A few months ago, a woman approached the Crime Against Women (CAW) cell at their office in Byculla, and complained that she was being ill-treated by her in-laws and hence she had moved back to her parents’ place. The police summoned the husband and his family members. They found out that the dispute had arisen from the fact that the in-laws expected the new bride to take charge of all household work but she was unable to as she had never done it before. When the bride’s family had come to know of the problem, they offered to pay for a domestic help who could be hired for their daughter’s new house. The husband’s family thought of it as an insult and did not agree to it. Officers of the CAW unit then took her application and forwarded it to the counselling cell of the Mumbai Police.
The CAW cell, set up in March 2013 — after incidents such as the December 16 gangrape case in New Delhi and the Shakti Mill gangrape case in Mumbai — was meant to be have a more sensitive approach towards victims of such serious crimes. It was meant to have women police inspectors to ensure the victims were comfortable narrating their ordeal. While dowry harassment cases too were to be probed by the cell, in the years that have followed, officers posted with the cell say most of their time is taken over by petty domestic squabbles with hardly any serious offences coming their way. CAW can either receive an application from a complainant directly, or their senior officers mark cases of crime against women to them.
An officer said, “Out of 10 applications, seven to eight cases are those in which the husband and the wife do not get along and want to stay separately or one of them want possession of the house. These do not quite fall under the purview of the kind of cases that we were meant to investigate.”
“If they approach us, we cannot tell them that we cannot do anything about their case. We take their application, give them some basic advice and forward them to either the counselling cell operated by Mumbai Police or the Women and Child Development department, that looks into cases of domestic violence.”
As per statistics provided by the Mumbai Police, the CAW cell has registered just two FIRs in the current year, and two FIRs last year. The major cases that the cell has investigated include the rape cases against IPS officer Sunil Paraskar and NCP leader Laxman Dhoble.
Apart from these FIRs, chunk of their work is on the applications they have received. In 2015, the cell received a total of 186 applications, of which 40 were applications related to offences like rape and molestation, while 146 were cases of domestic harassment. In the current year till June, of the 145 applications that were received by the cell, 36 related to cases of rape and murder while 109 were those related to harassment.
“It is true that when it comes to applications, most are related to domestic squabbles which we then forward to the concerned department. However, one of the tasks assigned to us is also prevention of crime against women. Hence, we conduct several programmes in schools and colleges across the city to senstise children and inform them about what could comprise an offence under law,” said Pratibha Mule, senior inspector, CAW cell.