Police set to serve better with more online redressal services

Internet, mobile app have made it easy for registering complaints, tracking them and monitoring feedback, though there is much scope for improvement

Aggrieved citizens running around police stations praying for justice could be a thing of the past with the Police Department introducing a bouquet of online complaint redressal services. Theoretically, the idea is that citizens need not have to visit police stations to file complaints or for seeking action against any problem. All they have to do is seek remedy online.

The State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB), which is implementing the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), has created a comprehensive and integrated system for collection of data on crimes and criminals by networking all the 1,541 police stations and 372 special units in the State. The online complaint system has been in existence since 2008 and has recorded 4,15,797 complaints through internet, mobile app and e-seva centres.

Vinit Dev Wankhede, Additional Director General of Police, Head of SCRB says: “Using the CCTNS portal, people have downloaded and viewed a total of 8,89,193 First Information Reports (FIRs). Since June last year, over 71,616 have viewed the status of FIRs and 37,277 visitors accessed the Community Service Register reports. Police stations have uploaded 82,65,472 FIRs starting since May 15, 2016.”

All FIRs except those of sensitive cases such as sexual offences and sedition are currently available online as per the direction of the Supreme Court. In road accident cases, all documents from FIRs to chargesheets have been made available for both the victims and accused. “The idea of introduction of online services is to deliver police services at the doorsteps of the public,” said Seema Agarwal, ADGP, former head of the SCRB.

Social activist A. Nayaranan said, “While online registration of complaints is available, it has become a necessity for personal appearance to police stations for ‘pushing’ any complaints. While the online registration would help in faster filing of FIR, updates on actions takenremain stagnant.”

Senior advocate Sudha Ramalingam does not see much of an advantage in online services. She claimed that citizens were made to run from pillar to post for even registering a simple complaint if they visited police stations personally. “Only the first step is made easy using the online system. One can easily register a complaint but the problem is not resolved quickly,” she said.

While grievances are aplenty with regards to inaction on the police’s part in giving updates, there are also issues of complainants not giving adequate information to the officials for a follow-up. About 20% of complaints received through online mode had incomplete details. Since the complainants withhold details such as phone numbers, addresses and other personal data, personnel are unable to reach them.

However, a senior officer of SCRB said, “About 80% of online complaints were redressed. Apart from that we have a feedback mechanism for disposing of complaints. If the complainant says ‘not satisfied’, they can fill the remark column and it will be automatically forwarded to the official concerned or Commissioner of Police in the cities.”

Multi-purpose apps

The online services of the Police Department are not only used for filing complaints but also for various police verification reports (PVR), officers clarified. The mechanism has been properly streamlined, wherein on receipt of the application, it will be forwarded to the jurisdictional police station concerned.

Then, the police station staff will visit the residence of the applicant to ascertain the veracity of information provided in the application. After due scrutiny, the PVR will be made available on the Tamil Nadu police’s website. A copy of the same will also be sent to the registered e-mail address of the applicant. The PVR will be issued within a period of 15 days.

“The entire process will be completed without the citizen visiting the police station physically,” a police officer said. Though city police repeatedly appeal to the public to utilise all these services, people do not come forward for domestic verification and tenant verification, rued a senior city police official.

Ramkumar of Royapettah said, “Unlike in the past, we need not wait for months together for personal verification for passport. Immediately after applying for the passport, a policeman visited our house and was very courteous. We got a verification report in a matter of days.”

Over 4.79 lakh persons availed the online service to obtain ‘Lost Document Report’ without visiting police stations, in case of documents such as passports and driving licences. The Chennai city police have come up with its own set of online services such as Digicop and GCTP Citizen Services mobile application.

M. Balakrishnan, Tamil Nadu Cyber Coordination Committee, said the Digicop app, initially launched on February 6, was to address mobile and vehicle thefts. Also other information like locating nearby police station, police news and traffic alerts are made available through the app. Following significant improvement in the recovery of stolen mobile phones in the last few months, news services added in the app will help public to register complaints from wherever they are. So far over 1 lakh persons utilised the app, he added.

The GCTP Citizen Services app was introduced recently by the city police to enable the public to report any traffic violation. Users can upload pictures and videos of violations that are committed in their presence.

The application will automatically attach GPS data alongside date and timestamps while uploading. Violations will automatically be forwarded to the jurisdiction officer for processing and an e-challan will be issued. The traffic police even address grievances that come to their notice through social media.

Latest addition

Modern e-challan machines are the latest technology adopted by the city traffic police. “By using these machines, police book 10,000 cases per day across city,” said Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic A. Arun.

These new devices will help police detect whether a vehicle was involved in an offence in another State. This system is linked to all RTOs through the “Vahan and Sarathi” software.

Besides these, summons are sent by SMS now. Once the summons for the appearance of witness is issued by the concerned court, entries are made in police station. The system generates SMS in Tamil and sends it automatically to the registered mobile number of the witness concerned. During the year 2018-2019, over 2,95,490 such SMSes were sent out.

The citizens can view details arrests made across the State. This facility was made available on the Tamil Nadu police’s website on April 2018. So far, over 26,778 have made use of this facility.

Though there are multiple platforms to reach the police for seeking information, there is lack of awareness on the facilities.

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