I know that a lot of friends and family have already heard about this absolutely disgraceful abuse of power by a bunch of policeman over what seems like such a trivial matter as filing an FIR for a stolen mobile. However I figured that most people have simply read about the article in the Mumbai Mirror and haven’t heard my side of the story. This is my way of reaching out to the rest of you guys on the world wide web. I believe a little bit of awareness of our rights and the law goes a long way. This kindda thing may not happen or be relevant to a lot of people out there but even if it helps a single person I think I’d be happy.
The Case :
On 19th February, 2012 at around 7pm the white Samsung Galaxy Pop mobile belonging to my friend Neha Nisal (a law student from Symbiosis Pune) was stolen from Bandstand, Mumbai. We proved the intent of theft when the phone was removed from its location and without the owners consent. The thief did not answer the phone when we rang it up and the third time we called it, he cut the call. After that the sim card of the phone was removed and the phone not reachable. The GPS location first showed the Bandstand area and then after some time showed that the phone was moved to the Bandra Worli sea link. After this the GPS was deactivated by the thief.
Neha Nisal and a mutual friend Abhijeet Wankhade then went to the police station to file a report. One of the policemen took the duo outside and asked for a bribe of Rs. 100/- to file the report at all telling them that if they did not pay “unfortunate delays” could occur and the mobile may never be found. After this, the police refused to file an FIR saying that the intention of theft could not be proved. They insisted that in order for her to issue a duplicate sim card or even track the mobile she needed to file a “Misplaced report” (register a non-cognisable offence) for the process to start. Neha was issued a certificate for the same.
After half an hour when she went back to file the FIR thePolice Inspector yelled at her and Abhijeet. When Abhijeet took a step in front of Neha to protect her if needed, the police illegally detained Abhijeet without cause and asked for the police at the scene to do a medical report on him. At this point Neha called Akash Puri, Kunal Thakur and myself to help.
When I arrived at the scene with my grandmother (aged 81) the police refused to state the cause for the medical report request. We defended that this was unnecessary step and without connection to the crime commited. Subsequent to us insisting for his release they allowed him to go but told him if he stayed in the area the police would implicate him too along with us. We made him leave the area and asked one of the Police Inspectors to file the FIR for the theft.
During this time the Assistant Police Inspector Aher arrived at the station. He asked Neha to tell him the facts of the case in Hindi or Marathi only. As she didn’t know either of the languages (she’s from Kerala and speaks only Malyalam and English) he asked me to explain. He kept interrupting and yelling at me during the narration of the facts. After reciting the scenario he yelled at me as to why I was talking when Neha was the victim even though he was the one who had asked me to explain. He then addressed Neha in Marathi. But when she did not understand what he was saying and requested him to speak in English he said “If not marathi or hindi then Get Out of my police station”. I asked him if he was implying that the police did not take a not of any criminal offense (theft or missapropriation of property) in English but he continued to yell “Get Out of my police station”
We got up to leave. When I asked him for his name (intending to take the matter to his superior) he ripped off his badge from his shirt and threw it at my face hitting me on the forehead. I picked the badge from the floor. While I was reading his name he came around the table and twisted my hand. He continued twisting even though I told him he was hurting me until I let go of the badge. When I accused him of assault he said I had no witnesses and no one in the police station would testify against him. I told him that both Neha and my grandmother were witnesses. He then asked me if I though that even a single person would take their word over a policeman. When I told him that I would try all the same he said he would file a assault case against me and then ripped open the front of his shirt tearing away all his buttons. He then said that the police present in the room would testify against me for assaulting him and the Inspector next to him started filing a report against me. While all this occurred the other 7 policemen inside the station and about 5-6 policemen outside the station (who were watching the incident through the window) did nothing to stop him.
In the meantime our friend Sagar came to sort the issue out but he was thrown out of the police station and none of us were allowed to leave the room. We told them that this was illegal detainment of 3 women especially since there was no women policeman present but they paid no attention. They locked the door and told Sagar, Kunal and Akash that if they interfered they would be implicatedin the supposed assault that I had committed on API Aher. Even though we had repeatedly requested for a lady officer to be present at the scene from 8:30pm when we arrived not a single woman walked in till 3am the next morning when we left even though the police kept telling us that they were on their way to the station.
Neha gave the excuse of going to the washroom so that we could leave the station and talk to our friends outside. Our family and friends refused to let us go back into the station without a female office present.
Everything that I have stated can be verified by the CCTV cameras, Neha Nisal, Dr. Sarala Azad, Kunal Thakur, Akash Puri and the remaining police officers in the police station (assuming of course that the policeman don’t lie to protect one another).
