Are crimes grossly under reported in the country?
Police, in India, has often been accused of hiding the actual figures of crimes largely with the intent of presenting a rosy picture of few offences in the society. Reply to an application filed under the Right to Information Act (RTI) Act has given an indication of the extent of suppression in the reporting of crime data. As per the reply by the Madurai Commissioner of Police and Superintendent of Police, Madurai (Rural), during the past three years, the Police have registered only 416 cases out of a total of 14,570 complaints on crimes against women and children.
Madurai-based advocate R Vignesh had sought details on cases such as dowry, harassment, rape, eve teasing and other atrocities against women and children. As per the information provided by the office of the Madurai Commissioner of Police, 5,393 complaints were received by Tallakulam, Town and South all women police stations (AWPS) in the past three years. Out of these 3,435 cases were dropped, 95 cases were registered while the rest were referred to the District Social Welfare Officer. The office of the Rural Superintendent of Police (SP) has informed that 9,177 complaints were received by the Tiruparankundram, Melur, Thirumangalam, Samayapuram and Tirumangalam police stations but only 321 cases have been registered.
On 12 November, 2013, the Supreme Court in the case of Lalitha vs Govt.Of U.P.& Ors [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 68 of 2008] had directed making first information report (FIR) mandatory for all cases. The Supreme Court had held that:
i) Registration of FIR is mandatory under Section 154 of the Code, if the information discloses commission of a cognizable offence and no preliminary inquiry is permissible in such a situation.
ii) If the information received does not disclose a cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether cognizable offence is disclosed or not.
iii) If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. In cases where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant forthwith and not later than one week. It must disclose reasons in brief for closing the complaint and not proceeding further.
iv) The police officer cannot avoid his duty of registering offence if cognizable offence is disclosed. Action must be taken against erring officers who do not register the FIR if information received by him discloses a cognizable offence.
v) The scope of preliminary inquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence.
vi) As to what type and in which cases preliminary inquiry is to be conducted will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. The category of cases in which preliminary inquiry may be made are as under:
a) Matrimonial disputes/ family disputes
b) Commercial offences
c) Medical negligence cases
d) Corruption cases
e) Cases where there is abnormal delay/laches in initiating criminal prosecution, for example, over 3 months delay in reporting the matter without satisfactorily explaining the reasons for delay.
The aforesaid are only illustrations and not exhaustive of all conditions which may warrant preliminary inquiry.
vii) While ensuring and protecting the rights of the accused and the complainant, a preliminary inquiry should be made time bound and in any case it should not exceed 7 days. The fact of such delay and the causes of it must be reflected in the General Diary entry.
viii) Since the General Diary/Station Diary/Daily Diary is the record of all information received in a police station, we direct that all information relating to cognizable offences, whether resulting in registration of FIR or leading to an inquiry, must be mandatorily and meticulously reflected in the said Diary and the decision to conduct a preliminary inquiry must also be reflected, as mentioned above.