The city’s first online FIR registration cell opened its door to residents on Friday. With this cell, the police hope more citizens will willingly register crime and will not have to put up with uncooperative law enforcers.
The city’s infamous ‘thana culture’ deterred several citizens from making their way down to the police station and recording robberies and muggings. This led to a large amount of crime going unreported. To address this issue, Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo decided to take matters into his own hands and set up an online FIR registration cell.
The cell was inaugurated by philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at the new Central Police Office complex on Friday.
“The citizens’ complaints are justified that the SHOs usually do not entertain their complaints,” said Thebo, as a number of senior police officers sitting across his table appeared a bit abashed. “It is a basic right of every citizen that the police must lodge their complaints without any delay or excuses,” he said. “But our police stations have resorted to injustice by denying citizens this right.”
The Karachi police chief added that the citizens can now lodge their complaints through fax [021-992 25533], phone [021-992 25500], email [firstname.lastname@example.org] or even a text message [0300 829 3335], if their FIRs are not registered at the police stations.
The police chief said the online FIR registration facility was an attempt to provide the citizens with direct access to senior police officials. They will have an outlet where they will be able to lodge an appeal after initially being rejected at the police stations.
“After the verification of the complaints, the officials at the cell will ensure that the relevant police stations register the FIRs within 24 hours,” said Thebo, who will be supervising the cell. “The senior police officers will also take action against the relevant SHOs if their dillydallying over FIR registration is proved.”
Thebo recalled how distressed citizens had to file an application before the judges, under Section 22-A, and request the court to register an FIR once the police refused to entertain their complaint.
Given Karachi’s violent nature, the city’s over 110 police stations register on an average 150 FIRs a day, which means that around 50,000 complaints are registered every year.
Thebo explained that the SHOs fear that registration of a higher number of FIRs would be equated with their poor performance and, for this reason, they attempt to bury crime statistics. “To address this incorrect perception, the police force has been told that they will be questioned over the prevalence of crimes and not on the registration of FIRs.”
Prospects of the initiative
While the Karachi police chief has provided the residents of Karachi with an alternative to going to police stations to register FIR, some experts believe that the remedy was offered before getting on top of the actual problem
“The major impediment to the registration of FIRs in the city is the infamous ‘thana culture’ of indifference and no police chief has been able to eradicate it yet,” said Rana Asif Habib, president of the Initiator Human Development Foundation, while talking to The Express Tribune. “I appreciate his endeavour to make the impossible possible but it is the people with vested interests within the police department that block the registration of FIRs.”
Habib believed that the process of rectification should begin from within the department otherwise people will continue to bear the brunt of this criminal justice system that leave major lacunas from registration of FIRs to the subsequent stages of investigation and prosecution.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2014.