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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Chandigarh: Public drinking cases have a pattern, so do FIRs; complainant & IO same many times

In the documents accessed by Chandigarh Newsline, of the total 49 FIRs registered in Panchkula under sections of the Punjab Excise Act, as many as 39 have been registered under Section 68 of the Punjab Excise Act of 1914.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula | Published: January 20, 2020 4:55:02 am
During a comparison of all these FIRs, it is noted that the individuals that are publicly drinking, on seeing the police make their way towards them, put their bottle/disposable glass “on their mouth” and drink up whatever is in the bottle. (Representational)

“ONE PARTY that was publicly drinking, on spotting the police coming their way, drink up whatever is left in their glasses/bottles and get rid of the evidence by smashing the glass bottle on concrete or somehow ‘destroying’ their disposal glasses. The police party then reaches them and after a struggle to catch hold of the defaulters drinking in a public place, register an FIR under Section 68 of Punjab Excise Act.” This has not happened just once but at least 38 times in 2019 and at seven different police stations of Panchkula.

In the documents accessed by Chandigarh Newsline, of the total 49 FIRs registered in Panchkula under sections of the Punjab Excise Act, as many as 39 have been registered under Section 68 of the Punjab Excise Act of 1914. Of these 39 FIRs, 34 have followed the exact same sequence of events in the exact same way.

During a comparison of all these FIRs, it is noted that the individuals that are publicly drinking, on seeing the police make their way towards them, put their bottle/disposable glass “on their mouth” and drink up whatever is in the bottle. They then either smash the bottle on the ground or somehow “destroy” their disposable glasses, all of this before the police can get hold of them. There is always a struggle, where the accused try to run and the police catch them with the help of locals or fellow policemen. In as many as 30 of these FIRs, the accused reportedly spotting the police, drank up half and quarter bottles of liquor they had in their hands and destroyed these before the police could reach them.

Interestingly, while all the eight accused of Sector 14 police station in the case had half (adha) bottles in their hands, all 12 of MDC possessed quarters at the time of their arrest.

In the cases registered at the Sector 14 Police Station, while three have the same complainant and investigating officers, the rest keep on switching amongst themselves where the IO becomes the complainant in one case and vice- versa in another. The names interchangeably used include that of SI Pradeep Kumar, SI Desh Raj, Head Constable Santosh Kumar, Head Constable Didar and Head Constable Baldev Singh. The place of crime for all these eight FIRs has been right next to or at Labour Chowk. The police officials were on foot during all these occurrences. During the last year, the first FIR at this station was registered on January 21 while the last was on August 23.

As for the 12 cases registered at MDC, as many as nine have the same complainant and investigating officers. S-I Suraj Mal, who has four of these nine under his name, seems to always find his accused with the liquor bottles in specifically in their right hands. Of the remaining five, three have been filed and investigated by SI Pradeep Kumar. Head Constable Anil Kumar and Constable Praveen Kumar have filed and investigated the other two as well as two left of the 12 have different IOs and informants. The first FIR here was filed on January 28 and the last on October 14.

At the Sector 20 Police Station, all of the eight cases filed have the same complainant and the investigating officer. While six have been investigated by Head Constable Bholi Singh, one is by Head Constable Ramesh Chand and another by Sub-Inspector Rakesh Kumar. In seven of these eight cases, the investigating officers are the ones that also raided and caught the alleged accused.

All the incidents have happened in a 2-km radius of the Sector 20 police station according to the FIRs. While three FIRs have been registered within 20 minutes of the incident taking place, four have been registered within an hour. The latest FIR registered on December 26 has a difference of more than three hours between the time of incident and time of filing of FIR. According to the FIR, the crime happened between 1.30 am and 4.10 am but the FIR was only registered at 7.34 am. The incident has happened only 1.5 km from the police station. These glaring gaps of time have been noticed in many other FIRs.

The apex court in a judgment passed in 2018 had held that the complainant and the investigating officer cannot be the same in a criminal investigation to exclude any possibility of bias or a predetermined conclusion.

In Panchkula, of the total 39 FIRs, as many as 25 had the same complainant and investigating officer.

A senior officer of Haryana Police said, “Though initially some lapses were noticed, it is now ensured that IO and informant should be different in cases of seizure of illicit material. It is desirable that in any case where the police have seized some material at the spot, IO and informant be different to ensure fair investigation. The High Court’s direction makes it more important for us to do so.”

Seven police stations — Kalka, Pinjore, Sector 5, Sector 20, Sector 14, Chandimandir and MDC — had registered FIRs under the Act.

Panchkula DCP Kamaldeep Goyal said, “Medico-legal exams are conducted in each of these cases that act as proof. Police’s effort is to stop drinking at public places. And ideally the complainant and IO should be different. In serious crimes involving illicit drugs and weapons, we definitely ensure both are different. I will look into the reason for the complainant and officer being same in some cases of public drinking.”

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