It goes without saying that the single biggest problem faced by a victim when he/she suffers due to some crime committed against him/her is lodging of FIR in the police station. What is worst is that no government whether in the Centre or in the State has ever cared to enact the most strict law imposing at least a very heavy penalty on any police cop in uniform if he/she refuses to lodge an FIR in a police station on any ground whatsoever. Time and again we keep hearing cases of police refusing to lodge FIR and this is primarily to send a message everywhere that our zone is free of crime.
As if this was not enough, many times we even read in different newspapers that police was unduly demanding money for lodging of FIR and that too from poor people, farmers etc! This must not only be deprecated but should also stop now and the buck has to stop somewhere as this most dangerous menace has grown interminably over the last few decades not just in Karnataka but all over the nation! We cannot ignore this any longer now! Centre must act now and so also must States!
Just recently, we saw how on December 17, 2020, in a latest, learned, laudable, landmark and lambasting judgment titled Tarabai vs The State of Karnataka and 4 others in Writ Petition Habeas Corpus No. 200012/2020, the Kalaburagi Bench of Karnataka High Court Karnataka High Court has directed the station house officer of the Station Bazar Police Station, Kalaburagi, to clean the road in front of his police station for one week, for failing to take note of a complaint made by a mother whose son was allegedly abducted. This is really horrible that first criminals attack and make victims cry. As if this is not enough, the victim is then again made to further cry in agony when police officials shamelessly, senselessly and stupidly refuse to lodge an FIR on one pretext or the other!
While stating the purpose of the writ petition, the Bench then states that, "This Writ Petition Habeas Corpus is filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, praying to issue a writ or order or direction in the nature of Habeas Corpus thereby directing the respondents to produce the son of the petitioner namely Suresh S/o Heerasing Rathod R/o Minajgi Tanda Tq. & Dist. Kalaburagi who is unlawfully taken away by the respondent No.5 on 20.10.2020 before this Court."
To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice P Krishna Bhatt for himself and Justice S Sunil Dutt Yadav sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, "The petitioner Tarabai is present along with her son Suresh," and then observing in para 2 that, "This Habeas Corpus writ petition was filed on account of her son Suresh going missing on 20.10.2020. Subsequently, he was produced before the court on 03.11.2020. The entire development in the case after Suresh going missing discloses to us a very disturbing facet of the functioning of the police stations in this area of the State. The problem, primarily, is one of police officers not complying with the procedure prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure, which places a high premium on the guarantee of liberty of the individuals."
To put things in perspective, the Bench then observes in para 3 that, "In our proceedings dated 03.11.2020, we had noted that respondent no.3 in these proceedings has admitted that the petitioner Tarabai had approached him in the police station with a grievance that her son had been abducted and thereafter he was not found. The respondent no.3, at that point of time, was quite conscious that what was conveyed to him by the petitioner Tarabai constituted a cognizable offence and, therefore, he was obliged to make an entry in the Station House Diary in regard to the same and further he was required to register FIR. If the facts disclosed to him amounted to an offence taking place within the limits of his police station, then he should have proceeded with the investigation of the case and if the offence disclosed took place outside his jurisdiction, then he was obliged to transfer the FIR to the jurisdictional police station for further investigation of the case. Inspite of the same, he has overlooked the mandate of law in as much as he has not made an entry in the Station House Diary regarding the substance of the information received nor has he registered FIR which has resulted in stultifying the precious right of the petitioner and her son Suresh."
While elaborating further, the Bench then points out in para 4 that, "When we called upon the respondent no.3 who is present before the court to account for the said infraction of the law affecting the liberty of Suresh, the learned AGA representing him submits that a lenient view may be taken for the said violation of the procedure notwithstanding the serious implications for the liberty of Suresh and she further submits that respondent no.3 is prepared to file an undertaking to do some community service to atone for the same. We permit him to do so. The respondent no.3 has now filed an undertaking which reads as under:
"I the undersigned do hereby state that, as per the direction of the Hon'ble Court, I am ready to comply with the direction issued by the Hon'ble Court by cleaning the road in front of my Police Station for one week.
