Theft and Recovery- an Anecdote
All of us lawyers have always had those few incidents back in our life at law schools which always remain with us. Somehow law school experiences; I feel are one of their kinds. You don’t find such in any other educational institute. The stories, the situations are way too real life. Let’s have a peek into what Paavni of Symbiosis Law School, Pune has in her bag.
What was to be an ordinary dinner out with friends turned out to be quite an adventure. We’ve all heard stories from people of their things getting stolen, but being the story teller, especially as a law student certainly affords a different perspective.
It all started the moment we reached our destination and saw the customary assemblage of people standing around the street that led to a number of restaurants. Without a second thought we get off our cab and I opened my bag to pay, the moment that led to an extremely long night and an equally arduous two weeks.
With all my belongings including phone, money and ID card in my bag, I felt a tug. The next thing I know, the inconspicuous man who standing next to us snatched my bag and was running towards a bike standing a few meters away with another man. Sadly I couldn’t have a Queen moment in which I didn’t let go of my bag, and my attempts to chase him were also rendered redundant as I saw him climb onto the bike which rode off into the night. How I wish I hadn’t worn heels that day.
For a few moments we all just stood aghast at what had just transpired. Coming back to our senses we were contemplating what to do when the cab driver (if only all cabbies were this nice) called and told us the bike number. Funnily enough it took us a few second to decode it as we realized that none of our counting in Hindi was too good.
Considering the time, we decided to return home and file a complaint in the morning. But as fate was to have it, this was just the beginning. Within an hour of the incident my friend received a call from a police station asking if they knew me and if I were with them as they have recovered a bag. They asked me about the details of my bag and its contents to ensure it was indeed mine and asked me to come to the police station immediately as they had caught the thieves. We were all very skeptical as we had never heard of such prompt action by the police for something we hadn’t even filed a complaint for yet.
We ultimately agreed to go to the police station against our better judgment, thinking only of Tuka Ram and all the other cases we had read in our IPC classes of custodial violence throughout the journey. With great apprehension we arrived at a very dark alley which led to the entry of the station. To some relief, the station itself was well lit. Not sure about the procedure and in the general anxiety, we called up our extremely nice seniors who left everything and reached the Police Station in 10 minutes. The police wrote a complaint and asked me to identify the handcuffed culprits and the bike, all while offering us a cup of tea.
At 1:00 a.m. when the formalities were completed and we thought we could finally return home, we were highly mistaken. They commanded us to go to a different police station as even though the thieves were caught in their jurisdiction, the incident had taken place in another and therefore the FIR could only be recorded over there. We requested to return in the morning but to no avail which resulted in us reaching the second police station.
They asked us to repeat the incident and tell them the exact location where it took place, which to our misery was in the jurisdiction of a third police station. My learned seniors asked them to file a Zero FIR but they insisted on us going to the other Police Station. Finally we reached the third police station which had the correct jurisdiction. But of course, life can’t be this simple as they then asked us to go to a different branch of their station which had the computer to record complaints. On the way there they identified the spot of the crime to confirm the jurisdiction. Finally arriving at the fourth station which was a basically a tiny check post built on boulders that moved with every step we took.
The FIR was finally recorded u/s 154 charging the thieves with robbery u/s 390 read with S.34 (after we pointed out that it cannot be dacoity since there weren’t five people) in Marathi, translated for me in hindi and then signed by me at five in the morning.
The happiness in my sleepy eyes was short-lived as I wasn’t allowed to leave with my bag and was told to collect it from the court as it was now evidence in a criminal investigation.
With this commenced my two weeks of inaccessibility with no phone and more importantly, no whatsapp. After running to the lawyer’s office across town and visiting three different courts in search of stamp paper on a government holiday, I was finally granted a bail application and got back possession of my bag with everything intact.
All in all, it was definitely a unique experience (and I hope it stays that way), where I got the practical knowledge of IPC and CrPC while studying the same in college. I also learnt that the police can indeed be trusted and is capable of working without corruption. The Pune policemen are given awards for catching culprits which removes the need for bribery on their part and gives them incentive to work more efficiently which clearly shows that the right motivation is all one needs for transparent functioning.
The whole process could indeed be made a lot more victim friendly by simplifying complaint registration and delivery of possession of things already recovered instead of the spending so much time and money. But no system is perfect and considering the strength of the police forces and the infamous delays that take place in courts, I was lucky to have my things found at all and getting it back within two weeks doesn’t seem too bad in retrospect.
Every great lawyer has a case in their name from their law school days; this is probably the only one that’s going to be on mine.
Signing off – Paavni
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