Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Sumit Jain, a newspaper hawker from the old city was hit and seriously injured by an SUV opposite Mrignayani Emporium on February 14, 2022. He battled for life for 19 days before he succumbed to injuries in a private hospital.
Father of Sumit who was married with no children made several rounds of TT Nagar Police station with a request to track down the vehicle and its driver. Police said the CCTV cameras at Roshanpura, Banganga, Polytechnic and Raj Bhavan were not working at the time of the accident. There was no progress at all. However, it was a meeting with a senior police official by a delegation which raised its voice that led to seizure of the vehicle.
As almost five months have passed since the police commissionerate system was first introduced in Bhopal, a section of residents of Free Press spoke to feel that there is a perceptible change in policing with presence of more police personnel on streets and check on habitual offenders but policing needs to be more effective.
“We can see policemen on streets in the heart of the city but areas at the outskirts are unsafe. Only recently, there was a dacoity at the residence of a retired government engineer at Ayodhya Nagar and attempts for dacoity at several other houses in the same night”, said a resident of Ayodhya Nagar pleading anonymity.
Murders and thefts are taking place at regular intervals in the city areas.
An officer pleading anonymity said, “Under police commissionerate system, the set-up is now top heavy while there is shortage of police personnel in police stations.”
However, he added, “The menace of habitual offenders has been curbed with them being bound over. What has helped us is ending of a dual system when police had to be dependent on district administration to get orders.”
Commissioner speaks, ‘There are changes in organisation and policing’
Having completed almost 5 months in office, Commissioner of Police, Bhopal, Makrand Deouskar has claimed there is decline in crime after the system was introduced here.
Deouskar said, “Basically, there are three changes seen within the organisation and policing system. First, it’s related to powers vested in the police. Second, police have magisterial powers and its courts to hear cases for preventive actions like implementation of Sections 144, 107/116, 151, 110 of CrPC and third, for each particular work a supervisory officer is present.”
He said, “Earlier, the police had to run to revenue officials to have orders on externment cases and National Security Act etc. Sometimes, police had to wait for weeks for such decisions. Now, police are capable of taking such decisions without delay.”
He said implementation of e-office and more time given in social policing could be stated as an achievement of the police commissioner system. There was a 10%-15% drop in cases.
‘Lower rung needs training’
One can witness the presence of policemen in the city-specially the traffic police. This is the reason why traffic is better regulated now. Police officers are well-behaved but the lower rung needs training. These are the sentiments of Dr Sadhna Pandey, a Professor of political science at Institute of Excellence in Higher Education.
Prof Pandey was on way to have dinner along with her family members recently when her car was intercepted by the police. The police constables who stopped her car said in a rude tone that she was not wearing the seat belt and would be fined. She was also asked to show her driving licence.
“I showed them the digital copy of my driving licence. The constable said that it was not acceptable. I told him politely that digital documents are now accepted everywhere. But he was adamant and rude. A police officer standing nearby then approached us,” said Prof Pandey.
The police officer admitted that a digital copy of the licence was accepted and told the constable to update his knowledge.
“My only point was that if one has done wrong, penalise but one has no right to be rude,” added Pandey.
The police inspector understood the point and gently chided the constable. Prof Sadhna Pandey said that there was a change in policing after the introduction of a commissionerate system.
Police are more visible and proper patrolling is seen in the city, which in general has an impact on anti-social elements.
However, police staff should be taught decency on how to talk with common people. Their tone should be polite and they should not treat everyone as criminals. Proper training in this regard should be given to the lower rung, feels Prof Pandey.
Mixed reactions on police commissionerate system
There is a mixed bag of reactions from people on the police commissionerate system introduced in December last year. A section of people said after enjoying magisterial powers police should have had a mechanism too to safeguard human and fundamental rights.
There should be police complaint authority at state as well as district level according to the Supreme Court’s police reforms. Fear for police may violate human rights.
-RTI activist Ajay Dubey
Proceedings under Section 107/116 should not be transformed into persecution of innocent persons at the sweet will of the police or other persons acting malafide.
- Rajesh Sharma, High Court lawyer
The police commissioner system lacks a mechanism to safeguard fundamental rights of the public.
District Bar Association president PC Kothari
The way we work has definitely changed. Action is being taken against habitual offenders under Sections 107/16 and 110. This has led to a drop in the number of crimes related to physical violence and property. Thefts have also decreased.
-Town inspector RK Singh, Arera Hills Police Station
I have a concern. The decision on habitual offenders being bound over is being taken by police officers. So, in a sense, both the complainant and the judge are cops. I am afraid that it encroaches upon the rights of the accused.
-Nikita Sonavane, criminal lawyer, Bhopal District Court
I see no change. There have been changes in the powers of the officers and their jurisdictions and nomenclatures. But it hasn’t brought about any changes for the people at large.
-- Seema Kurup, social activist
Better traffic flow
As regards women’s safety, I find no changes. However, the traffic situation seems to have improved to some extent. The deployment of women in traffic police has been increased. The flow of traffic is better. I don’t think crimes have reduced.
-- Priyanka Tripathi, software engineer