NEW DELHI: With the Ruchika Girhotra case drawing harsh attention to police reluctance in filing an FIR against a fellow officer as well as to their complicity in hounding a young girl to suicide, the Centre has decided to issue a circular to states and union territories calling for mandatory registration of all complaints as FIRs.
The Union home ministry circular, likely to be sent out next week, would ask states “to ensure that all complaints received at police stations are treated as FIRs”. If implemented, this could — by some estimates — double the number of FIRs while also increasing accountability of police officials at all levels.
Though it would be up to the states to implement such a decision as law and order is under their purview, the Centre hopes to generate momentum on the issue despite the obvious criticism that some complaints are frivolous or motivated. But as the brutal miscarriage of justice in the Ruchika case shows, police discretion in registering FIRs can throttle a family’s righteous plea.
After taking the states on board, the home ministry hopes to press for a proposed amendment in the CrPC making it mandatory for heads of police stations “to give specific reason for registration or non-registration of a particular case after receiving complaints” — a move that officials believe will pave the way for compulsory registration of FIRs.
“The circular, to be issued next week, will direct state governments and UTs to ensure free and total registration of all complaints as FIRs,” said a top home ministry official. Though Ruchika’s case is clearly the trigger, the move follows repeated complaints from the public that police are often reluctant to register an FIR, at times to just show a lower crime rate in their jurisdiction, and at times to protect influential law-breakers.
Typically, police officials often claim that they need to see whether a complaint is “genuine” and point to limitations in manpower. These arguments are not without merit, but discussions in MHA and PMO have felt that the risk might be worth it; the SHO or case officer should have to explain why a case was not registered after an FIR was filed.
It is pointed out that registering an FIR is mandatory with regard to “atrocities” against SC and STs where non-registration could mean punitiveaction. “No SHO hesitates for even a minute to register a complaint under the SC and ST (prevention of atrocities) Act,” said a PMO official.
Ruchika’s family members had alleged that the local police refused to register the FIR when they lodged a complaint against Rathore in the molestation case. The police allegedly also refused to register a case when Ruchika’s brother was harassed by cops on false charges.
Former chief of bureau of police research and development Kiran Bedi said “governments and police often show an artificial control of crime. This is also a source of corruption and crime. The home ministry will have to work in tandem with states and judiciary or this will remain on paper.” She added, “The country has finally woken up and realized the need to register all crimes.”
Elaborating the move in the backdrop of many such complaints from across the country, the home ministry official said: “The objective of the circular to the states and UTs is to ensure that even if a complaint is false, police have to investigate it after registering the FIR”.
He said: “If the complaint is found to be false, police can always drop the FIR. But that should not be a deterrent in registering genuine complaints as FIR”.
Various police reforms commissions and the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) had brought up the problem of non-registration of FIRs. Although the matter had been discussed on several occasions while analysing the police reform issues, a section of the cops argued that it could be possible only when the strength of the force is increased substantially.
“In a country where the state police collectively have vacancies of over one lakh, the first step should be to recruit more policemen so that each and every complaint is attended properly. Only registration of FIRs will not serve the purpose,” said an official