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Citizens must have the right to file FIR

In India the police have been known to avoid filing an FIR in order to keep crime rate and their workload low, writes Saikat Neogi.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2007 03:02 IST
Saikat Neogi
Saikat Neogi

The complexion of Nithari would have been different today had the police registered and investigated the case two years ago when parents complained about missing children. Instead of that, the police shifted the blame on the parents for their negligence.

In India the police have been known to avoid filing an FIR in order to keep crime rate and their workload low. For politicians, rising crime statistics mean unpleasant questions in Parliament and state assemblies.

Under the law the police has to file an FIR when a citizen informs about a cognizable crime. For non-cognizable offences, the police can investigate only on the orders of a magistrate. Citizens who remain under the impression that police will act on their complaint generally do not know this distinction.

As a way out the National Police Commission (NPC) in 1980 said that the procedures to be followed in cognizable and non-cognizable offences should be displayed in police stations. This is yet to be implemented.

Reducing the gravity of the complaint works for the police. An attempt to murder case is made out to be one of hurt or a robbery into theft. As a result, crime statistics continue to suffer from underreporting. According to National Crime Records Bureau, total cognizable offences reported in the country declined from around 52 lakh in 1988 to 50 lakh in 2005 while the country’s population increased from 76 crore to 110 crore during the same period.

Refusal to file complaints means lack of investigation. The skulls found in a drain in Nithari confirm that the police ignored a very crucial piece of evidence two years ago, which could have saved the lives of innocent children.

Poor conviction rate and failure to convict criminals show that the prosecution system is in shambles. There is a large pendency in police investigations of registered crimes and a significant number of investigations do not result in charge sheets. This erodes public faith in the police.

There’s a view that police are occupied with law and order work leaving little time for investigating crimes. The NPC has recommended separating the functions of investigation and law and order in the police. And to strengthen prosecution, the Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice System recommended a separate legal wing for the police to assist them in the pre-trial stage.

Without public participation no police force can fight crime. Citizens provide intelligence and identify suspects. If the police fail to protect witnesses it will be impossible to get citizen assistance and affect investigation.

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First Published: Jan 22, 2007 03:02 IST