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Judging police performance by crime data is a bigger issue than politicisation: Neeraj Kumar

Police officers see several benefits in not registering a crime or delaying justice. Hathras case showed the UP Police in its true colours.

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In the Uttar Pradesh Police’s history, 14 September 2020 will go down as a black-letter day. Succeeding generations of police officers should remember this day with their heads hung in shame. This was the day when a Dalit woman, violated by upper-caste goons who broke her spine and mauled her as a predator would its prey, knocked at the door of Chandpa Police Station seeking help and justice but was allegedly humiliated. This was just the beginning of a series of insensitive actions by the UP Police, each more horrifying than the other.

After forcibly burning the woman’s body in the middle of the night, denying the grieving family members the right to cremate her as per their wish, an Additional DGP later announced to the world that since no sperm was found in her vaginal swab, she was not raped. This was in complete contravention of stated law, which rules penetration with any object as rape. Moreover, it is now being claimed that vested interests were stoking inter-caste tensions by spreading disinformation using foreign funds.

Claims and counterclaims apart, there are several questions that remain unanswered even now: Why was the woman not medically examined for rape on the same day that she reportedly lay bleeding in the police station? What made the UP Police burn the body in the wee hours surreptitiously? Why are senior police officers disclosing the findings of the medical report stating that there was no rape when the time-tested method is to wait for the investigation to be over?

Also read: Forensic report ruling out rape in Hathras unreliable, say doctors at AMU where woman was treated

Police’s fault, not politicisation

A common reaction in such situations is to attribute the causative factors to ‘politicisation’ of the police. Surely, no one can dispute that our police forces — much like the bureaucracy — have been politicised. Nobody can dispute that from the time of recruitment of constables and sub-inspectors to their transfers and postings, politicians in power meddle in the administrative affairs of the police force. Surely, politicians interfere in situations where their electoral interests are involved. But, it’s my considered opinion that in the Hathras case, the blame lies squarely at the doorstep of the police.

What political interference was there when the woman and her family approached the Chandpa Police Station to lodge a report? Surely, the Yogi Adityanath government was not sitting on the police officers’ head, dictating their actions. Who in the BJP government asked them to burn the body in such tearing hurry in the dead of the night? Who asked the Additional DG (law and order) to make such insensitive and unprofessional announcement that it was not a case of rape? Certainly, these decisions were taken not by politicians in power but by police officers themselves.

This is a case where the police officers have been shown in their true colours. They have, by a force of habit, ignored well-laid-out steps to be taken when an aggrieved person comes to report a crime. Their response was not one of doing their legal duty.

Also read: Killing Vikas Dubey doesn’t end crime. For that, parties must let go of control over police

Judging it wrong

To understand why police officers behave the way they do is to understand the malaise that affects the police system. Regrettably, whenever the performance of an officer-in charge of a police station is appraised, crime figures are what supervisory levels go by. Even the government and Parliament tend to judge the crime situation in any jurisdiction by its figures of registered crime. Clearly, it is the most fallacious thing to do.

Registered crime should never be any criterion because, if it is, it is the easiest thing to manipulate. Either don’t register a crime or minimise it. Either shoo away the complainant on one ground or the other or register the crime under a less heinous charge. For instance, register a case of robbery as theft, or bunch several cases of theft and register it as one case. The day the existing practice of evaluating a police station’s performance based on its crime figures is given up will be the day when police reforms begin. This, interestingly, will not cost any money to the exchequer.

Also read: Not poor work conditions, not lawyers’ assault, something else hurt Delhi Police more

Avoidance of duty

The other reason why crimes are not registered is because as soon as it is, certain mandatory actions have to follow. For instance, in the Hathras case, it would have involved taking the girl to the nearest hospital, getting her medico-legal case report, arrests, investigation, charge sheet, prosecution and so on — all one after another, without any delay.

A simple way to avoid taking these stressful steps that may stretch over several decades of an Investigating Officer’s life is to not set the legal process in motion by registering the crime. This is entirely a matter that can be resolved within the police force by repeated instructions and supervisory interventions. No external agency is involved in this process. The government has sanctioned numerous supervisory ranks in the police hierarchy to ensure that not only should a crime be registered but also investigated and taken to its logical conclusion.

The Hathras case is a grim reminder of the fault-lines within the police system. It is time the police leadership take stock of the situation, bring their house in order, and not blame politicisation for their unprofessional performance.

Neeraj Kumar is former police commissioner of Delhi. He set up the Special Task Force in the Central Bureau of Investigation in 1993 that probed the Mumbai blasts. He was chief advisor to the BCCI on corruption and security-related matters. He is the author of books Khaki Files and Dial D for Don. Views are personal.

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  1. Who is better to judge malice in police force other than highly experienced Retired police commissioner. Yes Mr Neeraj Kumar is right that police officers failed to perform their duties in such a heinous Crime and UP POLICE HIGHEST HIERARCHY SHOULD BE CONDEMNED IN NO OTHER WORDS THAN HORRIBLE CRIMINAL KILLERS?

  2. A balanced evaluation as to where the problem lies. This is such a contrast to Kavita Krishnan’s politically laced article. Yeah, folks should be allowed to express their opinion, but also they should be called out on it. Kudos Print, for this one. You are by far the most balanced out let out there. Better than NYT… keep it up.

  3. This articles really addresses the core issue. In India it is victim who suffers the most. This needs to change fast.
    It is media which is politicizing the issue instead taking investigation agencies to the task. Politicians should be asked about what systematic changes needs to be done to avoid such attitude.
    With such attitude of Police people will not feel safe and take law in their hands, this must not happen.

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