It has been three months since 30-year-old Kshama Shetye, three-months’ pregnant, and her taxi driver Sanjay Gulati were killed in a hit-and-run allegedly involving a Gurgaon transporter’s young son who was driving his father’s BMW car. Kshama’s parents and husband were seriously injured.
Accused Suraj Sehrawat surrendered only after much public outrage and was granted bail the same day. Two Station House Officers have been shifted from the case and, last week, the Gurgaon Police missed the 90-day deadline to file the chargesheet. Officers handling the case claimed the delay didn’t matter as the accused was out on bail anyway. Back under media glare, they have now promised to file the chargesheet within a week.
Last Sunday, eight-months’ pregnant Anupriya Nagrajan was killed and her software engineer husband grievously injured when their car collided with a speeding MUV in Noida. The occupants of the MUV, who also got injured, have been discharged from the hospital but not arrested yet. They have not even been named in the FIR. Cops see no urgency as they are certain the accused will come back for the MUV that is now in their custody.
Such shocking mishandling of cases by way of poor investigation and procedural delays are not uncommon in the NCR where police easily buckle under pressure from their political bosses or the influential ones. Senior officers often complain that political pressure is the biggest hurdle to policing in the suburban towns of Delhi.
Five years ago, Gurgaon had introduced a Commissionerate system on the lines of metropolitan police that all big cities follow. But apart from the seven IPS officers at the top, all officers and constabulary are still the local recruits. Caste lines still run deep and political establishment pretty much controls police affairs.
But even such partial modernisation eludes Noida and Ghaziabad where police report to their political bosses in Lucknow. Cops get frequently transferred but rarely on account of bad policing. Noida and Ghaziabad police see en masse change every three months. In Gurgaon, SHOs rarely continue in one posting for more than two months.
There is no institutional check yet on rampant corruption that further blunts whatever little efficiency even such ragtag forces could offer. An average cop is still insensitive to a wide range of crimes and incapable of sophisticated handling of evidence. Intimidating or buying over witnesses is a common practice if the accused are influential.
Fearing “miscarriage of justice” in Ghaziabad court, Neelam Katara got her son’s murder case transferred to Delhi by petitioning the Supreme Court in 2002. Her son Nitish was abducted by the son and nephew of UP politician DP Yadav, and killed for his intimacy with his daughter.
Ten years on, unable to handle threats from “locally influential” families of the 11 young men who after winning a cricket match gangraped an MBA student in 2009, the victim’s family got the case transferred from Noida to Delhi this February.
Akhilesh Yadav, the new chief minister of UP, wants to adopt mega-city policing in Noida and Ghaziabad and has asked the Centre for R5,000 crore in the next five years for better infrastructure and more recruitment. It is a fine idea. But without ensuring functional autonomy to officers, giving them tenure security, creating an effective buffer body to delink police from government and setting up complaints authorities to fix accountability, just pumping in some money will not make the NCR any safer for the citizen.
If they really mean business, Yadav and his counterpart in Haryana should implement police reforms as mandated by the Supreme Court six years ago. It may not be too late yet.