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PUCL Bulletin, March 2003

In police work, gender matters
-- By Pushkar Raj

Recently I had the misfortune to visit a police station in the heart of Delhi, University of Delhi. The occasion was to get my motorbike released from the Maurice Nagar police station where it was brought in because it was not locked in a parking zone.

The lady station house officer (SHO) who was sitting in sun greeted me with a smile and told me to write an application and matter would be sorted out. I wrote the application and gave it to the clerk in charge who told me that the matter was not that simple and easy. However, The lady SHO assured me that it would be shortly sent to the ACP through a rider and after in a couple of hours you can take it back. I thought she knew better and returned back full of hope.

As I went back to claim the motorbike, the SHO was not there and the concerned clerk told me that the ACP has sent the application back because it did not have a court stamp worth Rs. 1.25 affixed on it. When I told him that he should have told me earlier about it and that the SHO had assured me that it would be done, the concerned clerk retorted back that I had not approached him and that this lady SHO knew little how the things work. I wondered whether he was resenting his lady boss or was unhappy that I had not contacted him at the first instant to grease his palm. When I requested him to affix the required stamp he retorted back that he was not a stamp seller and I better go to Tees Hazari for that purpose. It was 6 in the evening and the next day was a Sunday.

On the third day I got the application signed from the ACP. The ACP's one sentence order made an interesting reading. It read `the vehicle may be released to the registered owner if no longer required', (italics mine). As I came out of Civil Lines office of this ACP I thought of bad Brown Sahibs and wondered whether the order meant that those in whose custody my vehicle is can give a reason that they require the vehicle therefore they would not release it. I dismissed the thought that I am being too imaginative.

I presented the application to the concerned clerk who yawningly looked at me and said that the vehicle cannot be given to me because the registration certificate of vehicle is not in my name and I better talk to the Additional SHO. He spoke in the same language. I told him that I had explained all this to the lady station in charge on the very first day and she had assured me that it is not a big problem. At this the gentleman told me that there is no way on the earth that the vehicle can be released to me without following the law as prescribed. He added that the lady SHO does not know the law and that she is unaware how the system works. I just wondered whether he was not uncomfortable under a female boss.

I was struck by the contrast of the approach of the men in uniform as compared to females in uniform towards a citizen's problem. One was humble and helpful to sort out a problem the other arrogant and obstructive to drag the problem and harass. One seemed to derive the joy from helping, the other in all smiles over lingering the misery. I thought of women's world as conceived by radical feminists and wondered whether we do not need all women's police stations!
With thoughts and rage competing in my mind I came out of the police station to be met by these friends of mine who know everybody who is somebody in the capital. Having heard me they accompanied me to the police station. The SHO talked about the law as it is and in conversation walked towards maalkhana to order the concerned clerk to release the vehicle to sahib


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