Police draw flak for public display of posters of suspected chain snatchers

Activists,lawyers say similar to rogues galleries banned by HC in 2005

Written by VasantPrabhu | Mumbai | Published:July 3, 2013 1:40 am

Mumbai police’s move to check incidents of chain snatching through tie-ups with Ganesh mandals to put up posters of known suspects has been slammed by lawyers and human rights activists. These posters,sponsored by the mandals,have been displayed on police vehicles at busy junctions.

Lawyers said these posters were similar to the ‘rogues galleries’ that were put up at police stations till about eight years ago. In 2005,the Bombay High Court banned the display of rogues galleries of wanted criminals at public places and police stations,following a writ petition by a Trombay resident. Businessman Ahmed Ali had said Kurla police falsely charged him with rioting and put his photograph on a rogues gallery in the police station,which had tarnished his reputation.

On Monday evening,cops stopped motorists near a police van in Gamdevi and asked to them observe the faces on the poster. Motorists were asked to inform police stations the moment they spotted any of the suspects.

Mumbai Police had late last year spoken to Mumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti to seek their co-operation in detecting chain snatching cases. “It is a good initiative by police. They provide pictures of the accused and each mandal sponsors two-three posters. A person who spots a suspect can inform the mandals if he or she is too scared to approach police. If the mandal nabs a culprit,it is good publicity for them as well,” Girish Walawalkar,the Samiti secretary.

“The posters are a clear violation of the HC order. Moreover,private organisations have no authority to declare someone absconding or accused. We do not know how many cases have been registered against the individuals whose photos are on the posters. They are branding people and not allowing them a chance to rehabilitate themselves in society. It is wrong,” said rights lawyer Vijay Hiremath.

He added that the posters of alleged terrorists Yasin Bhatkal,Tahaseen Akhtar,Asadullah Akhtar and Waqas,put by ATS,are also categorised as Rogues Galleries.

“The posters may have been paid for by private organisations but have been put up by police and so,come under the HC order,” said advocate Rebecca Gonsalves.

Police,however,said the posters had nothing to do with them. “These are not rogues galleries and do not come under the 2005 Bombay HC order. It is an initiative by Ganeshotsav mandals and other social organisations to create awareness. I do not know where they got the pictures of the accused from,” said DCP Ambadas Pote,Mumbai Police spokesperson.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said,“The idea was to involve all sections of society and not just Ganesh mandals. This was discussed at a crime conference last year. The mandals put up the posters on their own.” Asked why such posters were being displayed on police vehicles,Singh said he would have to look into the matter.

Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian said displaying the faces of known chain snatchers would take away the sanctity of the test identification parade,if and when they were caught again. “The face of an accused should not be shown to the victim until the ID parade,where he/she is supposed to recall the face from clear memory. If a photograph is shown beforehand,the ID parade will fail,” she said.

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