It is not necessary for a victim to lodge a complaint for the police to take action if they are aware that a cognisable offence has taken place, according to lawyers.
Anger swelled over the police inaction after a mob molested two women after a New Year bash early on Tuesday at Juhu. The police normally act after a victim or an eyewitness has lodged a first information report (FIR). In this case, despite there being photographs, no complaint was registered until Wednesday even when senior police inspector Amarjeet Singh had ordered a lathi-charge and taken the victims to Juhu police station.
“Once police gets the knowledge of a cognisable offence, they can immediately lodge an FIR and start investigation,” said criminal lawyer Shrikant Shivade.
He said that the Bombay Police Act empowers the police to take suo moto action if they have knowledge of a cognisable offence. “They need not wait for the victim to come forward to lodge a formal complaint.”
Senior criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said either the police or an eyewitness can complaint to set the law in motion. “It is not necessary to have the victim alone to lodge the FIR for a cognisable offence,” said Memon. The victim’s presence in court, however, is necessary for successful prosecution, he said.
Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian said a victim must give a statement saying the act has offended her but added: “Singh should have lodged the complaint as he himself has become the eyewitness.”
Former police commissioner M.N. Singh, however, defended the police. “If the girls did not register a complaint, then a third party does not have locus standi in the case. It is a tricky situation. I would give the benefit of doubt to the policemen,” said Singh.
Another ex-commissioner, Julio Rebeiro, said such situations are tricky to handle. “Lathi-charge that Amarjeet Singh ordered is the best option. Such people should be whipped in public,” said Rebeiro.