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Five cop reasons to refuse help

■ They were a healthy couple and came in their own car.

■ It was a bright morning, not midnight, when they reached Hastings police station.

■ A five-minute drive to Maidan police station should not have been a problem for them.

■ Even if the complaint was accepted at Hastings police station, we would have had to forward the case to Maidan police station.

■ The decision to send the couple to Maidan police station was for their benefit.

The officer-in-charge of a police station has come up with some unheard-of reasons for not accepting an elderly couple’s complaint about a snatching incident on Saturday.

Complainant Veena Kapoor (mistakenly referred to as Meera on Sunday), 62, and husband Dilip had driven to Hastings police station on Saturday morning after a snatcher picked a gold chain from her neck at Elliot Park.

The Ballygunge couple, who had been directed to Hastings police station by a constable on duty near Birla Planetarium, soon learnt that lodging a police complaint in Calcutta is more difficult than giving chase to a snatcher four decades younger.

Chandan Ray Mukhopadhyay, officer-in-charge of Hastings police station, said on Sunday that his officers weren’t wrong in asking the Kapoors to lodge a complaint at Maidan police station instead. “We didn’t refuse to accept their complaint. In fact, our officers tried to make them understand why they should go to Maidan police station,” he told Metro.

Mukhopadhyay said he didn’t see any reason for the couple to feel aggrieved at being asked to lodge a complaint with the police station under whose jurisdiction the snatch-and-run incident had occurred.

“They looked a healthy couple and they had come here in their own car on a bright morning. They were physically fit and reaching the neighbouring police station wouldn’t have been a problem.”

Veena and her husband were taking a walk at Elliot Park opposite the Maidan around 6.35am on Saturday when she was targeted by one among two snatchers on the prowl. The 62-year-old said she felt someone tug at her gold chain from behind and turned around to see a young man scoot with the piece of jewellery.

Husband Dilip, 63, pursued the snatcher till the planetarium but he jumped over the fence and scampered away along with his partner in crime, he said.

Passers-by who saw the elderly man in pursuit of the accused told him that the youth with the chain had sprinted across the road towards Shakespeare Sarani. Dilip spotted a traffic police constable and approached him for help, only to be told that the area where the snatching had occurred was not under his watch. The constable asked the Kapoors to go to Hastings police station.

Officer Mukhopadhyay said he sent a colleague to Elliot Park to verify the site of the snatching before asking the couple to go to Maidan police station. “It would have been a time-consuming process if we registered the complaint and forwarded it to Maidan police station,” he argued. “A direct conversation between the investigating officer and the complainant helps both sides.”

But businessman Dilip said nobody at Hastings police station had asked him and his wife to show the spot. The rule-book does not support the police either.

“The rules state that a complaint can be lodged at any police station. After registering the complaint, the case can be forwarded to the police station under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred. In this case, Hastings police station should have registered the Kapoors’ complaint and forwarded it to Maidan police station instead of asking the couple to go there,” said a senior officer of Calcutta police.

Police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha has told his officers on several occasions that no complainant should be turned away. He was unavailable for comment on Sunday.

Sources in Lalbazar said there was no information of action being contemplated against the officers at Hastings police station.

But a senior officer admitted that the explanation given by the officer-in-charge at Hastings police station was akin to defending the indefensible.

“A police station is supposed to receive a complaint whenever a citizen turns up to lodge one. The complainant’s health or mode of transport are irrelevant. Whether an aggrieved citizen has come in daylight or in the dark shouldn’t matter either.”

Ideally, the first policeman that the couple approached should have taken the initiative and alerted his colleagues to the snatcher on the run.

“The area has several arteries where traffic policemen were on duty when the couple sought the constable’s help. He should have informed the control room immediately or the nearest traffic personnel using his cellphone,” the officer said.

Two years ago, two young women were asked by policemen at a kiosk near Park Circus to go to a police station 1.5 km away to a lodge a complaint against a rogue taxi driver. One of them, Samita Lahiri, said on Sunday: “Nothing’s changed. They always find one excuse or the other.”

In February this year, a woman accused a policeman in Topsia of refusing to register her complaint of harassment by a taxi driver.

CHAIN OF NEGLIGENCE IN SNATCH CASE

What the rule-book says

  • A complaint can be lodged at any police station
  • The case can be forwarded to the police station in whose area the incident took place
  • The onus is on the first cop approached by the complainant to act on it

What the Kapoors faced

  • The constable they had approached first made no effort to chase the snatcher
  • Hastings police station refused to accept the complaint, saying the area where the incident occurred was under Maidan police station

Additional reporting by Jhinuk Mazumdar and Tamaghna Banerjee