By Maxwell Pereira
Friday, 27 Jan 2006 – a day after the nation celebrated
its 57th Republic Day in the 59th year of its Independence, the
Supreme Court deigned to issue notices to two senior police officials
of Uttar Pradesh – the SSP Gaziabad and his SHO Vijay Nagar
police station – for not filing an FIR in a kidnapping case
– treating the plea of a distraught and sobbing mechanic
as an habeus corpus petition.
The facts are sure to tumble out of the closet eventually, for
justice to be done either way - hold the guilty accountable or
punished. Even so, that the matter attracted the Apex Court’s
attention to warrant its intervention needs those concerned to
sit up and take note.
is an interesting page in Google’s cache of http://ncrb.nic.in/faq.htm
as retrieved on 23 Jan 2005, on which is available the NCRB’s
(National Crime Record Bureau) FAQ section with answers to queries
from a police officer from one of the States. One of the queries
is, “In my State I have ensured free registration of cases.
In other States there is large scale burking. It is not fair to
go by crime rate, as free registration has led to increase in
crimes reported. What mechanism do you have to ensure a balance
NCRB’s answer: “Every State ensures free registration
of crimes. Burking of crime is neither permitted nor possible
in a society where envisioned public and media are alert and act
as watchdog. No one can claim that free and fair registration
has led to increase in crime rate. On the contrary, `transparency'
is maintained in Crime Reporting. Surveys such as ‘Crime
Victimization’ at State and National Level shall ensure
a balance and can estimate the number of un-reported serious crimes”.
very ideal… how very utopian! If it were true, would the
state of affairs concerning ‘registration of crime’
have reached such nadir as to warrant the highest court’s
intervention! The worst plague afflicting the police, in reality,
is the rampant malady of non-registration of crime. Commonly referred
to as ‘burking’ in police parlance, this is something
all police departments in the country suffer from.
‘burking’ originally referred to killing by closing
the nose with two fingers or inserting fingers in the nostrils
and then clamping the mouth shut with thumb or elbow, suffocating
the victim. The method, perfected by William Burke and William
Hare, who committed the West Port murders in Edinburgh, UK in
1827-1828. The corpses of their victims were sold for conducting
anatomy demonstrations, to Doctor Robert Knox who is said to have
helped develop this unique and efficient method of murder that
left no obvious signs of violence on the corpses. The term entered
the lexicon, when a local ‘broadside’ (a single-sheet
equivalent of a current day tabloid) used it to describe the crimes
of Burke and Hare. The broadside told its readers how the “Burking
Shop (was) Destroyed” when a mob stormed an anatomical theatre
in Aberdeen on 19th Dec 1831, following the discovery of a body
outside its doors. Bodies of executed prisoners used to be sent
to medical schools for dissection, which helped heighten people’s
growing suspicion and ambiguous attitude towards medical schools
and anatomical theatres. Soon, burking got used in describing
any killing to obtain bodies for sale, or medical students themselves
registration' is an expression that one hears in police circles
whenever a freak police chief makes it known that those found
`burking' will face disciplinary action. Delhi police had its
share of such officers – RD Pandey, Nikhil Kumar, and some
others, who concentrated on solving crime than bothering about
increased statistics. Only to be cried down in the media, where
sensationalising the increased numbers merited more than the quality
of policing the citizens enjoyed. To the politician and the government
in power, increasing statistics are always a bother to answer
in Parliament. Inevitably, such odd chiefs get shown the door
quickly, mainly to reinforce the message that `free registration'
and politics cannot go together.
the Indian police have a positively bad record for `burking' (a
favourite expression now to describe `covering up' or `burying’
– the choice word that had its origins in describing a unique
form of committing murder). Burking helps massage statistics so
that they look respectable and uneventful.
performance evaluation needs to be gauged by the sense of security
the citizens enjoy. Judging it solely on the basis of crime statistics
is inadequate. This encourages the extremely undesirable practice
of refusing to record and investigate crime. It also fails to
give a true picture of the state of the law and order –
often leading to disastrous consequences.
every aspect - political uncertainty, socio-economic factors like
caste and religion, growing disparity between haves and have-nots,
and particularly the growing population - is conducive to growth
in crime, there is no explanation for any downward slide in the
crime graph attempted constantly to project to a nigh cynical
populace by those in the chair, as their measure of success. As
long as the police at grassroots level are indifferent for reasons
of overwork or otherwise, and politicians judge the police solely
by a rise or decline in the volume of crime, nothing is likely
this background, now the matter before the Supreme Court: It is
time the Government is asked the specific measures it can take
to ensure that citizens are not deprived of their basic right
to have complaints registered and investigated. Further, in every
case the court is constrained to direct registration of a case
where the police had earlier failed to take cognisance, the SHO
and his duty officer should be held criminally accountable by
treating them as abettors in crime and named in the same FIR.
The case so directed, obviously needs to be investigated by an
agency outside the local police. Unless such drastic measures
are contemplated, there is no hope.
Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002.
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