Each day, police stations receive hundreds of complaints. As per the provision under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 154 and 155, complaints must be registered in the general diary of the police. Also, as per the Madhya Pradesh police regulation 634, it is also mandatory for police to make an entry of these complaints in the general diary. However, this is completely ignored leading to lack of accountability of the police and inconvenience of citizens who file a police complaint.
In one such case, Krishnapal Dubey, a right to information (RTI) applicant from Satna district of MP had lodged a complaint at Rampur Baghelan police station. Thereafter, he filed an RTI application with the same police station, seeking information about the progress of his complaint. However, the police station replied that no such complaint had been received. That was shocking for him as it would mean that there was no record of his complaint. He filed a first appeal with the first appellate authority (FAA) with the Satna superintendent of police (SP) office. The FAA upheld the reply given by the public information officer (PIO) of the police station.
Mr Dubey then filed a second appeal with the MP information commission. Information commissioner Rahul Singh, held an inquiry to know the veracity of the documents presented by RTI applicant Mr Dubey. Mr Singh found that the complaint was, indeed, filed at the police station. States Mr Singh, “The RTI applicant had the receipt of the complaint in the police station. After the subsequent investigation done by the commission, it became clear that after receiving the complaint in the police station, it was not registered in the general diary nor was it maintained in any record, due to which no information was available about the complaint received in the police station.”
Mr Singh said that he did not take any action against the PIO as he correctly mentioned that no record was available in the police station. Taking strict cognizance of dereliction of duty, Mr Singh issued orders for departmental action against the assistant sub inspector (ASI) who showed “negligence and disrespect for the individual rights by not taking the complaint and putting it on record.”
Mr Singh’s research showed that, “there is an MP High Court order with regard to a police regulation 634 and the court had asked the MP police to provide the general diary entry number of the complaint to every complainant. But this order is not followed by any police stations in MP.”
Therefore, Mr Singh, in his order, has asked the director general of police (DGP) MP, to ensure that the general diary entry numbers of complaints are compulsorily provided to complainants. This order, if implemented, would be a game changer, says Mr Singh, “as every complainant would be able to track his or her complaint. This would make police accountable to the public. We have already seen how the police's callous approach in dealing with complaints at the police stations proves fatal for the complainants.”
Mr Singh’s inquiry reveals gross violations of rules in registrations of complaints at police stations. As of today, he rues that “there is a gross misconduct and negligence in discharging statutory functions in registration of complaint at police stations. Often citizens are harassed in getting their complaint registered at the police station and further tracking the progress of the complaint.”
This rule of registering of complaints should be done at police stations across the country.
Why is it necessary to keep an account of the complaints coming to the police station?
Many cases of similar issues come before the information commission, where citizens seek information under the RTI Act about the action taken by the police on their complaint lodged in the police station. Mr Singh points out how, in many cases, no information is available about the complaints lodged in the police station due to the records not being maintained. The record of missing complaint in the police station should not be seen as a minor clerical error but a lapse of official code of conduct.
Mr Singh emphasises how police stations receive diverse inquires and complaints that includes serious information, which are related to internal security as well. Accepting this negligence of not registering these complaints on record will prove to be disastrous for law, order and security. For better disposal of information to people under the RTI Act, it is important to create a transparent system of maintaining records and to have a civic foresightedness for efficient redressal of complaints.
Mr Singh specifies how it is the authority of the police department to take action against the faulty officers. The information commission only has the jurisdiction to issue guidelines on record maintenance (execution of laws) in police stations.
With this order, Mr Singh pushes the authorities to take cognizance of the dysfunctional public systems and to ensure that no citizen should be turned away from the doors of justice at the preliminary level itself.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)