Most people miss the appeal on the home page of the Mumbai police website.
‘Help us’, it says.
It goes on to list categories in which the assistance is being sought — predictable ones like ‘Most wanted criminals’ and ‘Missing persons’, and then a rather worrying one, ‘Mumbai Police Absconders List’.
Last updated in January 2009, this list contains not a few score, not a few hundred but 14,754 names — all criminals who are now walking the streets, having disappeared after being released on bail, parole or furlough.
More than 350 of these were accused of ‘heinous crimes’, such as murder and rape. Nearly 2,000 are convicted petty criminals.
And the police cannot find them because, in most cases, there is no proper record of the people who stood as surety at the time of applying for bail.
“The surety is extremely important in finding a suspect or criminal who has been released on bail,” said advocate Anjali Waghmare. “The person standing surety is liable to face penal action if the accused goes absconding and that is the purpose of having such a system.”
Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Deven Bharati agreed. “A massive exercise has been launched to trace the absconders and the people who stood surety for them,” he said.