Large holes in police website

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  • Published 22.09.14

Ranchi, Sept. 21: Efficiency is another matter, but state police are as good or bad as their more hyped counterparts in Maharashtra or Delhi as far as not following Right to Information (RTI) Act goes.

A nationwide study on proactive information disclosure through police and prison websites across 29 states by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a New Delhi-based NGO, released yesterday, showed none followed the transparency regimen prescribed under RTI Act, Section 4 (1) (b). But, what made Jharkhand’s non-compliance special was that the state did not even have a prison website.

The RTI’s section asks for particulars of the organisation, its functions, duties, budget, proposed expenditure — a list of 17 salient points — to be disclosed voluntarily for public consumption.

“We will celebrate the ninth anniversary of the RTI Act this October 13. This is why we wanted to find out how transparent the police are,” said Venkatesh Nayak, programme officer with the Delhi NGO. “According to our study, no single website of the police department across India has conformed to disclosures under the norms of the RTI Act.”

Mentioning the omission of Jharkhand’s prison website, he said: “Jharkhand has no specific website for prisons. Citizens can’t access the prison manual online.”

The website is sketchy at best and inadequate at worst.

In a tribal-dominated state, where English is read by an elite minority, the contents of the police website are only in the Queen’s tongue. Rules say they should be bilingual.

Every state has its own police manual but Jharkhand has not updated its own online. Though the crime data is uploaded on the site, it is not regular. Disclosures such as police budget and transfers are absent. There is no provision for online FIRs.

What the website has is data on organisation structure, details of IPC and CrPc provisions and texts of laws that the police enforce as well as sanctioned and actual strength.

Nayak said their aim was not to make comparisons between states. “We wanted to know how transparent the police are in general. It is a fact that most websites are in English. Only Gujarat has contents entirely in the local language. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have bilingual websites. Only eight websites have police manuals and only Haryana provides the facility to file online FIRs, and for thefts and accidents only,” he said.

Asked for a reaction, Sheetal Oraon, inspector-general (headquarters) told The Telegraph: “We can definitely look forward to improve the website so that it becomes more transparent and people-friendly.” A definitive deadline was missing here too.