A cop deployed in front of the shop of Mohammad Sikandar, where the bodies of Pushpa Singh and her two daughters were found buried on Sunday.
Picture by Sanat Kr. Sinha
Pushpa Singh’s father handed over a written complaint to the deputy commissioner (port) on Tuesday alleging that the officer-in-charge of Ekbalpore police station did not give “due importance” to his earlier complaint lodged after his daughter and grand-daughters went missing.
Senior officers said an inquiry has been started based on Paresh Nath Singh’s allegations. “If there is merit in the charges levelled by the victim’s family, departmental proceedings might be started against the officer concerned,” said deputy commissioner (port) V. Solomon Nesakumar.
Ekbalpore police station, headed by inspector Siddhartha Dutta, has been accused of being insensitive to the victim’s family, sitting on their complaint, ignoring alerts and disregarding basic principles of a fair probe.
Metro lists what the police did after Singh lodged his first complaint on March 30 and tries to identify the steps they skipped.
• Woman missing? ‘She must have fled’
“When I visited Ekbalpore police station on April 1, the officer-in-charge told me that my daughter had married someone and left home on her own accord,” said Singh. The officer had allegedly said his statement was based on a probe the police had carried out in the neighbourhood.
“He also gave me the make of the car in which he said she had left and the clothes she was wearing while leaving,” Singh said on Tuesday.
The lapse: “It is the duty of the police to believe every word of the complainant unless proved otherwise,” said a retired police officer. “If the police have no faith in the complainant, how will they investigate his/her grievances? If the police suspect a complaint is concocted, they should give the victim the benefit of doubt till the allegations are disproved.”
Police’s statement: Investigators “got swayed” by purported calls from Pushpa’s cell phone to her family. The male caller reportedly said a man named Pappu Singh was behind her disappearance.
• Trust the complainant, not the suspect
Singh’s complaint named Sikandar as a suspect but the police kept believing Sikandar’s version that “Pappu was behind” the disappearance of Pushpa and her daughters. Sikandar claimed neighbours had seen Pushpa leave home in a car with her daughters and the police believed that, too.
The lapse: “The investigating officer should have treated the suspect as a suspect and verified all his claims,” said a senior officer.
Police’s statement: None
• Start a probe, please
Since the police never took the complaint seriously, it never seriously started a probe. They skipped the basic tests that could have spotted bloodstains and other evidence.
The lapse: Once a specific complaint (in this case, abduction) is lodged, the police are empowered to search the place where the victim was last seen. A preliminary investigation involves looking for clues that might indicate the nature of crime. For example a ransacked house might hint at robbery, while a ransacked house with bloodstains in the proximity might hint at violence for gain.
“We sprinkle a chemical on a blotting paper and rubbed it on an area suspected to have blood traces. The blotting paper turns faint blue if there’s any presence of human blood. We use it as a basic test to confirm a crime. Once it is confirmed, we call forensic officers,” said an officer of the homicide department at Lalbazar.
No such probe was carried out after Singh lodged his complaint with the police station.
Police’s statement: Defended “inaction”, saying they could not “jump to conclusions”.
• Grill the accused
An accused should at least be questioned till officers are convinced about his innocence.
The lapse: Sikandar had a free run till the three bodies were found buried in his shop. “Sikandar would arrive at the police station along with three other youths and tell officers how to conduct the probe. We were shocked to see how the officers would do his bidding and ignore all our allegations,” said a tearful Singh
Apparently, on April 5, five days after the complaint was lodged, the police questioned Sikandar and some residents of the building where the accused and the victims lived in separate flats. “Sikandar’s version did not match that of the others. But he was let off,” Singh added.
Police’s statement: The police have told the victim’s family that letting Sikandar off was a “ploy” to keep an eye on him and “get more clues”.
The police are empowered to search a place on the basis of any suspicion or specific input. “If there is any resistance, the police can obtain a court order to search a place,” said an officer. But in this case, even after Pushpa’s relatives alleged that her bank documents were missing, the police did not search prime accused Sikandar’s home.
The lapse: The police questioned Sikandar and his family once outside his flat but made no effort to get in or search the place. Sources said his house was spared even after the three bodies were exhumed.
Police statement: Initially, there was no direct evidence against Sikandar. “We will search relevant places once we get a specific input,” said an investigator.