The loopholes in Police 15 helpline that need fixing

In 2014, a newly appointed Inspector General of Sindh Police ordered the initiation of an SMS service to improve the performance of the Police helpline number “15” and sought a detailed report about its benefits, which is still pending. In 2015, another newly appointed Inspector General of Police in Sindh issued instructions for the deployment of one standby mobile van in each police station to ensure rapid action in response to Helpline 15 complaints, with the help of representatives of Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) to effectively fight crimes and to respond to distress calls, the Muhafiz force and the police helpline 15 were also merged to form a unified force. The new system was designed to ensure a prompt response to the citizens’ complaints. However all these efforts by the Sindh Police went in vain, as there were persistent complaints about non-attendance of distress calls, lazy and lethargic attitude of the telephone operators, and concerned Police officials.

On July 15 2016, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, at the Karachi registry, took strict action against the non-compliance of the complaints lodged by citizens of Karachi via using police helpline 15. The current Inspector General of Sindh Police, in open court, admitted the fact that the recording system of the helpline 15 had been out of order for the last four years, and it has not been fixed till date.

In July 2016, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, while hearing the Karachi law and order case, ordered the Inspector General of Sindh Police that the Sindh police was to inquire into every complaint lodged by the citizens of Karachi via police helpline number 15. Additionally, the apex court also ordered that the relevant police station through its SHO has to submit details of the inquiry conducted by them to the SSP concerned of the area.

However, the ingenuity of the police force really leaves one stunned. The corrupt Police officials of Karachi have found an ingenious way to exempt themselves from the aforementioned burden of investigation, by lodging FIRs against the genuine complainants, under Section 25-D of the Telegraph Act of 1863, by accusing them of falsely registering complaints using the 15 police helpline, and wasting time of the department and subsequently forcing the complainants to write an apology letter to the SSP and SHO concerned and to withdraw their complaints. In this ingenious way, Karachi police is successfully discharging the burden of investigations of the lawful complaints lodged by the citizens via using Police Helpline number. The SSPs and other senior Police officials are either ignorant or party to the aforementioned ingenious idea.

From August 2016 till April 2017, several police stations of Karachi lodged numerous FIRs under Section 25-D of the Telegraph Act of 1863 against the genuine complainants. Interestingly, all of the FIRs were quashed by the relevant courts for lack of evidence and lack of credible police witnesses.

The concerned magistrates while quashing the FIRs must also initiate inquiry under Section 190 and 200 Criminal Procedure Code, against the SHO, complainant of the case and investigation officer of the case for lodging false and fabricated FIRs.

Moreover, there is a desperate need for legislation, modification and scrutiny of the entire system of the police helpline, so that aggrieved persons may trust it and feel comfortable using the same and to fill out the loopholes in current police helpline system.

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