saravade ( saravade) wrote,

Cost of enforcement

Recently, there was a discussion on one the mailing lists I subscribe to about the collateral damage caused by prank mails, such as the one which caused Indian Parliament to lose a lot of productive time in attending to a bomb threat.  It was being discussed as to who is liable for the damages.  This also raises the interesting topic of 'cost of enforcement.'  In my opinion, there are a few relevant points to be mentioned.

1.  The threshold for setting in motion any federal computer crime investigation in the US is $5000.  Our laws do not mention any financial lower limit to trigger an investigation.  There is some discretion left to the the investigating officer, but I doubt if cost of enforcement can be one of the grounds. 

Section 157 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states: "157. Procedure for investigation.- (1) If, from information received or otherwise, an officer in charge of a police station has reason to suspect the commission of an offence which he is empowered under section 156 to investigate, he shall forthwith send a report of the same to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of such offence upon a police report and shall proceed in person, or shall depute one of his subordinate officers not being below such rank as the State Government may, by general or special order, prescribe in this behalf, to proceed, to the spot, to investigate the facts and circumstances of the case, and, if necessary, to take measures for the discovery and arrest of the offender:
Provided that-
(a) when information as to the commission of any such offence is given against any person by name and the case is not of a serious nature, the officer in charge of a police station need not proceed in person or depute a subordinate officer to make an investigation on the spot;
(b) if it appears to the officer in charge of a police station that there is no sufficient ground for entering on an investigation, he shall not investigate the case."

2. Section 95 of the Indian Penal Code says acts causing slight harm are not offences. 

"95. Act causing slight harm
Nothing is an offence by reason that it causes, or that it is intended to cause, or that it is known to be likely to cause, any harm, if that harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm."

3. In real life, resources are always a constraint.  The present law-making process makes no enforcement impact assessment (unlike the environmental impact assessment for infrastructure projects) and does not take in to account the difficulties which may arise due to the additional burden placed on the overworked police organisations, which may not be properly trained or equipped to enforce the laws concerned effectively.  Nor are any additional resources made available in any proportional manner.

4. The rights of the citizens to seek and expect redressal for malicious harm suffered by them can not be questioned from a theoretical perspective, but in reality, when our police stations lack adequate stationery (, what to talk of spare hard disks for imaging, such theoretical talk does sound a bit hollow.  It is this kind of a situation, where there is pressure to show results and a lack of accountability to outside oversight structures, which leads to policemen 'living off the land,' not a desirable situation at all.

5. The solutions are inextricably linked to the state of governance and the civil society needs to involve itself in the exercise of transforming our police.  There is an exercise in progress to draw up a new Police Act ( and those concerned about the state of law enforcement in India should communicate their thoughts and ideas to the committee set up for the purpose.
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