Plight of a lady doctor in Jammu and Kashmir
There has been extensive media coverage and the sensibilities of the common people have been shaken by the alleged misbehaviour the other day by Jammu and Kashmir Minister for Health and Medical Education Minister Lal Singh, who is said have violated the modesty and dignity of a lady officer, but the police have not lodged an FIR about this incident even one week after the victim had filed a written complaint against the minister.
Dr. Gurmeet Kour, Registrar at Psychiatric Disease Hospital- GMC in Jammu has written in a complaint to the Police that she was shocked by the harsh words and misbehaviour of the minister in full public gaze. In her letter to the police that has gone viral on social networking sites, she has recounted how the alleged unsavoury and nasty encounter with the minister has left her mentally harassed and wrecked. According to her, the minister’s “misbehaviour” in public view amounts to outraging the modesty of a lady medical officer. This type of incident is a direct assault on the self esteem and dignity of a lady officer, she has asserted in her complaint.
The veracity of the complaint can be established only after a meticulous and thorough investigation by the Police. But there are reports based on eyewitness accounts that the lady doctor in question had been targeted by the minister at a public function. As mandated under the law, the Police station concerned did not have any choice or option to decide whether or not the FIR was to be registered in this case. The complaint by the lady doctor gets covered under Section 354 in The Indian Penal Code which relates to “Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty. Under this Section whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” It would be naive on the part of the Police to interpret the meaning of the word “assault”. Besides physical violence or attack it also means a strong or cutting verbal attack, to denounce or criticize.
A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in W.P. (Cri.) No.68 of 2008 in Lalita Kumar Vs Government of U.P and others on 12-11-2013 had addressed the issue of mandatory registration of FIRs and had held that registration of FIR either on the basis of the information furnished by the informant when it makes out a cognizable offence u/s 154(I) of the Cr. P.C. or otherwise u/s 157 (I) of the Cr. P.C. is obligatory. It also held that reliability, genuineness and credibility of the information are not conditions precedent for registering a case u/s 154 of the Cr. P.C. Since the legislative intent is to ensure that every cognizable offence is promptly investigated in accordance with law, hence there is no discretion or option left with the police to register or not to register an FIR once information of a cognizable offence has been provided.
Citing the Supreme Court order, the Union Home Ministry has earlier sent a letter to all State Governments stated that the court was quite perturbed about the burking of crime registration and has concluded that non-registration of crime leads to dilution of rule of law and thus leads to definite lawlessness in the society, which is detrimental to the society as a whole. It has hence called for action against erring officers who do not register an FIR if information received by him/her discloses the commission of a cognizable offence. It may be mentioned that Section 166 A of Cr. P.C. prescribes a penalty of imprisonment up to two years and also a fine for non-registration of a FIR for an offence described u/s 166 A. It may be also mentioned that if after investigation the information given is found to be false, there is always an option to prosecute the complainant for filing a false FIR under Chapter XI of the I.P.C.
The Supreme Court has provided some exceptions to the mandatory registration of FIR and for the conduct of preliminary inquiry. If the information received does not disclose the commission of cognizable offence but indicates the necessity for an inquiry, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted only to ascertain whether a cognizable offence is disclosed or not. If the inquiry discloses the commission of a cognizable offence, the FIR must be registered. In cases where preliminary inquiry ends in closing the complaint, a copy of the entry of such closure must be supplied to the first informant within one week and it must also disclose the reasons in brief for closing the complaint and not proceeding further.
Dr. Kour has lodged a complaint of a cognizable offence. Hence the Police was bound to register an FIR in this case. One anomaly in the letter purportedly submitted to the Police for filing an FIR by Dr. Kour, is that she spelled the word Psychiatry wrongly – not once or twice but four times but the word psychiatrist has been spelled correctly at one place. Maybe the word has been spelled incorrectly due to oversight or it is mere a typographical error.