The overemphasis on registered crime, right from the police station level to the districts and the States, its usage by the National Crime Records Bureau as a yardstick in ascertaining criminalisation and also the way it is held against police personnel, bureaucrats and even politicians acting honestly, is being seen by social activists and police officers as a major reason why complainants are often turned away by the police or the intensity of the crime is understated.
“The model of policing we have in India is a British model. It is not responsive, it is statistical. It does not value reporting of crime by bringing it on the table – rather it works towards minimising it or non-registration,” rued the first woman Indian Police Service officer, Kiran Bedi.
In the backdrop of the recent delay by the Delhi Police in taking up investigations into the missing complaint about a five-year-old girl who was later found brutalised at Gandhi Nagar in East Delhi, Ms. Bedi said the rot runs right up to the top.
“The police are forced to minimise the complaints by showing heinous crime to be less serious. This is done by converting dacoity into robbery, attempt to murder into hurt, and robbery to theft and the like. Not only are the police personnel hauled up if their crime graph goes up, even in elected Assemblies, the Ministers are called to task if there is a ‘rise’ in crime,” she said.
Ms. Bedi lamented that the public perception is not taken into account. “High reporting of crime is actually an account of the trust reposed by the public in the police and the taking up of such investigations. But it does not suit the senior police officers, the bureaucrats who run the Home Ministry and the politicians, who are actually not interested in the welfare of the masses.”
“These vested groups are only interested in certain VIP and law and order duties and this is why registration of crime never becomes an election issue,” she said.
The former Director-General of Police said the solution lies in the Supreme Court enforcing its 2006 judgment which had spelt out a number of police reform measures. “Unfortunately, that order has not been implemented till date.”
A serving police officer, while speaking on condition of anonymity, said at all police stations there is a board which displays the number of cases registered under various heads. “Why can’t they have such boards for conviction in cases registered by the police station? That would reflect on appropriate dealing with the complainant, proper investigation and its appreciation by the courts. In fact, such police teams should be rewarded.”
Social activist Raaj Mangal Prasad of NGO Pratidhi said the problem of non-registration also stems from insensitivity. “Be it police personnel in stations, doctors in hospitals or even lawyers in courts, often one finds some who are insensitive towards the victims. I fear NGOs also falling into the same mindset.”
He said another problem with the police is the shortage of staff and the workload. “The police personnel do not want to take up new cases unless it is a high profile one or one in which they can make some money. When it comes to the poor, there is an innate reluctance to register a case.”
But rather than indulging in ‘police bashing’, Mr. Prasad insists the need of the hour is to ensure greater interface between the police and civil society. “However, it should not be of the type initiated by the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor recently in which he ordered constitution of Thana Committees under the Assistant Commissioners of Police. These have not had any meaningful result as its members are chosen by the SHOs and they in turn can be seen mostly ‘improving’ their social status through their proximity to the police officers.”
“There is no recording of the minutes of the meetings conducted by these committees and this just shows how serious the administration really is about improving policing in the national Capital,” he pointed out.