Written by Rawnaq Bali

Since April 23, a group of professional wrestlers, including Olympic medalists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia and world champions Finch Phogat and Deepak Punia, have been holding a peaceful sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for an FIR record against the former. President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Charan Singh over multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. Disillusioned with the inaction of the police, the wrestlers filed a petition in the Supreme Court requesting the registration of an FIR against Singh.

While the petition was being heard before a judicial panel chaired by the Chief Justice of India, D. Y. Chandachod, Delhi Police on April 28 registered two FIRs. The gladiators’ sit-in at Jantar Al-Mantar had entered its sixth day by then. Delhi Police previously stated that they needed more time to conduct a preliminary investigation before recording the FIR.

The delay on the part of the police in recording the FIR is a violation of the guidelines laid down by the Constitutional Council of the Supreme Court in the case of Lalita Kumari v Government of Uttar Pradesh et al. (2013). Lalita Kumari was a little girl who was kidnapped in Uttar Pradesh. Her father, Paula Kamat, filed a written complaint with the officer in charge of the concerned police station, but the police officers did not take any action. The FIR was recorded after Kamat knocked on the doors of the Superintendent of Police. Even after recording the FIR, the police did not seriously investigate the kidnapping nor made any major efforts to locate Lalita Kumari.

This inaction forced Kamat to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to file a writ of habeas corpus. While hearing the petition, the Court noted that there was discrepancy in the recording of FIRs and that there were different provisions on whether a police officer was required to register an FIR once information relating to an identifiable offense had been disclosed under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) . A known offense, as defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure, is an offense for which a police officer is authorized to arrest the accused without a warrant. It applies to heinous and serious crimes, such as murder, kidnapping, rape, and sexual harassment, to name a few.

Noting the conflicting nature of the previous rulings, the Court referred the case to the Constitutional Chamber. Bench led by CJI P Sathasivam has laid out eight guidelines that must be followed by Police in all States and Union Territories across India while registering FIRs. In its ruling, the court stated that if the information received by the police revealed that an identifiable offense had been committed, the registration of the FIR was mandatory. A preliminary investigation shall not be conducted in such a case.

“A police officer cannot evade his duty to record an offense if an identifiable offense is detected. Action must be taken against officers at fault who fail to record an FIR if the information he received reveals an identifiable offense,” the court noted in its ruling. .

While answering the question on preliminary inquiries, the court ordered that, if necessary, it be time-bound and not exceed seven days. This was amended in the 2014 order, by which the time limit for completing an initial investigation was raised to 15 days in general and six weeks in exceptional cases. The court also made it clear that a preliminary investigation could only be conducted to ascertain whether or not an identifiable crime had been detected and that the scope of the investigation would be limited to that extent.

The former WFI president has been charged with offenses under Section 354A of the IPC (sexual harassment of the nature of unwelcome physical contact and the advance, request or request of sexual favours) and Section 11 of the POCSO Act (acts amounting to sexual harassment of a minor). Both are recognizable offences, and so the Delhi Police needed to record the FIR under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code as soon as it received information regarding the commission of these offences. A preliminary investigation cannot be authorized when the information clearly reveals that an identifiable crime has been committed. For the sake of argument, even if the investigation were to take place, it would have been to begin in January itself, within 15 days of the allegations first emerging.

Police were reluctant to file an FIR even though the allegations were made in January. The delay of three months despite strong and unequivocal allegations coupled with information revealing that multiple identifiable offenses were committed is unfortunate. Regardless of any and all assumptions one might have regarding the political pressure behind not registering the FIR against the BJP MP and looking at it objectively from a legal perspective, the position of the police is in violation of the law set out by the Supreme Court in the case of Lalita Kumari. The police must record the FIR as soon as they receive knowledge of the crime of sexual harassment under the Islamic Penal Code and the POCSO Act.

DCW recommended, on April 26, that an FIR be filed against police officers under Section 166A of the Iraqi Penal Code for this legal violation.

This is not the first time that Delhi Police has delayed FIR registration against people with great political power and influence. Police registered the FIR in the 2021 Dharam Sansad hate speech case after a delay of more than five months. The accident occurred on December 19, 2021, and the FIR was registered in May 2022. Until then, no action has been taken against the officers responsible for the delay.

In June 2022, the mother of a deceased woman moved the Patiala House Court for an FIR registration application against her late daughter’s boyfriend, whom she accused of torturing her daughter and abetting her to commit suicide. In her complaint to the court, she stated that the matter had been reported to the police but to no avail. Delhi Police registered an FIR against the man only after direction from the court.

Since 2013, when the guidelines were put in place, there have hardly been many cases where courts have single-handedly recognized delays in FIR and ordered action against police officers at fault. The result of this leniency has been the impunity with which police officers refuse to record FIRs and their cavalier attitude towards citizens trying to report identifiable crimes.

Litigants often have to file petitions with the courts to initiate police proceedings. Even when the courts in such petitions direct the police to record FIRs, they fail to recognize violations of Lalita Kumari’s guidelines. The fact that our Olympians and world champions have applied to the Supreme Court to register an FIR is an unfortunate commentary on access to justice for the general public.

The judiciary must strictly apply the guidelines for recording flight information. The legal principle “justice delayed is justice denied” should be interpreted in a broader sense to include the failure of police to record FIRs, as well as the failure of courts to recognize human rights abuses on their own. Lalita Kumari’s guidance.

The writer is a law student at Delhi University


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