ACQUITTALS: FIVE TIMES MORE THAN CONVICTIONS! By Dr Olav Albuquerque

By Dr Olav Albuquerque

LAND, lawlessness and law form the big 3Rs of land-grabbing in Goa where land prices have skyrocketed. This is why it is vital to explain how property and land-grabbing are two sides of the same coin because where there is land, there is crime. And where there is crime, you will have to interact with the Goa Police and a specialized group of advocates known as the Assistant Public Prosecutors or APPs who argue the case in court after a police report (charge sheet) is filed in the court.
APPs rise to become Public Prosecutors (PPs) irrespective of how many cases they win or lose. PPs argue serious crimes of murder, rape, dacoit incidents and child molestation. And — hold your breath — most of these cases do end in acquittal. For example, the Scarlett Keeling rape case. Negligent APPs or PPs “leave it to the court to decide” whether the rapist or murderer is guilty or not simply because they must bring the facts to the court’s notice and let the court acquit and sometimes convict. If an APP loses all his cases, it will not affect his promotion to PP which can be blocked only on corruption charges.

VISIT POLICE STATION
WHEN you visit any police station in Goa, whether it is the afternoon or night, the first person you will come into contact with is the duty officer who sits at a small desk on the verandah of the police station. This man-in-uniform may be a head constable or a constable, it will become evident to you from the shoulder epaulettes he wears. Be warned! These are the lowest rung of the police force, some of whom have joined because of the steady income guaranteed by the government.
And like other government jobs, some of them come armed with recommendation letters from the local MLA. Once they get into the police force, they will forever remain indebted to the local MLA or minister for ensuring the family has got an earning member in the police force. In return, they will do anything in return for the local MLA-cum-minister. Short of, of course, selling their soul to him.
Now, the Goa Police seldom registers FIRs in land-grabbing cases because this involves knowledge, intelligence and diligence — which the lowly constable does not possess. They are known derisively as “pandus” among media people in Maharashtra and elsewhere.
This writer has had the obnoxious experience of a head constable known as Pednekar, who knew how to type but did not know English, totally destroying the authenticity of an FIR by typing the wrong date when the offence was committed.

SEEKING PROMOTION
IF they seek promotion, these head constables who lack intelligence and diligence, will have to sit for a departmental examination. If they pass both, they will be promoted as PSIs who are selected by the Goa Public Service Commission (GPSC). If they do display intelligence and diligence, some of them can rise to the post of police inspector, in charge of police stations throughout Goa. And by the time they have done so, most of them have done favors to the ministers who know their IGPs or DIGPs.
Now, we come to the APPs who must possess an LLB degree before they can sit for the GPSC exam. Very roughly, they can be compared to the PSIs who must be graduates to be eligible to also sit for the GPSC exam which has a different mode of selection for those who want to join the police. The exam held for the APPs is a computerized exam with objective questions on the now-obsolete Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code and the Indian Evidence Act.
Their results are declared on the spot after which they have to appear for an interview in which the director of prosecutions will also have a say. The present director of prosecutions is Poonam Bharne and the deputy director of prosecutions is Milena Gomes e Pinto, who combine intelligence with diligence and courtesy, because they have been senior PPs used to representing the government in court.

STATISTICS ABOUT CONVICTIONS AND ACQUITTALS OF APPs 2015-2016 AND 2016-2017

  • Names of APPs not revealed to save them from embarrassment
  • WHAT emerges from the statistics presented here is the acquittal rate for these APPs is four times higher than the meagre conviction rate. Some APPs have stupendous conviction rates like the APP from Ponda which has 387 convictions for 2015-16. We must remember that these convictions are not for those regular crimes under the Indian Penal Code but for other acts such as the Motor Vehicles Act or some other law which has not been specified.
    What must be done is that all the APPs must be trained to phone up the complainants, before summoning the investigating officers, who are often corrupt or incompetent. But we will keep this story for another day.

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