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Delhi Police has more burk than bite

Here?s some good news for all of us living in Delhi ? the crime rate in the city is steadily going down, writes Soni Sangwan in Freehand.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2004 01:38 IST

Here’s some good news for all of us living in Delhi — the crime rate in the city is steadily going down. And if the declining trend continues, then in about eight years, Delhi will actually become a crime-free city.

So how did the Delhi Police manage to pull off this bit of magic? If reports are any indication, the secret of the Delhi Police’s success lies not in being able to control crime, but in a police practice known as ‘burking’.

In layman’s language, burking means non-registration of crime, minimising an offence — terming a robbery where force is used, a theft — or clubbing several crimes of the same type under one FIR. The result — the figures show a drop in crime.

Though Police Commissioner R.S. Gupta insists that he has issued strict directions regarding the registration of cases — even suspending thana-level officers for making complainants run around — there seems to be a communication gap somewhere, because a decreasing crime graph defies logic in a city where crimegenic factors are on the rise.

But this is not really the first time that the Delhi Police is seeking to paint a rosy picture regarding the crime situation in the city. The problem had existed even way back in 1969. That was the year that the Delhi Police first gave out written instructions to its thana-level officers that non-registration of cases would not be tolerated. The legal position was explained — burking is a criminal offence — and a campaign was launched to establish free registration. The result — the official crime rate went up by 70 per cent.

The second time that any police commissioner took such a bold step was in 1995 when the then Commissioner Nikhil Kumar wrote to the Lt-Governor, with copies to the Home Secretary and the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, that he was going to insist on free and fair registration of crime and that there would be a rise in crime rate. The rise in crime would be followed by the consequent negative media reporting and questions in Parliament. But after a few years, the figures would stabilise and the level of real crime would be established.

All of this happened. In his first year as commissioner, there was a 30 per cent increase in crime and in his second year there was a 27 per cent increase in crime. But the big signs in the police stations — FIR is your right, insist on it — stayed.

The trend continued during the short tenure of V.N. Singh when even robberies involving petty amounts were registered. But during the three years that Ajai Raj Sharma, a UP cadre officer was at the helm of affairs, there was a dramatic drop in crime.

When R.S. Gupta, the present incumbent, took over, he inherited the mantle of Sharma, a commissioner who had brought down the crime rate in Delhi, which perhaps put a bigger burden on him to ensure that he does better than his predecessor.

But burking and taking recourse to arguments that if there is a rise in crime, then the media headlines will scream ‘Crime out of Control’, is no reason to refuse a complainant his legitimate right to an FIR.

While burking helps the dispensation of the day in so far as it puts an end to embarrassing questions, in the long run, it harms the larger interests of society. Crime figures may just be numbers to the average citizens, but it is on the basis of these statistics that future police planning is done.

Not reflecting the real crimes can create a gap when it comes to assessing crime prone areas, types of crime on the rise, policing requirements of the city, police strength augmentation and other crime prevention and detection policies. What every citizen needs to remember is — FIR is your right, insist on it.

First Published: Jan 05, 2004 01:32 IST