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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Decent not good enough, Delhi deserves better cops

Shivani Singh, Hindustan Times   July 29, 2012
First Published: 23:32 IST(29/7/2012) | Last Updated: 23:35 IST(29/7/2012)

The biggest promotion in Delhi Police does not warranty any honeymoon in office. Within two weeks of BK Gupta’s accession to the hot seat in November 2010, a BPO employee was gangraped in Dhaula Kuan. In his first month, Gupta’s successor Neeraj Kumar is already feeling the heat after a spate of murders jolted the Capital last week.

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With an 84,000-strong force in a city of 17 million, police cannot be everywhere. Better intelligence improves pre-emption rate. But certain crimes such as domestic or those committed by first-time criminals are difficult to anticipate. But more than physical vigil or intelligence network, the fear of getting caught, prosecuted and punished is the biggest deterrent to crime.

Under media glare, Delhi Police often act swiftly. For example, they picked up three members of the gang involved in the Dhaula Kuan rape from Mewat within five days. Already, Kumar’s men have nabbed four people in connection with last week’s Rohini murders.

But for scores of arrests made, only a handful get convicted. Delhi Police’s annual report marks 92 per cent of heinous crimes, including murder and rape, as ‘solved’. Shoddy investigation comes to light only in the court where many of the cases fall flat.

To be fair, Delhi’s conviction rate of 48 per cent is not below the national average and much better than many states such as Maharashtra or Bihar. But none of these state forces have the luxury of managing what is essentially a city.

Delhi Police also enjoys the country’s best cop-citizen ratio of 1:200. Yet, tackling dangerous crimes remains a blind spot. In 2011, nine states did better than Delhi in convicting murderers. Chandigarh Police, another city force, registered a conviction rate of 62 per cent in murder cases.

Modelled after the British system, our jurisprudence’s primary concern is to protect the innocent rather than to punish the guilty. This ensured that our judiciary never felt obliged to achieve a conviction rate of above 98 per cent like their Russian and Japanese counterparts. But we surely cannot blame fair trial or our sound criminal laws for failing to achieve a conviction rate that will deter criminals. Clearly, the problem lies with the prosecution.

There is little coordination between the investigating officers, whose prime concern is to somehow file chargesheets within the 90-day deadline, and the public prosecutors before hearings. In most of the cases, investigating officers and their superiors get transferred during the long-drawn prosecution process and their successors show little interest in old cases.

There are not enough public prosecutors and not all of them are experienced or competent. Not too long ago, after a series of high-profile cases, such as the Jessica Lal murder, led to acquittal of the accused by the lower court, the cops claimed they would hire top lawyers as prosecutors. That was one promise Gupta did not keep. The damage, however, begins in a case much before it reaches the prosecution stage. An average Delhi cop is still insensitive to a wide range of crimes, including those against women, and incapable of sophisticated handling of evidence. They need psychological orientation and skill training.

The new commissioner must handpick specialists from among his officers and ensure their services are sought before evidences are botched up each time a case of rape or murder is detected. He should also ensure that his investigators strictly follow legal procedures while collecting evidence, which otherwise is not considered admissible in the court.

For all the decent records of Delhi Police, criminals enjoy more than an even chance of going scot free in the capital. Time our cops aspired to set the standard in policing for the rest of the country.

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