Mumbai Police in tight spot as sexual harassment victims tweet, don't lodge complaint

Updated: Dec 15, 2018, 08:57 IST | Faizan Khan

That is becoming Mumbai Police's grouse as more and more people take to social media to air grievances, but are satisfied once the accused is named and shamed

Mumbai Police in tight spot as sexual harassment victims tweet, don't lodge complaint
Pic for representation/Getty images

Ladies, the next time a pervert harasses you, don't just stop at naming and shaming them on Twitter and tagging Mumbai Police. If you really want the culprit to pay, file a complaint with the police. Otherwise, the cops can't do a thing to help.

Tracking down victims has become even harder than finding the perpetrators, due to citizens' reluctance come forward and file an FIR. Unfortunately, that's how most perpetrators get away — in the last two months, the cops received 20-odd complaints on their Twitter handle @MumbaiPolice, but only six survivors went on to lodge a case after much persuasion.

The city police are quite active on Twitter, and usually respond promptly when tagged. But more often than not, cops hit a wall when they try to reach out to the survivor to register an FIR and start the investigation.

Pic for representation/Getty images
Pic for representation/Getty images

As recently as Wednesday, a fashion stylist tagged Mumbai Police on Twitter, complaining that her Uber driver was masturbating in the car. The cops responded swiftly, asking her to share details of the incident via direct messages. Police sources said, "She shared the vehicle number with us, and we have traced the driver, but we are waiting for her to file an official complaint, so we can move ahead with the investigation. She is yet to lodge an FIR."

In yet another case on November 1, a professor with one of top schools in BKC tweeted to the cops about her Uber driver harassing and abusing her. Despite several reminders by the police, she never turned up to register a case at the police station.

Ashmita Jaggi
Ashmita Jaggi

Why they hesitate
Another victim who complained on Twitter on November 1 about a kaali-peeli driver using abusive language, told this reporter, "You know how our system works; it takes years and years to get justice in simple cases. At least now, with social media, we can voice our complaints and shame the culprits. I think that's enough, I do not want myself to get entangled in legal issues, that's why I didn't file an FIR."

In some cases, the police take suo motu action and apprehend suspects when they sense danger to the complainant, but this ends in awkwardness for the cops when the victim refuses to file a complaint.

"We treat each and every complaint received on Twitter as a priority, but sometimes in sensitive cases involving molestation, stalking, cyber fraud, etc, people complain to us but are reluctant to file a case. This results in embarrassment for us if we have already traced the accused. But we have a dedicated team that keeps following up with victims, encouraging them to register a case. Otherwise, our hands are tied, and we can't act," said a cop.

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Success stories
On November 17, a journalist tweeted to Mumbai Police about three unidentified people stalking her in Andheri. Within hours, all three accused were picked up by the police, but the survivor wasn't willing to go to the police station and file a case. Later, the cops sent a team of female officers to persuade her to file an official complaint, without which they would not be able to hold the accused. eventually, the woman agreed, and the accused were arrested.

In a similar case a day later, TV actress Ashmita Jaggi shared a video of two people abusing her in a parking row. As per the location shared by her, Amboli police officers PI Daya Nayak and API Kalamkar swung into action. Within hours, they had tracked down the accused, traced but the complainant wasn't ready to file an FIR. It was only after two days of coaxing that she agreed to register a complaint, and the cops arrested the accused under Sections 509 (outraging modesty), 427 (causing mischief), 34 (common intention) of the IPC.

Jaggi recalled, "Even I was scared at first. But the cops' approach was positive, so I filed the FIR and the accused were arrested. What I did notice, however, was that it takes a lot of time; my case was so simple but it took more than eight hours to register the FIR. This is why victims don't respond to the police's requests to file a complaint."

Mumbai Police also get Twitter complaints about cyber fraud and banking scams. Once again, only a few turn up to file officials complaints. Traffic complaints are forwarded to the traffic cops.

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DCP Manjunath Shinge, Mumbai Police spokesperson, said, "As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the complainant has to file an FIR before we can investigate a case. If there is no complaint, the entire criminal justice system will not work. Sometimes, in such cases, it becomes very difficult for us to go ahead with the investigation. Whenever you see a crime, please come to us file a complaint. We will ensure that action is taken on priority."

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