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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Too many murder cases go cold

Under consistent media glare, the gruesome Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj Banjade murder case is still on the public radar. Shivani Singh writes.

columns Updated: May 07, 2012 00:38 IST
Shivani Singh
Shivani Singh
Hindustan Times

Under consistent media glare, the gruesome Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj Banjade murder case is still on the public radar. But scores of similar cases have faded from our memory once police investigations got nowhere. Families of those victims are now alone in their grief, mourned by the media on respective case anniversaries.

In Delhi, the investigation in the murder of IT student Shobhit Modi, found dead at his colony gate in Vasant Kunj in May last year, has gone cold. The main accused in Neetu Solanki’s murder is yet to be arrested. Her body, packed in a plastic bag, was found at the New Delhi Railway Station. Investigations in a similar case, where a woman’s body was dumped in a steel-trunk at Lahori Gate, also seemed to have hit a dead end.

Such cold murder cases —unsolved and not being investigated anymore — add up to over 1,000 in the files of Delhi police. But in the annual records, 92% of heinous crimes such as murders, rapes, abductions and robberies are claimed ‘solved’, even if it means catching an accomplice instead of the murderer. Shoddy investigation comes to light only in court where more than 50% cases fall flat.

The state of criminal investigation just gets worse in the National Capital Region. In the Aarushi murder case, the day the teenager’s body was discovered, the “absconding” help Hemraj was declared the killer. The next day, Hemraj’s body was found by a visitor at Talwars’ terrace. The media and any person visiting the Talwars for condolence were allowed access to the crime scene before the forensic evidence had been collected.

It is not unusual for the police to parade the accused before the media even before they are produced in court. One cannot even trust them to conceal the identities of the victims, even in rape cases. It is criminal to be making such blunders. But can we really expect the ragtag force that handles everything from VIP movement to a political rally and provide security cover at concerts, elections, cricket matches, exam centres and conduct daily patrols to be super sleuths?

The only solution is to separate the routine law and order duties from criminal investigations. So Delhi and Gurgaon have respective crime branches. Delhi also has special teams in every district to investigate complicated heinous crimes. But the specialised units are rarely pressed into action during the first 24-hours of an investigation when crucial evidence can be collected. It is always the thana staff who collect (read botch up) forensic and other evidence at the crime scene.

Only when the media builds pressure (Aarushi Talwar case) or a victim’s relatives approach the court (Shobhit Modi case), investigations are referred to specialised units. But that does not mean the special teams sit idle. In Noida and Ghaziabad, for example, the local investigation units set up to handle complicated heinous crime conduct address verification for passports. In Delhi, they man anti-stalking, anti-obscene call helplines.

It is really all in the mind. Realising that even the Indian Police Service officers, recruited through the elite Civil Services examination, may not necessarily have the knack for investigation, a Parliamentary panel last week recommended a separate IPS examination so that only those keen on policing be recruited.

Meanwhile, it may not be impossible to identify a few investigative minds in the forces and ensure that their services are immediately called for each time a case of rape or murder is detected. After all, the same talent that manages crime statistics on paper, or intimidates citizens asking to lodge FIRs, may not necessarily come handy in collecting and cracking clues heinous crime scenes offers.

First Published: May 07, 2012 00:37 IST

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