INDIA: Female police officer complains against the police 

This statement is released to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November

AHRC-STM-217-2013.jpgMs. Padmini, a traffic warden, has accused local police, investigating her complaint of sexual harassment, of intimidation in order to protect the interest of the offender. The officer’s contention is that, while she was on traffic duty, the accused verbally abused her, punched her on the chest, and forcibly removed the nametag pinned to her shirt. The incident occurred on 2 November, at about 11 a.m., in one of the busiest traffic junctions of Kochi city, Kerala, in front of a large crowd.

While officially reporting the case, Ms. Padmini has met the fate of other complainants in India. The police officers first ordered her to go to the Traffic Police Station to lodge her complaint. While on her way there, she was ordered to make her report at the Kadavanthara Police Station. When she arrived at the Kadavanthara Police Station, she was ordered to make her report at the City North Police Station instead. To report a crime that occurred at 11 a.m., the officer had to wait for three hours and was made to run between police stations.

One of the challenges in dealing with crimes in India is the exceptional difficulty of getting a complaint registered. The police are mandated under law to accept complaints, whether the complaints reveal a crime or not. The law further requires the police to investigate the complaint promptly, and should it reveal the commission of a crime, to register a crime against the suspect.

However, this process is solely dependent upon the acceptance of a complaint into records by the police. It is common knowledge that local police demand and accept bribes to register complaints. In crimes committed against women, particularly in instances of sexual offense, laxity by police in accepting complaints and their demand for bribes become harrowing experiences for victims.

When Ms. Padmini made her statement, the senior police officer recording it ordered that Ms. Padmini need not narrate the entire incident as it occurred. Despite her insistence, according to Ms. Padmini, her statement was watered down, and, as a result, the accused was able to obtain anticipatory bail from the District Sessions’ Court. The court cited the case diary, which according to the court, contained inadequate grounds to refuse the accused anticipatory bail.

This is another endemic pattern in India – the police do not record complaints and witness statements as provided by persons. It is not rare, but common, for the police to accept bribes, or to come under the influence of unwarranted interference, to discount oral statements of complainants and witnesses and allow criminals to walk free.

In this case, however, Ms. Padmini organised a press conference to speak to the media about how the state police, where she is employed, is trying to help her assailant, instead of investigating the case properly.

Ms. Padmini’s ordeal flies in the face of the Supreme Court of India’s directions and the Indian government’s subsequent amendments to the law, which mandate the police to record, without fail, all complaints relating to sexual violence or harassment against women. In fact, the Supreme Court’s directive and the subsequent introduction of legal provisions are only an addendum to well-established law in India that direct the police to record all complaints they receive.

To change existing practice, it is not legislations that are required, but reform of the state of policing in India. In a country where complaints are refused to be recorded and the state policy on police reforms is to have no such policy, observing an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is mere window dressing at best.

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Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-217-2013
Countries : India,
Issues : Judicial system, Police negligence, Rule of law, Violence against women,