Yesterday, I wrote about Naina Singh's death and how the police conspired to deny her mother avenues of justice by denying her an FIR. The FIR is a first information report. It is the basic record that your problem has been received. It is a basic right. Read this document to understand FIRs better.
In addition to this, The Supreme Court has specifically stated that FIRs must be filed and for the police to refuse to do so would result in the refusing police officer to be arrested.
In spite of this, Naina's mother, Malti was repeatedly refused. The police dismissed her with increasing rudeness. A mother was left struggling for her daughter's unlawful death to be acknowledged rather than grieve her personal loss.
Naina's mother has a rough deal. With her husband ill, she has had to face difficult times making ends meet. In addition to that, there were demands for dowry which she could not afford.
In the meanwhile, among relatives shocked with this callousness was a young man in London working for an MNC... Jeet had seen his aunt struggle for years and admired her bravery in fighting all odds to support her family and he was frustrated with this utter callousness in the attitude of the police.
Knowing the power of social media, he took to Twitter and started tweeting all the information on the incident that he knew, and approaching various personalities in the hope of drawing media attention to this miscarriage of power.
It worked. One of my followers came across his tweets and forwarded them to me. Similarly other tweeple came across the tweets and we all, in our own ways magnified his voice, contacted people who could verify the story and help his aunt out.
However, it was late at night and some miscommunication delayed the identification of Jeet's aunt. Finally, yesterday afternoon, we got the information and Tehelka immediately sent a journalist to accompany his aunt to the police station.
Ghaziabad SSP of Raghuvir Lal, whom Malti met, told TEHELKA, "An FIR cannot be lodged because this might be a case of natural death. It should have been filed before the cremation so that a post-mortem report could have been filed."
This was beyond bizarre. What do they do for missing women? How can't an FIR be filed? The police initially refused to file an FIR again, but the reporter and Naina's mother refused to move out of the police station without the FIR in hand.
Soon after that, we received an update from @karunajohn that the FIR had been successfully filed and that a copy of it was with the mother.
Soon after this, Tehelka published its article covering this story. To quote from the article
According to IPC Section 304B, "Where the death of a woman is caused by burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called "dowry death". Such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death."
@karunajohn confirmed that investigations would proceed along the lines of a dowry murder. We heaved a sigh of relief.
However, as the day went on today, I had started to feel increasingly uneasy over the lack of any news about the in-laws being arrested. If an FIR for dowry related murder was filed, how was it that no one was arrested?
The first sign of a problem happened when Sumit Nagpal shared on Twitter that he had spoken with Naina's mother and that it sounded like she had made a complaint and not filed an FIR. It confused matters for a while, because we thought there was a misunderstanding.
This was the doubt nagging me all day. Why hadn't the in-laws been arrested and child given to Naina's family? Surely and FIR for murder would mean a non-bailabile warrant? But there was no mention of Naina's in-laws being arrested.
In the meanwhile, the rest of the background of dowry pressures by Naina's in-laws was known from the Teheelks article. Equally scandalous and scary was Jeet tweeting that Naina's mother had been told on earlier attempts to file FIR that she would get custody of the one year old baby if she didn't file an FIR.
In the meanwhile, her husband's family told Tehelka their version. The mother-in-law says they did not ask for dowry. She lists a whole list of things Naina didn't give. Were they an unfulfilled expectation or simply common examples of dowry? We don't know.
Her husband said that she had been suffering from TB and had been cured a few months back, but had started getting fever again. Her mother says that she spoke with her daughter and she sounded ok. Would her health deteriorate that rapidly from TB? I don't know. It could also be some other health complication that came up. Without the body, that is impossible to know.
Here is Tehelka's video of their coverage of this case:
In my communications with Jeet, he mentioned several times that neighbours will vouch for seeing marks on Naina's neck as well as bribing police officials.
I am not saying that the in-laws ARE guilty or not. That is a matter of investigation, but the real concern here is that an FIR is not filed at all for such a serious allegation. Our laws are clear on this - the FIR should be filed any time it is requested. The time lapsed after death can't be a refusing factor. Yet, in the video, we hear the inspector clearly refusing to file an FIR because without the body they can't do a post mortem.
Hmm... so all a murderer needs to do to get off scot free is to cremate the victim and the inspector will not investigate? Is that what the inspector is saying? I see the inspector as an accessory to the murder in that case. Should he be handling it at all?
This was looking shadier and shadier. I suppose the real question was if the police had the audacity to fake off some paper to get rid of the aunt and journalist and STILL avoid filing an FIR!
The confirmation that the paper indeed was an FIR is in progress. I will update here as soon as I know. [updated below]
In the face of all this confusion, I called up Malti Singh herself to ask her about the status of the FIR and other information that seemed missing.
She says she had a complaint that was stamped and recommended by the SSP for further investigation, but no FIR. The paper that the police gave in the presence of the Tehelka team was apparently an acknowledgment of receipt and they snatched it back from her once the reporter left.
It is clear that an FIR has not been filed - pretty much like Sumit Nagpal raised the alarm.
Malti Singh is also very concerned about the well being of Naina's son. She fears that he may come to harm from the in-laws out of anger. The police are not interested in following up on this either.
I asked Malti Singh about the death certificate - if she knows anything about that - generally you need a death certificate when cremating a body. She said to her knowledge, there hasn't been any death certificate at all, but after cremating her, on the next day, the in-laws got some small time doctor to write that she had been ill. According to Malti Singh, her daughter did not have TB and had not been ill and was in good health.
Malti Singh repeatedly asked me to arrange for the safety of Naina's child and to get her justice. She thinks the child is not safe. Over and over, she asked me that if I really wanted to help her, to do something to protect the child.
I also asked her about the earlier tweets of Jeet - about neighbours seeing marks of strangulation on Naina's neck. She says there were purplish marks both on her neck and wrists. She did not see them, but several neighbours told her and she wants the police to hear this, but they are refusing.
She said that the police have been bribed to ignore the case. I asked her if she knew this for certain or if anyone had seen it or told her, she says no. She concludes this from the changes in the actions of the SO.
The first time she went there, he had listened to her attentively and reassured her that she had a right to file the complaint any time. She suspects that they wasted her time and then approached the in-laws for a bribe to get them off the hook. It is unclear why the FIR was not filed in the first visit itself when the SO was being agreeable.
Things changed from the second visit. The SO dismissed her, told her an FIR can't be filed and to do what she wanted to do, but nothing would be done about the case. He threatened to throw her in prison too. Regardless of all else... this seems to be a very strange tone to take with a mother who has just lost her daughter.
Malti had approached the SSP who recommended that her complaint be investigated. She was called to meet him again yesterday, but he is out of town now. She is supposed to meet him next on Friday.
I am not an investigator, and I am not a journalist. I am not claiming to say who is right and who is wrong, but it is abundantly clear that even with a journalist putting pressure on the spot, the police have clearly wriggled out of filing an FIR - in contradiction to our country's laws, in contradiction to explicit directions by the Supreme Court.
In my limited capacity as a blogger, I am only reporting things exactly as I heard them without making any claims or confirmations of my own. But this thing needs told.
There seems to be a massive effort to silence this whole thing. Which means that we must hold it up and support Malti Singh in getting justice for her daughters death through proper procedure.
Because this kind of impunity is dangerous to us all.