What follows a terrorist attack is the police control room being flooded with calls of a bomb planted at such and such place and set to explode at so and so time. With the hoax call menace assuming dangerous proportions, police have now adopted a tough approach.
Earlier, hoax callers were mostly booked under Sections 182 (providing false information) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Offences under these sections are non-cognisable in nature, which means the police don’t have the power to either arrest the person or register a case against him/her.
The police sends a report to the court with a request to prosecute the person. The maximum punishment in such a case would be imprisonment up to three months.
“After putting all the effort, we usually find the person has been let off with a fine of Rs 1,000 or a day’s imprisonment,” a senior police officer said.
“It needs to be understood making hoax calls is a serious offence. It’s not just a waste of time and a huge drain on police resources but a loss to public at large,” a police officer said.
The police in a recent case booked a woman under Section 505 (b) of the IPC, which is a cognisable offence. Till July this year, there have been 5,806 bogus calls, which means 27 calls per day. And there has been a bomb hoax call every third day on an average this year.
People who have been caught on these charges have mostly told the police they did so for fun or in some cases they had a bad experience with the police. There have been callers who were found to by psychiatric patients.
Police, however, say they can’t afford to ignore even a single call no matter if there has not been a single genuine case in the last 10 years.
While people might get a kick seeing the police run around and buildings being evacuated, it means a lot of work for the police. A standard drill is undertaken before declaring a call a hoax. If the call is place specific, officers from the local police station and the police control room reach the spot. The place, like an office building or a cinema hall, is evacuated and a detailed search carried out.
If the area to be covered is something like the Tis Hazari court complex, it could mean deployment of up to 60 officers from the local police station.
“A search operation can take anywhere between two to four hours. It’s not just a waste of time but a huge drain on resources and manpower, which has to be diverted from other places,” the officer said.
Once a call is declared a hoax police begin a hunt to nab the caller. “In majority of the cases PCOs are used and that too those, which are operated using coins, which means there is no record of the caller.