MPs bay for blood, but aren’t cops too guilty for Hyderabad rape?

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal sits on indefinite hunger strike against the Hyderabad rape-murder case and growing incidents of crime against women at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: PTI

Parliamentarians, while demanding tough punishment for those who raped and murdered Disha in Hyderabad, seem to have overlooked how existing penal provisions were violated, facilitating the crime to happen in the first place.

Disha, the name given to the veterinary doctor who was killed last Thursday (November 28) brought back memories of the brutal rape and killing of Nirbhaya who was attacked after boarding a private bus on the way home from a movie in Delhi in 2012. However, Disha’s gang rape and murder is a bundle of several crimes committed by authorities who facilitated the cruelty against the innocent doctor.

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Aren’t the police accountable for dereliction of duty, since they had allowed the rapists to consume alcohol in a public place? Their truck was parked in an outer ring road at a toll plaza.

It has come to light now that the accused were driving the truck without a license for the last two years. They were also intercepted by transport staff on November 25 in Mahabubnagar. It has now been found that they prevented the officials from impounding the truck by removing the vehicle’s self-start cable. When the truck didn’t start, the policemen moved on, only to find on their return that the accused had escaped with the truck.

Investigations have now revealed that the rapists were planning to carry a load of steel illegally and had parked their truck by the road on November 26. The next day, at 9 pm, a police team had directed the rapists to move the truck from the spot where it had been parked. They went to Tondupally Outer Ring Road toll plaza, parked their vehicle there, consumed liquor and hatched the dreaded plan to rape Disha after seeing her park her scooter there.

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The remand report says, “They poured liquor into her mouth. The victim lost consciousness during the gang rape. When she came to consciousness, Ali (truck driver) smothered her to death.”

Dereliction of duty

At every stage, one can find inaction, improper action, lack of follow-up and negligence by police and other government officers. So, why are MPs and the common man demanding death penalty for the rapists and not talking about dereliction of duty? Who are the real criminals who facilitate crimes?

Telangana Police suffered severe criticism for their silence, inaction and non-registration of FIR towards the victim’s parents.

The Telangana Police’s unfriendly response towards the victim’s parents amounts to negligence and dereliction of duty.

As per Section 7 of the Police Act of 1861, negligence of duty is a crime that could lead to dismissal from service.

Section 7. Appointment, dismissal, etc., of inferior officers:

Subject to the provisions of Article 311 of the Constitution, and to such rules] as the State Government may from time to time make under this Act, the Inspector-General, Deputy Inspectors-General, Assistant Inspector-General and District Superintendents of Police may at any time dismiss, suspend or reduce any police officer of the subordinate ranks] whom they shall think remiss or negligent in the discharge of his duty, or unfit for the same; 4 or may award any one or more of the following punishments to any police officer – 5 of the subordinate ranks] who shall discharge his duty in a careless or negligent manner, or who by any act of his own shall render himself unfit for the discharge thereof, namely:

(a) Fine to any amount not exceeding one month’s pay

(b) Confinement to quarters for a term not exceeding fifteen days, with or without punishment- drill, extra guard, fatigue or other duty

(c) Deprivation of good-conduct pay

(d) Removal from any office of distinction or special emolument.

It is a clear case of negligence if the officials delayed the filing of FIR and didn’t offer a zero FIR option to the complainant. Every police officer is taught and trained to register an FIR. It is applicable even to an IG level officer. It is very sad that they do not care. In this case, at least their salary should have been forfeited to instill fear towards dereliction of duty. However, Section 7 is rarely implemented in India.

Not booking a case: Police’s crime

A police officer refusing to file an FIR is now liable for imprisonment of up to one year or fine or both as per the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2013, which was later made into a law in 2018.

Section 166A of IPC after Criminal Law Amendment Act 2018 says,

Whoever, being a public servant — knowingly disobeys any direction of the law which prohibits him from requiring the attendance at any place of any person for the purpose of investigation into an offence or any other, or knowingly disobeys, to the prejudice of any person, any other direction of the law regulating the manner in which he shall conduct such investigation, or fails to record any information given to him under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in relation to cognizable offence punishable under section 326A, section 326B, section 354, section 354B, section 370, section 370A, section 376, section 376A, section 376AB, section 376B, section 376C, section 376D, section 376DA, section 376DB, section 376E or section 509 (sexual offences against woman), shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Thus, the officers — who have now been suspended — should be charged with offence under Section 166A of the IPC so that they may undergo rigorous imprisonment for six months. Why was this provision not invoked against the officers?

The rare implementation of this provision of criminal law emboldens negligent officers to resort to dereliction of duty over and over. When such a serious incident like Disha takes place, the police will be suspended, if not transferred. After a few days, no one bothers and they will be silently reinstated. The duty to not be negligent gradually transformed into right to be! Then, what is the purpose of this amendment?

Exposing victim by mass social media criminal Maharajas!

The police have also been silent for the last four days when there was rampant abuse of the photographs of rape victim. People have disclosed her identity and address, and exposed the entire family with utter disregard to the law. The mass media and social media have been reckless with their writings and posts with the victim’s photograph.

They were apparently showing very ‘deep’ lip-sympathy, but never cared for the adverse effects of exposing her private information with undue publicity through her personal photos, which is a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code. None stopped it for four days, until Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar has rightly renamed her as Disha.

Section 228A of IPC, says,

Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence is committed shall be punished with imprisonment (rigorous or simple) up to two years and shall also be liable to fine.

Only when an officer-in-charge of the police station permits it in writing for investigation, or when a victim or her legal representative authorises it in writing, the victim’s name can be published. Even in court proceedings, her name cannot be published without permission from the court. Such a publication is a crime that can lead to a two-year jail term.

Again, no one cares. All the existing jails may not be enough if every person who committed this crime on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, TV and newspapers is booked. What moral right do they have to demand harsh punishment for criminals?

Crime of public consumption of alcohol

Drinking in a public place is yet another crime as per the Telangana Prohibition Act, which was part of AP Act that was introduced by NT Rama Rao in 1994. But his son-in-law N Chandrababu Naidu repealed it in 1997, claiming that it was “not successful or feasible because of the leakages within the state and from across the borders.”

Even after amendment, Section 9 imposes punishment for being found in a state of intoxication. It says:

Whoever is found in a state of intoxication in a public place and whoever, not having been permitted to consume liquor in pursuance of this Act, is found in state of intoxication in any private place, shall be punishable by offense with imprisonment which may extend up to six months, or with a fine that may go up to one thousand rupees, or with both. (Except in Bihar, Gujarat, Mizoram and Nagaland as well as in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, sale of alcohol is not prohibited.)

Why is this law not being enforced? If the police had arrested the rapists for drinking in public, the crime could have been prevented.

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The question here is, can we ever build a friendly police force?

Telangana suspended three Shadnagar police officers for dereliction of duty when Disha’s parents approached them to file a complaint regarding her disappearance. The policemen are guilty here of not just refusing to file an FIR, but of also not acting promptly.

FIR or not, they should have used their phones and wireless equipment to look into the complaint. If the police cannot improve their attitude and deal with people in a friendly manner, prevention of crimes or tracing criminals may not be possible. Investigation into crime cannot be delayed even by a minute in the interests of law and order. Jurisdiction or lack of it cannot be an excuse!

(M Sridhar Acharyulu, former Central Information Commissioner and Dean, School of Law, Bennett University)

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)