On November 13, Loknath Behera, the Kerala State Police Chief, issued a circular within the department, to take mandatory action in cases of crimes against women. This includes filing of First Information Report (FIR), collecting evidence for forensic tests and completing the investigation in sexual assault cases in two months, among others. There have been many instances in the past, where women have walked out of police stations, unhappy with the police laxity in filing cases. The circular clearly states that there should be ‘compulsory registration of FIR in case of cognizable offence (offences where police can arrest without warrant, start an investigation without court permission) under Section 154(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)’. Cases of sexual assault fall under cognizable offences. If the crime is committed outside the jurisdiction of the station, the police can register a ‘Zero FIR’. The case can later be transferred to the jurisdictional station within 24 hours. No police station can refuse to register such a case on account of jurisdiction. Police are advised to take up the case within their jurisdiction if they receive information about violence against women. Medical examination should be done within 24 hours in case of sexual harassment. Death statement should not be omitted as the absence of Magistrate or that no one else was present at the time of the statement in case of the death of the victim.
Other suggestions include, in the case of rape, investigation should be completed within two months. Presence of a female officer is mandatory to record women’s statements. Only the evidence collection kit provided by the Bureau of Police Research and Development should be used for collection of samples for testing in a sexual harassment case. The transfer and storage of forensic evidence from one place to another should follow the guidelines of the Directorate of Forensic Science Services under the Union Home Ministry. The circular warns that strict action will be taken against officers who fail to adhere to these mandatory requirements for criminal justice in the context of women’s safety.