That I render my unconditional apology for not registering the First Information Report and assure the Hon'ble Court that I will not repeat the same in future.""
To say the least, the Bench then quite significantly notes in para 5 that, "We accept the same and direct the respondent no.3 to comply with the undertaking by cleaning the road in front of his police station for a period of one week."
More seriously, the Bench then observes in para 6 that, "However, this aspect of the matter requires serious consideration by the superior officers of the department."
On a related note, the Bench then also goes on to add in para 7 that, "Therefore, we direct the Superintendent of Police, Kalaburagi District to hold a Workshop/ Orientation course to all the police officers working within the Kalaburagi District on the subject of "Zero FIR" vide 1) KIRTI VASHIST v. STATE AND OTHERS [ 2019 SCC OnLine Del 11713 Para 16 to 20] and 2) RHEA CHAKRABORTY V. STATE OF BIHAR AND OTHERS [2020 SCC OnLine SC 654 Para 23, 28] and the provisions under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 pertaining to registration of FIR and investigation of cases."
Now coming to the concluding paras. Para 8 then goes on to state that, "Since Mr. Suresh has been produced before the court, nothing survives for consideration in this writ petition and, accordingly, we close the same." Finally, it is then held in the last para 9 that, "The writ petition is disposed of with the above directions."
No doubt, Karnataka High Court in this leading case has made a good start by asking the station house officer to clean road outside police station for a week as a punishment for failing to register FIR. For this, Justice S Sunil Dutt Yadav and Justice P Krishna Bhat of Karnataka High Court must be commended, complimented and congratulated. They have certainly set a good precedent on this score.
Needless to say, but this alone is just not enough. It is high time that refusing to lodge an FIR be made a non-bailable offence and there must be imprisonment for 6 months to an year and a penalty of not less than Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000. If the same police official again commits the same offence then he must be dismissed from service and the punishment me jail for a term of 5 years along with a higher penalty of Rs 1 lakh.
It goes without saying that Centre and State Governments have repeatedly mocked at victim’s interminable sufferings on this count and have only rendered lip service and that too just at the time when the offence is committed so that the feelings of people get assuaged and they don’t start agitating in a big manner. This most stop now forthwith by enacting a law in this regard at the earliest! All that is needed is just a strong political will and this has to be demonstrated in abundance if they really want that victims are not made to run from pillar to post just for the purpose of lodging an FIR!
To sum up, those police officers who refuse to lodge FIR have no right to remain in uniform. They must make way for other aspirants. There has to be zero tolerance for acts of gross indiscipline like this!
Not lodging an FIR is also an act of crime as the victim is further made to suffer and demanding bribe for lodging FIR is even far more serious which deserves not just dismissal from service but life imprisonment also! But how many times do we hear police officials getting punished for not lodging FIR. They compel litigants to lodge FIR many times under lighter offences also like in cases of theft they lodge it as just lost and many times just refuse to lodge FIR on extraneous grounds like offender being rich and powerful or on monetary considerations or some other considerations!
No doubt, it is a sad commentary on this score that no strictness is shown whatsoever on this count! It is most hurting to see that while many state governments like UP, Madhya Pradesh among others waste no time in enacting law against "love jihad" which many term as "most discriminatory" as it targets Muslims only which is clear from its name itself even though its makers may deny this and as we keep reading in different newspapers and magazines also and instead call this new law as "love police" as this new law confers unfettered power on police to harass, humiliate and harangue couples even though it may be by consent which is just ridiculous and cannot be justified under any circumstances! There must be provision for punishing police officers if they are found to harass innocent couple so that no policemen ever dares to go the wrong way!
One only hopes that good sense prevails over our State governments and Centre and they all enact laws promptly on this count also so that no police officer ever dare to refuse to lodge an FIR under any circumstances whatsoever! We are just about to complete 75 years of independence but what a crowning irony that even till now we see no initiative being taken by any government on this score, not at least to the best of my knowledge! Karnataka High Court by this extremely wonderful ruling has at least made a good beginning on this score but certainly it is now the bounden duty of our lawmakers both in States and in Centre to also enact the strictest law on this count as it is definitely not the job of the judiciary to enact laws!