Discipline them


The Union Home Ministry’s proposed directive to state governments that police stations be advised to treat all complaints they receive as first information reports (FIRs) is fraught with danger. The step is, without sounding cynical, all bark and no bite. Yes, S P S Rathore, the lecherous former Haryana director-general police, whose creepy behaviour caused Ruchika Girhotra to end her own life, exemplifies the abuse of authority. And yes, it has come to dismay a nation already weary of the canoodling and peccadilloes of a governor. Indian society has become a cesspool of tolerance.

As Indians, our collective memory is woefully short. It was not too far back in the past that one of India’s best known cops, K P S Gill, a former Punjab police chief, was let off lightly by the law after being proved he had slapped a lady IAS officer’s backside and ‘outraged’ the lady’s ‘modesty’. This country treats its VIPs, whether criminals in khaki or khadi, very well. There is no denying that there can be value, and even justice, in ensuring that bad and wayward behaviour, that is protected and even condoned, is exposed. But directing police stations to treat all complaints as FIRs is not the answer. A few years back, the Justice Malimath Committee on reforming the criminal justice system had pointed out that police stations routinely refuse to lodge even credible complaints.

While there are men in power who use their positions to shield themselves from the law, there are also innumerable number of cases in which alleged victims of spousal, sexual, workplace and other kinds of harassment have cynically, wilfully and deviously used specific provisions of the Indian Penal Code to their advantage. There are citizens who will attest to the vicious and malicious use of the IPC’s Section 498A that deals with dowry-related cases of cruelty. Also, fake police complaints are routinely used to settle scores, often by city-bred people. It is society’s under-privileged and dis-empowered whose valid and well-founded complaints are ignored and not taken cognisance of by police stations across the country. The Indian police and legal non-systems reflect a dangerous dysfunction. The Centre need not offer platitudes to state the obvious — that police stations must treat all complaints as FIRs. It must, along with the state governments, ensure that the police is disciplined — if need be by awarding exemplary punishments to individual offenders.

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