My friend’s wife was recently the victim of a chain snatching incident when she was out for an evening walk. Fortunately for her the gold chain around her neck broke and fell on the ground and the thief tried to escape without the chain. She raised an alarm and managed to get the thief nabbed with the assistance of the passersby. Her first reaction afterwards was to let bygones be bygones (since she clearly had not suffered any loss) and the thief had also been thrashed by the on lookers. But as a good citizen she decided to lodge an official police complaint.
That’s when the trouble began!
The police arrived a good 30 minutes later and took the thief to the police station and requested my friend’s wife to accompany them. She went and lodged a complaint and the process took about 3-4 hours to complete. To make it worse the police asked her to hand over the broken chain as “evidence” for the case which would be returned to her after the case was over. She was very reluctant but had no choice so she handed it over to the police. It took 3-4 personal visits to the police station and a good 6 months before the chain was finally restored to her.
Incidentally my friend’s wife discovered that the police had claimed credit for nabbing the chain snatcher and had even been awarded by Mumbai’s police commissioner.
You must be wondering why am I writing about this incident in a column devoted to personal finance?
I will connect up as to why the archaic and inefficient judicial/police system results in situations in the personal finance arena as well, that would be comic if they were not so tragic. A friend bought the case of Ravi Kant to my notice. Ravi’s car was stolen from below his house and he filed an FIR with the police and then made a claim with the insurance company for the loss. Only then he realized he would have to produce a “not traceable” certificate which the police issues only around 3 months after the loss is reported to them and they are still not able to trace the vehicle. The insurance claim is payable only after the “not traceable” certificate is submitted.
In Ravi’s case the vehicle was (un)fortunately traced. It had been used for a crime and then abandoned in a faraway city. He had to take a few days leave and visit the police station where the recovered vehicle was kept to give evidence. Ravi had to do a couple of rounds with the police station and then told that his car was “evidence” in the case against the criminals. He had the insurance company send a surveyor to inspect the vehicle for any loss but the vehicle was in an okay condition. The vehicle has been gathering dust in the police station compound for quite a few months even as I am writing this article. Of course there is no chance of the insurance company paying him anything and he has had to take a car loan to buy a new car. Now Ravi is cursing his Bad luck” that the police actually found his stolen car”. If they had not found it he would have been paid the claim by the Insurance Company and would not have to go through so many hassles. Now he will get back the car after it has depreciated substantially.
Clearly a criminal judicial system that requires stolen items to be kept as “evidence’ till the case reaches a certain level must change or we will continue to have law abiding citizens wishing that the police are not able to trace their stolen car!