Letter to Chairman, Karnataka Police Complaints Authority

Ashwin Mahesh, one of Bangalore’s highly engaged citizens, shared a letter (on Facebook) addressed to Justice Rajendra Babu, Chairman of the Karnataka Police Complaints Authority.

Based on inputs from the discussion we had a few days ago, and with the new policy guidance from the Takshashila Institution, I have put together this final version of the letter to the chairman of the Police Complaints Authority. Thanks, MD Bescom Manivannan and Nitin Pai for your inputs. I will follow this up by visiting Justice Babu sometime next week.

Justice R J Babu (Retd.)
Police Complaints Authority
Bangalore 560001

Re: urgent intervention to assure women’s safety

Respected Chairman,

As you are aware, the country is currently wracked by anger over the death of a young woman who was gang-raped and brutally assaulted. In the outrage over this, it has been repeatedly pointed out that the police authorities are failing in their duty to provide the necessary shield and support to millions of young women in the country. I recognise that many officers serve with distinction and pride, but this cannot blind us to the fact that there are others, who bring dishonour upon the uniform by neglecting or refusing to do their duties diligently.

As a result, the police station is not anymore seen as a place to which those who either face threats of violence, or have already become victims to it can reliably and safely take their complaints. This is particularly true in the case of crimes against women. Worse still, even media personnel who report on such crimes are under threat from the police; in Karnataka, you would have read of recent reports from Mangalore that a journalist reporting on harassment of women has been falsely implicated by the police, and is now in jail.

It is the PCA’s responsibility to transform this. I am saddened to see that since the creation of the PCA, there has been very little done by the Government to make it a meaningfully powerful body, capable of providing the ‘checks and balances’ to police administration. As the Chairman, you must insist upon adequate staff and finances to carry out your responsibilities. It is also imperative that the PCA should maintain a high degree of public contact, which would give people in the state the confidence that there is an ombudsman to whom matters relating to police misconduct can be brought.

Sir, you are uniquely placed to take concrete steps to improve the police administration in this aspect, since your office has the clear backing of the Supreme Court’s orders on police reforms. Your intervention at this juncture will have the potential to set our state on a new, much safer course for millions of young women.

Specifically, I urge that you take the following steps.

(a) Obtain station-wise reports from all police stations in the state, documenting the number of FIRs and cases registered under sections of law pertaining to violence against women, and publish this list on your web site.

(b) Demand from the State Government that every police station must have a minimum number of female police officers, and that necessary recruitment should be carried out to ensure that within the next three years at least one-third of all officials above the rank of Sub-inspectors should be women.

(c) Demand from the State Government that the necessary number of officers with investigating powers be posted to the PCA, to work under your direct supervision in examining matters brought to your attention.

(d) Demand from the Government of Karnataka that no investigation of an accusation against a police official for failing to do his duty, or acting improperly, may be closed by an internal investigation of the Home Department itself.

(e) Carry out an extensive program of awareness building about women’s safety, and their rights to police support and protection in the case of crimes against them. Please include members of women’s rights advocacy groups in developing this program.

(f) As proposed by Takshashila Institution and many women’s rights groups, please conduct a state-wide victim survey, to estimate the number and types of crimes not reported to the police, identify people most at risk and map public attitude towards crime and towards the Criminal Justice System. There is a need for reliable and comprehensive data on crime in India that will sustain an empirical approach towards reducing crime against women.

(g) Please instruct the police department to have a working emergency number. If a recorded voice plays for 30 seconds when someone dials an emergency hotline, then the very purpose of the hotline is defeated. The people manning the hotlines are also insufficiently trained. What we need is a meaningful emergency number, where call is picked within 3 rings, the cell number of the caller is displayed and located in 5 minutes, and the nearest patrol vehicle (equipped with GPS) reaches the location in 10 minutes. This is possible with the presently available technology.

I am confident that the steps outlined here can help restore some of the trust in police administration that seems lost now, and without which the safety of millions of women will remain threatened.

With warm regards,
Ashwin Mahesh

Link to Ashwin’s revised Facebook post (which incorporated comments from Mr. Manavanan and Takshashila’s Nitin Pai) and his original Facebook post which includes the complete conversation thread.




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