July 15, 2012

Sony Entertainment’s Crime Patrol and legal awareness


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I have no qualms with the way these shows are run on small screen but I have some interesting points to share with our readers about the widely viewed reality show Crime Patrol that airs on Sony Entertainment. Previously as a student of law and now as a lawyer I have always laughed off whenever producers of reality based crime shows have emphasized their contribution in creating awareness in the minds of the common people. I admit that people associated with these shows may or may not have the adequate legal knowledge or that they are not doing any disservice to the society in general by airing such shows.

But how on earth are they spreading awareness through shows that are primarily meant for entertainment purposes? Air a show for the right reasons, if you have to. I fail to understand where and how exactly ‘awareness’ is being spread in Crime Patrol? I spoke to my relatives and friends who allege to be avid viewers of Crime Patrol and the response on ‘awareness’ issue I got was this: the show depicts the odd circumstances in which a crime takes place and every episode teaches us a new lesson on how to limit our interaction with not only strangers but also with our own acquaintances. I am afraid I don’t see any point here.

If one observes the serial very closely, episode after episode, it will appear that in almost all episodes there is no peculiarity in the commission of a crime which is worth showing to the viewers. In other words, death of the victim has always occurred as a result of either strangulation or stabbing. Gun-related deaths or deaths by burning or drowning are also shown, but rarely. Again, the main purpose or the motive is usually threefold: land, wealth and women. I never came across something extremely unusual that had led to the commission of a crime. I was never shocked to see what I saw or the way it was shown. In other words, Crime Patrol show has not made this world a safer place for me to live in. So if people already know about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the crime, what is it that Crime Patrol seeks to beware us of?

Most of the episodes that I have watched did not ever televise a criminal trial. Nor have they shown a lawyer commenting on the facts/outcome of a case in hand. The show has always ended with a cautionary note (“jurm ki dastak ko gaur se suniye, jaane bach sakti hain”) from the host Anup Soni after the police have completed their interrogation and/or the suspects have confessed their crime. I am often tempted to ask this question: how many Indians believe in what the police have to say about a suspect? To rephrase my question, will we Indians even buy the prosecution’s story unless we have witnessed the crime ourselves or are directly affected by the crime/wrongdoing?

This is not a feeling of pride, I must say, but this is how the system works in India where people have lost even the slightest credence in police, and in some cases, in courts too. However, inside a courtroom where the examination of witnesses takes place, people are at least given a hearing where they can question/dispute the charge sheet of the police. If outcome of a trial is not shown, why do we even believe that the suspects have been convicted and/or are undergoing punishment for their guilt? And if conviction of the charge-sheeters has not taken place, can we assume that the story of the prosecution as shown on television is manipulated to fetch rating points?

Interestingly, in almost all episodes the mystery is solved and the suspects are caught, although most of the times (unfortunately) after the commission of the offence. This has left me in wonder, and for the obvious reasons. I do not doubt even for once the competence of the police in solving crime. But I am wondering, would people be not more cautioned if they are shown more cases of failure in arrests of the guilty than of success? Besides over-hyping police activity, Crime Patrol has something in store for some anti-social elements too. The show puts huge emphasis on the scientific tools used in the preparation and commission of a crime.

As a result, it also shows a great deal of police activity in locating these scientific tools to eventually trace the suspects. The combination of the two is often disturbing: people have started using Crime Patrol as a guidebook to real life crimes. Anyone who has watched a few episodes of Crime Patrol would, for instance, always wear gloves to avoid finger prints and wipe blood stains or other noticeable marks. Again, the use of mobile phones before, during or after the commission of a crime to communicate with accomplice(s)/victim(s) is also not favourable, and this is clearly evident to any viewer.

So do these reality/fiction crime shows have any impact on the legal profession too? I think so but correct me if I am wrong. These shows tend to put a great emphasis on several scientific techniques and their importance in crime solving. Never has there been an occasion where the crime was solved by the investigating officer without the use of these techniques, be it a phone or a huge test lab for identification purposes. In other words, direct circumstantial evidence accounts for only few arrests, if at all. This excessive reliance on scientific techniques as a means to crime solving may have a huge impact on lawyers and judges. Lawyers will try to adduce only scientific evidence in the court and, with the increase in this practice; judges will be reluctant to adjudicate in the absence of enough scientific materials.