The final part in the case of the missing laptop

There are five Ws and one H to every news article. The W that makes most reports worth reading is the Why.

I leave D2 Anna Salai police station on the night of November 9 shaken but also hopeful. The inspector (crime) has just shared some evidence from the CCTV footage of Express Avenue from the night of November 5 when my laptop, kept in a black backpack, went missing. There is a suspect and I believe an investigation has begun.

My complaint is now official: the police make an entry in the Community Service Register (CSR) and I get an acknowledgement receipt number 4135452. My complaint is numbered 46/12.

I resist the temptation to call the police over the next few days. The inspector had promised to call back within two days but I factor in Deepavali. I vacillate between being normal and getting lost.

I piece together the events thus far using the tools of my trade: the five Ws and one H thus; What — theft of laptop, Who — I lost it and there is probably a suspect, When — between 9 p.m. and 1.30 a.m. on November 5-6, Where — in the parking lot of Express Avenue mall, How — there is a possible break-in through the car window, the Why appears redundant for now.

But bigger questions are about to head my way.

A week passes. The police inspector has still not made that call. I try to reach him on his phone a few times. But I always seem to catch him when he is busy. I fear I am maybe nagging him, preventing him from discharging his duties. I try to go slow.

In the meanwhile, there are several insinuations to suggest I should not pursue an FIR (First Information Report).

“Why do you need it, sir,” a cop asks during a conversation. “You have the CSR slip already. That is enough for insurance claims.”

“But how do you say that FIR and CSR are the same,” I ask. “I need it for my records.”

“It is the same, sir.”

I am flabbergasted.

I am not able to treat the loss of my laptop as a petty theft. Should it land in the wrong hands, there is a possibility that it might come back in the future to haunt you.

I am aware that devices like laptops and mobile phones leave digital footprints that any serious investigation will be able to track back to its users.

I am not seeking justice or compensation. I am just seeking proper closure.

Legal opinions concur with my thinking. A senior advocate from Madras High Court T.K. Bhaskar tells me that thefts are congizable offences and Supreme Court has asserted repeatedly that FIR must be filed for such complaints.

The reason the police do not do so for theft of mobile phones or laptops is to avoid paperwork and accountability over the case.

After much running round, I receive the FIR copy on November 24. It is dated November 23, filed based on the complaint registered in the CSR on November 9.

In the FIR, under the section, ‘reason for delay in filing FIR,’ the police write: ‘because of the complainant’.

I wonder: Why.

On the morning of December 1, after The Hindu published the first two parts of this series, the inspector mentioned in the articles called to update me on the investigation. There is some headway in the case.

The three-part series was intended to create awareness against leaving valuables in parked vehicles and sensitise people about following through with police complaints.

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