The Central Government has issued a circular to States calling for mandatory registration of all "complaints received at police stations, which should be treated as FIRs". The law already enjoins and casts a duty on the officer incharge of the police station, under section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1863, to register all cognisable cases, and make a Station House Diary entry for the non-cognisable cases. For the benefit of the readers, the cognisable cases are the ones in which the Police is competent to start legal action against the offenders. They number less than 125 in Law.
Notwithstanding any law or circulars, the ground reality has been different, not from recent times, but right from the time India has been independent. Any Government circular and order is not implemented at the police station level, for the simple reason, that only a statistical approach is the basis of assessment of police officers. When officers are in a position to manipulate statistics and under register crime, they do so freely and frequently to show that all is well within their areas.
After joining the Indian Police Service, I took the work of policing seriously and noticed that even the instructions issued and reissued by me as the District Police Chief of Bidar, only marginally improved matters. In one instance, even a case of murder was not registered as the Officer incharge was trying to bring about a compromise between the two parties, though murder or dacoities are not compoundable. After conducting a departmental inquiry, I dismissed the official, who went in appeal against my orders. The Deputy Inspector General of Police set aside my order, after reducing the punishment to a warning. I did an unheard of thing. I went in appeal to the State Inspector General of Police, saying that it was against the law, and a fraud on the Public. My boss, the DIG, who was reportedly amenable to love or money, never forgave me for what he called disobedience of his orders.
Only after my retirement, he told me, that I was young, impetuous and stickler for law and rules. Any increase in crime in the area under my charge, would show me in a poor light and as a person who could not deal with the situations firmly.
Police forces all over the world are easily upset and hurt with the rising crime figures. So meticulous efforts are made by a section of them to attire figures, in such ways, as to give an erroneous impression that crime is on the decline or has vanished. The bosses, while not actually discouraging or taking strict action against erring subordinates, turn a Nelson's eye to such malpractices. The officers insisting on free registration get a flake on the ground that they are not competent to handle crime.
Take the case of the National Capital, which is supposed to set a trend for the police all over the country. An analysis of the phone call records to Police Control Room in Delhi , in 2008, reveals that on an average, nearly 20 complaints of snatchings are received by it every day. Approximately, more than 10 calls are made for robberies. These are incidents reported by the alleged victims themselves, but only 10% of these complaints get converted into FIRs. In 2009, approximately 1,300 cases of snatchings were registered as compared to 13,500 calls made, while 450 robbery cases were registered out of 3,000 calls received.
Perhaps the Police is more sinned against than sinning, as sometimes, the offences are inflated. Passing of laws is one thing, but providing infrastructure to implement the same is another. There is always, not only a mismatch, but also a big gap between the two. The Government feels that it has done its duty by its conscience by giving instructions or by passing laws.
Whether it is for providing the vehicles or telephone connectivity or even budget for petrol or money for stationary, or for filling of the police vacancies, most States are not only lethargic but found wanting.
During my service, I noticed that each Police Station was given a princely sum of Rs. 2 per month for the stationary purchases. In this amount not only complaints were to be registered, but statements recorded and a copy of all evidence against the accused were legally required to be furnished to him. Apart from that, the diet allowance for the prisoners in the police custody was only 75 paisa per meal. The relatives or the friends of the accused were expected to feed him, unless the police wanted the prisoner to be on a crash diet.
A common complaint against the police was that it would also ask the complainants to bring stationary for official work.
Even the bills of the petty amounts took ages to be passed. The result was that no Police Station claimed a few rupees. Even the supply of stationary was centralised. Once my office, despite repeated reminders to the IG's office, did not get the stationary. I did an unheard of thing. I wrote to the IG that "I have been almost begging periodically for stationary, but there is no positive response. This is the last sheet of paper and hence no more correspondence may be expected from this office, till we get the stationary." I got the stationary, along with a stinker.
With four lakh vacancies in the Police all over the country, and no infrastructure in the Police Station, the policemen take the short cut of not registering the cases. Though vegetable vendors, coolies and even beggars have mobile phones, the Police Station SHO and others, are not given this facility. It is inexcusable that the Police does not come upto the expectation and indulge in malpractices, like corruption. But the greater share of responsibility lies with the Government in rectifying the situation. India not only has one of the lowest Police-Public Ratio, but does not even provide the required facilities for the Police to do its job.
According to the Government, India has 142.69 police personnel for every one-lakh population as against Italy 's 559.0, Mexico 's 491.8, Saudi Arabia 's 386.5 and Belgium 's 357.5 policemen for every 100, 000 people, to quote a few instances.
Since the job of the Police is negative in nature, it can never win in any popularity contest. Its critics, whether the Government, or the accused or the accuser are always going to be unhappy, one for not doing its bidding, the other for catching him and the last for not getting enough punishment for the guilty. The critics praising the Police is like having the hangman say you have a pretty neck. Not God Almighty, but the Government can only rectify the situation, as damning Police is no solution