Non- Registration of FIR’s – The Rot within the system
Ask anyone on the street what the single biggest malady prevalent in the police forces in India, and they will probably answer in unison- First Information reports (FIR’s) going unregistered and complaints going unanswered. This despite the Criminal Procedure Code, police regulations, numerous high court and Supreme Court judgements clearly laying down the statutory duty to register an FIR if a cognizable case is made out. Previous experience has shown the police have completely flouted these norms either for personal gain or merely to fudge crime statistics.
The Ruchika Gehrotra case is a case and point of police impunity. Ruchika was 14 at the time when she alleged to have been molested by an IG of the Haryana Police, SPS Rathore. Numerous attempts to file an FIR failed. Complaints were made by her family to the Chief Minister as well as the Home Secretary. It was only when the DGP intervened that an FIR was registered. Despite change of governments nothing much changed for Ruchika or her family. After repeated intimidation of relatives and neighbours, Ruchika’s brother Ashu was illegally picked up by the Haryana Police and detained for almost two months. During this time 11 cases were registered against him for apparent car theft. A few months later, defeated, scared, vulnerable and unable to cope with the abuse being meted out to her family, Ruchika committed suicide. She was only 17.
With her death things began to change. Her brother was released from police custody. Within a year all cases against SPS Rathore were dropped. The High Court ordered a CBI probe into the molestation charge in August 1998. Rathore was further exonerated in a departmental inquiry and promoted to DGP in 1999. The CBI only filed a formal chargesheet against him in November 2000. Justice came 19 years later – but too little and too late. Rathore was found guilty of molestation and sentenced to six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs.1000. A child had died, a boy harassed and tortured and a family traumatised.
Sometime around the same time last year Sarita after being raped by policemen in the Rohtak Thana ran from pillar to post to get her complaint lodged. The two constables that raped her had called her to the Thana to broker her husband’s release in a theft case. They asked her for sexual favours. When she refused they decided to have it anyways – consent or no consent – little did it matter. That they were cops on duty in the Thana did not matter; that they were in uniform did not matter either.
Sarita tried to register a complaint with the same police. For more than a month her pleas fell on deaf ears. A month and a half later when her complaint was finally registered the guilty cops again put enough pressure on her to succumb. On the 9th of June, 2008, after numerous efforts to meet senior police persons she managed to see the ADG. Exasperated, humiliated and hopeless and strong in the belief that no one was going to listen she consumed poison minutes before she was to see the ADG. It must not have been easy to live through the trauma or the injustice. The ADG rushed her to a nearby hospital but she was declared dead on arrival. The cops in question were suspended – but again, too little too late.
Two weeks ago a 16-year-old girl was raped and then threatened by the accused. She consequently killed herself. The police had refused to lodge an FIR against the accused. Her grandfather was quoted as saying “the police did not file our case nor did they catch the culprit. That’s why we have lost our child.”
The stories are the same, the patterns are all the same – just the names keep changing. Ruchika, Sarita and the dalit girl will fade into the faulty statistics. The cases they actually came to register will find no mention anywhere. Reports will instead show how statistics are created and how statistics can lie.
Besides these cases of impunity, FIR’s are not registered largely because Police officials want to keep crime figures low in their area. From the period of 1999-2009, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) received 1.35 lakh complaints of unregistered FIR’s. In 2009 alone, the NHRC received 10,000 complaints. Haryana figures in the top 3 state police forces when it comes to inaction on complaints after Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
As people continue to be denied access to justice the Centre is coming up with more circulars and amendments – all complaints will be registered as FIRs and the SHO will be held responsible for non registration. This is not new – its all already written and rewritten and laid down as clearly as possible. The junta is not excited – the junta wants change on the ground. They want their access to a remedy. More laws and more paper directives will change nothing till every officer is held to account for the slightest wrongdoing.