodged. This control over crime and law and order is artificial and misleading.

The unwelcome environment and approach of the policeman in the police station or the street potentially leads to lack of trust in the police, people exploring extra-legal mechanisms of dispute resolution and more importantly a stalemate – where information about crimes and criminals stops flowing to the police. This lack of trust and friendliness hits at the root of all other policing functions too.

The preventive work of police which should draw its strength from the mutual trust and comfort, suffers. The crime sky rockets while the police uncomfortably projects that things are hunky dory.

It is, unfathomable that when the annual growth rate of population in the country is about 1.2 percent, and newer and newer technologies and methods of transport, communication and inter-personal interaction (whether for private or business purposes) are evolving every day, the criminals and reported crimes would be left behind. It would be paradoxical if the reported crime rate/figures were either to remain static or show a downward trend.

The slightest hint of a static or a downward curve, should in fact be seen as a symptom of a greater malignancy – either there is no reporting or no registration or that the police is not doing its duty diligently and professionally or that the public in the particular area does not trust the police. However, when we fail to treat the disease and overlook the symptoms too, we, as leaders fail.

It is the duty of the police leaders at various level to convince the civilian bureaucracy and the political leadership about these intricacies – statistical crime control does not indicate a rosy picture. It would, in all probability be misleading.

In the same vein it is also essential that the police and political leadership of the day takes the opposition into confidence and rectifies this wrong. After all, someone who is ruling now could be sitting on the other side of the benches tomorrow. The anomalies in statistical reporting need to be rectified. But everyone has to be taken on-board in this.

Having outlined the issues briefly, I will try to dwell upon the solutions in the next article in the series.

Rupin Sharma IPS