Community mediation centres yet to be fully functional at police stations

Aim is to reduce workload of local police

The community mediation centres planned by the police to settle non-cognizable offences and reduce the workload of the local police are yet to take off fully. Though 70 community police resource centres and 64 janamaitri kendras were expected to operate such centres on a trial basis, only a few are managing the service successfully.

The training of volunteers as proposed by the Kerala State Mediation and Conciliation Centre has remained a non-starter at many locations. Many beat officers under the community policing schemes are yet to complete training in mediation.

A retired police officer, who was part of the Janamaitri scheme, said the main objective of the project was to reduce unwanted litigation-related investigation in police stations after registering the First Information Report and the subsequent legal proceedings. The pending-under-investigation cases on compoundable offences were also expected to be settled through mediation, he said.

An order issued by the then State Police Chief Loknath Behera had called for opening such centres at all police stations under the supervision of a four-member panel headed by the respective Station House Officer. Though there was instruction to form a panel comprising community relation officers, beat police officers, and members from legal circles, it had failed to become a reality. The weekly meetings for settling such grievances had also failed to take off.

The order stated that mediation centres would address complaints related to family matters, marriage, divorce, parenting, matrimonial disputes, partition suits, neighbourhood disputes, and development related issues. The only restriction was to keep away from all types of mediation attempts involving cognizable offences.

In the absence of such a mechanism, many stations had been found to have registered FIR even in non-cognizable offences or be dealing with such issues with untrained police mediators.

According to the guidelines, all mediation attempts by the approved centres should follow six changes which begin with the verification of the opening statement and end with the formal registering or recording of the whole proceedings in a confidential manner for future reference. It was also part of efforts to end off-the-record negotiations.

“The lack of public awareness was also found to have crippled the execution of the project. At many locations, community policing officers were found handling the job without following the official format ,” said a lawyer, who was part of a sponsoring social organisation.

He also said the directive to use own funds for arranging office facilities also delayed project execution.

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