Here’s a pressing question: if you were being harassed on social media, what are the odds that you’d actually escalate it and take it to the police? I know the chances are slim and a lot of this can be ascribed to our scanty knowledge of rights and laws. The rest of it, can, of course, be put on the fear of police that has been instilled in our hearts owing to a number of reasons. All in all, just the thought of going to a police station and registering an FIR sounds like a huge undertaking to the average Indian woman. And this explains why more often than not we let our culprits get away with something that they should actually be penalised for.
These were some of the thoughts that kept troubling lawyer Tanya Appachu until she decided to take charge and educate women about their rights and laws through social media. She has just started an Instagram account that goes by the name of YourInstaLawyer. Through this account, she has been familiarising women with the legal system. From abortion rights to dowry, she has been talking about this all through interactive reels. And given that she has already garnered a following of 10k in less than a month’s time speaks volumes about how Indian women are actually finding her content helpful.
Tanya shares, “During my work as a practicing lawyer and online consultant, I realised that a lot of women reach out to me because they are pretty clueless when it comes to their rights and law. And some of them are very very educated people but have no idea about the most basic legal things, something that everyone ought to know. Indian women are not aware of their rights and the law and that’s what I am trying to change.”
That's indeed a great initiative and we recently reached out to Tanya so as to understand the basic procedure of filing an FIR. Here’s everything that you need to know:
As Tanya tells us, a basic FIR is generally filed at the police station in the jurisdiction of which the crime has taken place. For example, if the crime has taken place in locality A of Mumbai, you’d have to go to the police station of that area to file the case.
She adds, “After the Nirbhaya case a lot of procedural law has changed and now there are more avenues to file a complaint. For instance, in case you are not comfortable going to a police station, you can also file an FIR via an email, or registered post.
Here’s what you need to do:
In case it is a serious crime like rape or murder that you want to report, you have the option of filing a zero FIR. Now, what's a zero FIR? Tanya explains, “If a crime happens in area A of Mumbai but you live in Delhi and you are not comfortable going back to the city, you can file an FIR anywhere in India. That police station will take your complaint, ask questions, file an FIR, and then transfer it to the concerned police station."
Sometimes police have a habit of not filing certain complaints. For instance, if it’s a case of domestic abuse, they might send you back by saying that it’s not a big deal or discourage you from filing a complaint. “In such cases, you have the option of filing a private criminal complaint with the judicial magistrate. What he’ll do in this case is take cognizance of your complaint, request the police to look into it, and might even summon the accused. It would be more like a trial,” Tanya shares.
She further adds, “If the police are not responding well or harassing you in any way, you can file a complaint to the higher-ups. If anybody goes to a police officer to file an FIR, they have to register it. If they deny it, there is a charge for it that entails punishment for upto one year.”
While the cases of internet bullying are usually covered by the cyber crime cell, you can also reach out to the police and they will refer the case to the cyber cell. Alternatively, you can also visit their website (Cybercrime.gov.in) and file an online complaint.
That said, Tanya warns that instances of cyberbullying and eve-teasing are hard to prove and thus try to have evidence like screenshots and recordings as proof.
Clearly, none of this is as difficult as you thought, right?
P.S Tanya is actively posting educational reels on her Instagram and also offering online consultation to women and children. You can directly reach out to her on Instagram or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Tanya Appachu on Instagram