Despite satisfactory track record of patching up warring couples, the counselling centers of the Mumbai police have shut following an order from the state home department.
A circular issued in February stated that ‘police counsellors’ were no longer empowered to mediate between couples and any such step will be considered as contempt of the court.
Between 2010 and June 2015, the social service branch (SSB) received at 8,786 applications from women facing domestic harassment, out of which 2,197 ended in a compromise. While 4,162 applicants gave in writing that the couple will stay together (which is called ‘filed’), 2,427 applicants were sent to the police station for further action.
Following the new order, the police can now only make a complainant aware of her options and the steps she can take pertaining to the situation she is facing. Police officers said the pre-litigation counselling was a boon for the women from the lower strata of the society, where the level of awareness is less and incidents of domestic harassment high. These women do not have the option to approach court for intervention and to seek permission for being counselled.
“After a woman in distress approached the concerned police station and registered a non-cognisable complaint, she would send an application pertaining to the marital problem to us. We would summon her husband and conduct a joint meeting. We can no longer summon the complainants’ husbands now,” said an officer, who has been in a counselling team.
On an average, 10 such applicants would come to the centers located at the police headquarters, Santacruz and in Chembur daily. Police counsellors said they have asked police stations not to send women for counselling.
Notwithstanding the order, women continue to seek help from the police in solving their domestic disputes. Since the centres have shut, the police have received 249 applications and the complainants have insisted on counselling.
“The women continue to seek help from us even after the centers have shut. All we can do is direct them for the further steps,” added the former counsellor.
Making a difference
* Mumbai police’s women counselling centers were located at the police headquarters near Crawford Market, Santacruz and Chembur
* A staff of four officers and 20 policemen were posted at these centers (eight at each place). They were trained to counsel women and conduct joint meetings between warring couples
* SSB’s police counselling centers would run with the help of non-profit organisations
* Counselling centers shut after a circular was issued from the state home department after the woman and child development department issued orders.