Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yet another first in Bihar - Now FIRs can be lodged through

Lodging FIRs (first information report) at police stations in Bihar is not a child’s play for the victims of crime. In fact, it’s a trial by fire: The victims have to face a volley of uncomfortable questions, make umpteenth rounds of the police station and, in many cases, they end up being made ‘accused’ themselves.

But in the next few months, all that will change. For, in the not too distant a future, it will be possible for the victim of a crime to send an e-mail to the higher police authorities, giving details of the crime committed against him/her. This would be treated as an FIR and follow-up action initiated forthwith. Lodging FIRs through e-mail will become a reality, once the government accepts the Administrative Reforms Commission’s (ARC) recommendations for police reforms. The ARC will submit its report by October-end.

ARC Chairman VS Dubey said the Commission would suggest ‘foolproof’ measures to ensure that commoners did not face difficulty in lodging FIRs and the cops were held to account if they refused to accept complaints.

The ARC is sparing no efforts to curtail the sweeping powers of the police so that the cops shed their ‘brute’ image and act friendly with commoners. The draft report makes a strong recommendation for taking away from the police the power to arrest anybody on mere suspicion that he/she might commit a crime (as per Section 151 of the Cr PC) or on the suspicion that a person holds stolen goods or if a person fails to give his/her correct address to the police.

“We feel that the sweeping powers given in the criminal procedure code to the police is the core reason why cops misuse their authority. This is why people perceive the police as tyrants and despots,” said Dubey. He also said that the ARC was intent on paving the way for civil control on the police so that the cops, especially at the police station-level did not act in an arbitrary or prejudicial manner. There will be recommendation to give powers to citizens groups, NGOs and ward committees to review pending cases in each police station of their area and also give suggestions to the police on important cases. “ We want an element of civil control on the police force,” said Dubey.

The ARC is of the strong view that shoddy investigation of incidents of crime is one of the core factors responsible for the spurt in crime in the State. So, the ARC is going to recommend a separation between the law and order duty and investigation work to avoid any overlapping of work. The ARC is also going to suggest strong measures to tackle organised crime and economic offenses by suggesting to the government to equip the investigation wing with sub-inspectors having professional knowledge of computers, law, commerce and economics.

“The poor training and knowledge of sub-inspectors vital for tackling professional crime is one reason why there has been an increase in white-collared crime. We will also suggest raising the eligibility bar for appointment as sub-inspectors requiring the candidates to be graduates besides reserving a certain percentage of seats for people with professional degrees. This will be a great help to better investigation of crimes,” said Dubey.

Besides, the ARC is also keen to suggest that the government bring in amendments in the IPC to make more offenses bailable so that those committing petty crimes could get bail at the police station itself and was not sent to jail.

The ARC Chairman said that the idea behind bringing more offenses (other than serious crimes like rape, dacoity, sedition, terror acts, murder) under bailable clauses so that petty offenders were not pushed into jail to live among hardened criminals.

Lastly, the ARC is also looking at ways to lessen the work pressure on police personnel, especially those on field duty, including sub-inspectors and constables. “Constables behave rudely with the people as they are overstressed and less educated. Once they are de-stressed, there could be behavioral changes in them,” said Dubey.

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