Five spots in the city where an accident, theft or death could leave you baffled and caught in a pass-the-buck battle between police stations that follow bizarre jurisdiction rules
Late on May 26, 23-year-old Neeraj Singh was walking along the Sunder Baug Lane of Kamani in Kurla, with friends Tejas and Vikas Isave when a man, later identified as Kamran Siddiqui, snatched his phone. This crime occurred in Ghatkopar.
Powai lake's waters are governed by the Mulund police, but the shore is under Powai police station’s jurisdiction. Imaging/Uday Mohite
As Siddiqui fled the scene, the trio gave chase. A few metres ahead, the accused turned around and attacked Neeraj and Vikas with a chopper he was carrying. Neeraj was killed in the incident; Vikas suffered an arm injury and was admitted to Rajawadi Hospital. Tejas had rushed to inform Vikas' family while the incident was still on, hence managed to escape injury.
Though just a few meters away from the spot of the snatching, and in the same lane, the murder occurred technically in Sakinaka. What followed is the stuff that drove the angst of the common man in the films of the 90s. At 10.05 am, after receiving calls from the helpline (see box), officers from both police stations arrived at the scene.
The FIR, however, was registered only two hours later after officers from police stations, Sakinaka and Ghatkopar decided mutually on whose jurisdiction the crime fell in. It was decided that the crime, which began in Ghatkopar, should be registered in the same suburb.
On May 23, Neeraj Singh was walking along the Sunder Baug Lane in Kurla, when his cell phone was snatched. As he and two friends chased accused Kamran Siddiqui, they ran a few metres ahead when Siddiqui attacked Neeraj with a knife. Confusion prevailed over whether the crime occurred in Ghatkopar (where the phone was snatched) or in Sakinaka (where he was murdered). How they do it: Avinash Dharamadhikari, senior PI of Sakinaka police station, said, "If such a crime occurs in one police station’s jurisdiction and is carried to another jurisdiction, then we take a mutual decision about which police station will register the case." Pics/Rahesh Gupta
The Ghatkopar police registered an FIR under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 397 (robbery or dacoity with attempt to cause death) of the IPC and Siddique was arrested two days later by the Crime Branch and handed over to Ghatkopar police.
This wasn't the first such event in the highly populated Sunder Baug Lane. Naresh Tari, a resident, said, "When we have complaints, we often end up shutting between Ghatkopar and Sakinaka police stations before we finally get to register a complaint."
City history enthusiast Deepak Rao dates the jurisdiction concept back to the British times. "In those days, there weren't as many police stations in Bombay as there are now. They were, in fact, called 'police sections'. The jurisdiction of each police station is very clear and defined by lampposts, street dividers on the roads, junctions, railway tracks and the sea."
But sometimes, it's really the question of whether your foot is on the footpath or off it. Here are four more baffling locations in the city dogged by dodgy jurisdiction rules.
The footpath that separates Bandra and Khar
Here's the answer to the great debate: where does Bandra end and its poorer neigbhour Khar begin? The answer is the footpath off Waterfield Road outside Caravan Serai restaurant. Interestingly, the Shree Harishchandra Goyal Chowk Junction in Bandra (West) falls under both Bandra and Khar police stations. However, if an incident occurs on the footpath, the case falls under Bandra police station. If it unfolds on the road, it heads to Khar police station.
Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
A police officer said that while the cops are clear about their jurisdictions, confusion can occur if, say, a body is found with its legs on the road and the torso on the footpath. "Then, senior officers will have to take a call. I can recollect an incident of a massive fire that broke out two years ago in a commercial building located at the edge of Bandra jurisdiction and beginning of Khar." He says a call came in stating that 15 to 20 people were trapped inside the building.
It was late evening and the fire brigade was already on the job. "But, since this is a very busy street as it connects two major markets in Bandra — Hill Road and Linking Road — we needed to control traffic and block the road with barricades to divert the traffic to other roads. Both Khar and Bandra police reached the spot. While the Khar police took on one end, Bandra police handled the other."
How they do it: Sr PI Bandra, Pandit Thackeray, said: "The priority is to reach the spot. If a case is reported to us first, we register the case. If it is in the jurisdiction of some other police station, the case can always be transferred to that police station."
The street of contention — Agripada and Nagpada
While it's clear that the footpath on the north side of Sakhli street marks the beginning of Nagpada police jurisdiction and the footpath on the south end of the Agripada police, what remains a question mark is what happens when an untoward incident occurs on the street itself. With the jurisdiction unclear on this one, residents say it often takes a while before a complaint is registered.
Mohammad Anas, a resident of Sakhli Street, said, "There is an ongoing civil case concerning my building and there have been instances when the police have been called to the court. However, they pass the buck as the jurisdiction remains unclear."
How the do it: Sr PI Agripada police station, Ashok Sarambalkar, said, "Ever since I have taken charge, there has been no jurisdiction problem. There was a case of kidnapping which occurred in the Boiwada police jurisdiction but the victim was rescued by the Agripada police."
Choppy waters — Powai and Mulund
Vihar Lake remains a contentious area between the two police stations. While the lake and its waters fall in the control of Mulund police station, about 12 kilometers from the station, the surrounding area comes under the jurisdiction of Powai police. For Mulund cops, it takes 45 minutes to reach the spot when a call comes in regarding an incident at the lake. A police officer said, "If, for instance, there is a body lying on the boundary of the lake, the case comes to Mulund police station. But if it's entirely on land, it goes to the Powai police."
On one morning in August, 2010, 32-year-old Vijay Bhure was attacked by three crocodiles when he was fishing at Vihar Lake (Mulund jurisdiction). He was sitting on the shore (Powai jurisdiction) with his feet dangling in water when a crocodile attacked him, dragging him into the waters, which fall under the Mulund. Bhure was later mauled by two more crocodiles. It was an hour later that his half-gnawed body was hauled out. Since he was dragged by the crocs from land into the water, the Powai police registered an accidental death report in the matter.
How they do it: Sr PI Mulund Police Station, Rajaram Vanmane, said, "When we get a call, the priority is to reach the crime scene and register the case. Jurisdiction is secondary."
Coastal confusion — Yellow Gate and Colaba
Until last week, the jurisdiction of Yellow Gate Police Station extended to 1,600 nautical miles, making it the only police station in the whole of western India to investigate criminal cases that occurred from Gujarat to Kanyakumari. Earlier this month, the Home Ministry issued a gazette notification, invoking the Territorial Waters in Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and said 10 police stations located on both east and west coasts can investigate criminal offences within the EEZ.
Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Once a crime occurs on sea, the matter is registered and investigated by the Yellow Gate Police Station. Closer to the Mumbai coastline, if a crime occurs between 0 to 12 nautical miles (about 21 kilometers) from the Colaba police station, it will fall within this police station's jurisdiction. Beyond that, it will be investigated by the Yellow Gate police. However, at sea markings are fluid.
How they do it: A senior police official said, "After 26/11, patrolling boats were introduced. Cops are aware of the boundaries and judge them by distance from the rocks or distance of the walls from the sea. If they see something suspicious, cops reach the spot and proactively carry out a check. The Colaba police comes into the picture when the spot of a case is near the land." The senior PI at Yellow Gate Police Station, Mahavir Tiwatne, said, "Sometimes, the case is discussed with seniors."
A retired police commissioner, not wishing to be identified, said that often police officers are reluctant to register FIRs since they want to keep the official crime rate in the area low. In addition to this, disposing an unclaimed dead body requires the cops to spend from their own pocket, for funeral and labour charges. For this, they are rarely compensated.