Thursday, 31 January 2008

To the policemen who write

The enormity of the paperwork generated by the police hadn't hit me all the times I interacted with police in Ramnagaram, Bidadi and other rural areas.

I've been to urban police stations also many times: as a passport applicant, requesting permission to conduct a rock show, couple of times as a complainant, research for some project, meet friends (cop friends not criminal friends) and sometimes for things like taking shelter from the rain but all those times I don't remember noticing anything that hinted at any major literary activity going on there.

Now in the course of my internship, I have been meeting a lot of policemen who do a lot of paperwork in addition to their regular duties. I'm not talking about the police who hang out at gate zero and do nothing all day. In fact to keep it simple, I think I shall focus on only on one small department of the police. That is the Central Crime Branch. To see what they describe themselves as check this site out. After I observed them at work on and off for a little more than a week I figured I didn't really need to have gone there to have realized the amount of paperwork that they do. All I needed to do was just think of their jurisdiction and then think of things that we were taught in Cr.P.C. and put two and two together. They meant for the investigation of special crimes throughout the city of Bangalore. Bangalore city - a resident population of approximately 55-65 Lakhs depending on the source and a day time populationn that is around one and a half times that number.

The first piece of paper inked upon in most cases is the FIR. however it is not with the CCB that the FIR is lodged. It is first lodged with the police station under whose jurisdiction the crime falls and then directed by the Zonal Officer to the CCB. Though they are required to keep pushing bits of paper even during the investigation, the tsunami begins when the investigation ends. The head constable attached to the investigating officer or sometimes a regular PC goes mad at this stage. There are many things like the FSL report, Fingerprint expert's report, Polygraph test report, police photographer's report and, as I recently learned, the dog handler's report and a report about almost every step taken during the investigation from the IO, which need to be just received from the relevant expert marked, numbered and maintained in triplicate. Though this itself seemed a tedious job to me this is far simpler than the things to come.

The Investigating Officer, in theory himself, in practice through the head constable, takes down the statement of each and every witness, suspect or any other person even remotely connected to the crime and again has them marked, numbered and maintained in triplicate. this comes to quite a lot because in practice, the first version is almost never the final version. People keep changing their statements, the police keeps twisting the people's statements so that they tally with the statement of other people and to their overall theory of the occurrence of that crime.

It is another Ramayan when the arrest and recovery procedure begins. The designated constable runs around for a hundred warrants and the police find a few men from somewhere and get the to be witnesses for the recovery procedure. all the items seized will be sealed and signed by these civilians and a statement from each of these persons is taken by the IO.

Then they sit down and come out with what they think is a grand document called the chargesheet. With this piece of paper they go to court and hand it over to the prosecutor. This however is not the end of their troubles. New facts may come to light or the defence may take a stance which may make them look at the case from a different angle. It may require a lot of further investigation and more statements, documents, paperwork and additional chargesheets.

The chronology of procedures mentioned above may vary from case to case but the paperwork requirements are pretty much the same.

Pretty scary? all this time I have been talking about crimes that are simple to comprehend like murder or rape. The paperwork is threefold when the crime is a more complex one like a chit fund fraud which is perpetrated over a long time, involves a lot of people and the perpetrators have taken extensive measures to protect themselves from the law.

I'm not saying at any point that this system of paperwork is bad. I firmly believe that this system, cumbersome as it may seem, is the safeguard that protects our society from turning upon itself. What I'm actually trying to say is that there exists a part of the duties of a policeman which is ignored by the popular media due to its unglamorous nature and of which I was largely unaware. To the policemen who write then, who help ensure that we sleep soundly at night, though we do toss and turn a little...

1 comment:

sri said...

I am still reading your blog. I like the new format. I hope I was an influence (though I doubt it).

You wuz here