A note to my readers :
I hope adequate action gets taken against these policemen. They should be allowed to feel that they are above the law. Moreover such gross misuse of power must be nipped in the bud. I have no idea how many women in Bandra or otherwise in the country have gone through similar situations but this must be stopped here. It is to be hoped that by making an example of these policemen, others will think twice before breaking the law. API Aher is about 2 months from retirement. It is to be hoped that a Department Inquiry starts soon and that he and the other policemen on duty are suitably punished for his actions.
Generally, the police take advantage of our ignorance of the law and our rights. Several well meaning people in the great Facebook nation post articles on our rights, traffic laws and fines, etc. I know that a lot of people bypass these articles,reading on to rofl at a troll instead. I know this because I used to be one of those people too. I advise people to start reading and understanding our rights as citizens.
More importantly thank you for bearing with me through this article and supporting me through this chaos. Please let me know if this ever happens to any of you and you can be sure I will be part of that crowd waiting to hear your side of the story and believe you.
I could not have managed to come so far if it wasn’t for a few people who came so bravely to our rescue when we needed it the most. You know who you are. Thank you for being there and supporting us. A big hug and special thanks to Aditya Paul my cousin, who I believe is definitely the most resourceful person I know.
1. Met Sr. Police Inspector Abhay Shastri, Assistant Commissioner of Police Marathe, and the Deputy Commissioner of Police Pratap Dighavkar, on Monday, 20th February, 2012 : They told us that if a person comes twice to the police station (especially young college girls) the police generally ALWAYS to file the FIR because its considered bad form to deny it. They also stated that we must NOT file an FIR against Aher at this stage as it would interfere with their dept. inquiry (not sure I believe them, but for now going to try and hope that the media coverage this has received helps resolve the issue. (Edited : 21st Feb,2012)
2. An article published in the Mumbai Mirror on the case : 19-yr-old’s ordeal as Bandra cop refuses to file FIR
3. Several family and friends have contacted me and asked why we don’t complain about the police inaction on the matter. They say we should plan a march/protest outside the Bandra Police Station, sit there all night on the road, block traffic, etc. Thank you everyone for your support. If there is ever need of such an action you’ll be sure I will be inviting all of you. As of now we’ve told them that we’ll give the Police a few more days to respond and get in touch. (Edited : 5th March, 2012)
4. Met the Additional Commissioner of Police Vishwas Nangre-Patil on 13th March, 2012 : Asked him why none of the police had contacted us for a statement or to inform us of any action or inquiry taking place on such a sensitive issue for almost 4 weeks. He told us that as far as he was aware no department inquiry had been started since he would have been informed of the same. He promised to contact us within 2 days regarding the issue of the Counter-FIR filed against me as well as the state of the Dept. Inquiry. (Edited : 13th Mar,2012)
5. Additional CP Nangre-Patil contacted us on 16th March, 2012 : The Dept. Inquiry has been initiated by the ACP of the region. Not sure how far its progressed though since API Aher is still stationed in Bandra. He has confirmed to us that Aher will be shifted to the Police Control Room (directly under the Additional CP) once the investigation has started in its entirety so that he cannot directly interfere with the Inquiry.
A short note here : After 4 weeks of this incident occuring , it is a relief to have any police officer respond promptly. It allays my fears that the incident will fade away and API Aher will retire comfortably. (Edited : 16th Mar, Feb,2012)
A Few Definitions (by Indian Law)
1. Theft :
A person is said to commit theft who: intends to take dishonestly, any moveable property, out of the possession of any person, without the consent of that person, and moves it in order to accomplish the taking of it.
2. Criminal Misappropriation of Property :
Criminal misappropriation takes place when the possession has been innocently come by, but where, by a subsequent change of intention, or the knowledge of new fact with which the party was not previously acquainted, the retaining becomes wrongful and fraudulent. A person commits criminal misappropriation, if he:
- Dishonestly misappropriates or converts any property into his own use,
- Such property should be movable.
Punishment : Whoever dishonestly misappropriates any movable property shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to two years, or fine, or with both. (bailable)
3. FIR (First Information Report):
FIR is a written document prepared by the police when they receive information about the commission of a cognizable offence. It is a report of information that reaches the police first in point of time and that is why it is called the First Information Report.
The police may not investigate a complaint even if you file a FIR, when:
a) The case is not serious in nature or
b) The police feel that there is not enough ground to investigate.
However, the police must record the reasons for not conducting an investigation and in the latter case must also inform you. — [Section 157, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973]