Cops are public servants, hired to serve us, the sovereign people. Their job is to maintain law and order, offer safety, security and to detect, prevent as well as investigate the crime. They have the power to launch investigations, question people, arrest and interrogate suspects, carry out searches, etc. Unfortunately, many police officials end up misusing these rights to threaten people and make money.
Some of them misuse their power by simply denying filing FIR (First Information Report) for the crime that takes place under their jurisdiction to show lower crime rate.
FIR consists of all the details about the victim, the crime, and information about the suspect(s) if available. To put it in lawyer's words, it initiates criminal proceedings against the criminals.
Cops issue the crime number after filing FIR and this number needs to be used while keeping follow up on the case.
A copy of this FIR is important to claim insurance in case of theft, property damage, medical insurance claim processing, etc. It also helps the victim to get protection from liability in case if the stolen property is misused. For example, after registering lost/stolen FIR for a car, the owner of the car won't be held responsible for accidents caused by the criminal using the stolen vehicle. Such report can be filed by the victim or a witness to the crime.
First Information Report needs to be filed ASAP after the crime incident. According to guidelines issued by most of the state police departments, cops are accountable to file the report for cognizable crimes like murder, attack, theft, rape, molestation, eve-teasing, rioting, etc. In such crimes, cops can directly take action. In case of non-cognizable crimes (cops cannot arrest the criminals without a warrant) like forgery, fraud, cheating, selling adulterated food, causing public nuisance, etc. police will enter all the details in their diary and guide you to the get in touch with the magistrate.
Usually, the report needs to be registered in a police station within whose geographical limits the crime has taken place. However, in an emergency situation, you can file a police report in any nearest police station and cops would transfer the same to the relevant station.
First Information Report can also be registered by email, phone call, or with Whatsapp message. But, let's be honest. People in Pune suggest that even if they send Whatsapp message for their complaint, cops often ask them to visit nearest police station physically to get their FIR registered.
No FIR Means No Crime
Unfortunately, many victims fail to get justice in India. One of the main reasons is police's refusal to register FIR about the crime. Reports in public domain suggest that many top cops themselves advise their juniors to use "No FIR Means No Crime" mantra in order to keep crime records low on paper in their city.
Can cops be held accountable for not registering FIR in cognizable offenses?
Guidelines issued by Maharashtra police suggest that the victim of crime can approach Superintendent of Police, Judicial Magistrate, or any senior police officer if cops (SHO) are not willing to register the First Information Report even in case of cognizable offense. In this stage, the complainant should also write about the difficulty that he or she faced while registering the complaint in the first attempt along with details like date, time, and if possible, details about the cop who refused to register FIR.
Senior officials would probably contact the concerned officer and demand an explanation for not registering the complaint in the initial stage. If required, and found guilty, they can also take further action like suspending the habitual offender cop.
In most cases, during the inquiry, cops deny sending anyone back without registering their complaint. If the police station is under CCTV surveillance or complainant has an audio recording for his discussion with police, top cops investigating the matter will have no other option but to suspend the police officer who refused to register the complaint.
According to Union Home Ministry's guidelines issued in 2013, such corrupt cops can end up spending one year in jail for not filing FIR under jurisdiction ground. They also need to be prosecuted under IPC Section 166A. Unfortunately, even highly education citizens remain unaware about this.
If due to some reasons, you do not wish to approach senior police officials, you can also consider approaching the state home minister office/ secretary for home department via email or fax.
Article by -
Nitten is a consultant journalist based in Pune and he writes on crime, politics, as well as business.
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