When watchdogs turn criminals


Serious crimes such as murder, molestation and thefts involving security guards have been on the rise in the city in the last few years. Employing security personnel in a CHS is not an insurance against crime, says Siddharth Thakur, stressing the importance of checking the credentials of the guards thoroughly before appointing them.

In 2012, a 25-year-old young lawyer and national-level swimmer Pallavi Purkayastha was brutally stabbed to death in her Mumbai home. A court found a 22-year-old security guard of her building Sajjad Ahmed Abdul Aziz Mughal guilty of assaulting, molesting and killing her. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment after confessing to his crime.

On Jan 9th 2009, a security guard robbed film producer Sajid Nadiadwala and his wife Wardha at gunpoint of Rs.10 lakh in cash and Rs.40 lakh jewellery. Three days later, the culprit along with two other accomplices was nabbed. The police recovered Rs 7.1 lakh in cash and the full Rs 40 lakh worth jewellery, and the state initiated action against Tiger Security which had deployed the guard.

In February 2011, the Vakola police arrested a school security guard on charges of raping a three-year-old student. The child was a junior KG student of a Mumbai school. The security guard, Telam Singh, who worked at the school for three decades, reportedly committed the crime in a toilet in the school.

In 2011, the Pune crime branch (rural) claimed to have solved the rape of 29-year-old employee of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). Police arrested a 22-year-old security guard who was posted in the private valley owned by the Sahara Group. The accused, identified as Dharmendrakumar Rambhau Chaudhari was an employee of Front Line Security Guard Company and was residing at the Valley, but is a native of Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh. He had been working at Amby Valley for the last two years.

In all the above incidents, the crimes were committed by security guards appointed for safeguarding the people and property.

In the case of senior journalist Jyotirmoy Dey, who was shot in broad daylight on a bustling Powai road, what was shocking was the fact that despite scores of witnesses not a single person came forward to testify against the assailants. There were security personnel in and around the area…guards and watchmen outside ATMs, even food courts, but all maintained a stoic silence.

Whether the assailants belonged to an underworld gang or were hired killers; or the act triggered by personal enmity or work-related rivalry, the fact remains that the prospects of a common man’s security in the city are highly suspect.

Check the credentials of security guards thoroughly

Mumbai’s police are usually very swift to insist “you” provide details of your domestic help that include a photograph and proof of residence and identity to the nearest police station “to insure yourself against crime.” Conveniently disregarding the string of incidents that point towards the soaring rate of crime, the city police continue to turn a blind eye to the verification and authentication processes that ought to precede the appointment of ‘security guards and watchmen in residential and commercial premises throughout the metropolis.’

Despite a surge in the number security guards in just about every housing colony and society in the city, the incidents of crime soar unabated holding the city’s peace at ransom.

Under the Private Securities Agencies Registration Act (2005), security agencies are mandatorily expected to be registered with the state Home Department and need to provide basic training to their employees in safety measures, crowd control and fire-fighting during emergencies. Just a fraction of the swarm of security services employed are registered with the state Home Department with most of them carrying on their ‘business’ at sweet will.

Employing security personnel is no insurance against theft or crime. Most of them are not even trained for the job. The Home Ministry just has to issue orders to the Mumbai Police Commissioner who may act suo moto making it mandatory for the city’s cooperative housing societies to ensure the registration of their security services and guards with the local police station.

Unless you are certain about your watchman’s credentials, having him keep a watch on your family’s movements is asking for trouble. After all, he knows just when your elderly parent, daughter or child is alone and vulnerable and it’s easy to attack. When a guard commits a felony, all he does is pack his bag and scoot out of the city and there’s little reason for him to feel any sense of fear in doing so. After all, nobody has even bothered to ascertain his identity or origin. The security agency employing him is only concerned with the commission it draws from his salary and the society lives in a fool’s paradise assuming that its people are safe and secure…till one fine day a crime is committed.

Housing societies across Mumbai sadly tend to overlook issues of security. Whether it’s the 26/11 terror blitzkrieg on the city that left hundreds dead or the murderous attack on the journalist, one thing stands. Suspect elements keeping a watch on a potential victim’s whereabouts and movements, and ought to have been nabbed earlier itself thereby averting the crime. But that, in itself, isn’t as easy as it sounds.

By law, besides being forced to do just an eight-hour shift, a guard is entitled to a weekly off too. You can’t make a watchman work for 12-hour shifts for days on end without giving him a break. It has been decided that if a Security Guard is found sleeping while on duty or not found at his work place at the time of Night Checking by the Inspectors of the Security Guards Board for Brihan Mumbai and Thane District, the concerned Security Guard will be liable to fine for such misconduct, equivalent of four (4) days’ wages.

But then, with motivated authorities more than keen to turn a blind eye to the sleepy activities of watchmen, the law is given the convenient go-by. This anomaly gathers further momentum with the absence of authorities to regularise the guard-society arrangements. There is also a pressing need to keep identity records of watchmen/guards working at societies through the intervention of the local police who should be involved at all times.

Cooperative housing societies risk life and property directly by employing shady fly-by-night security agencies to provide them services at low cost and untaxed/unbilled arrangements. Worse still, they don’t bother checking their credentials. While the instances of watchmen and security personnel directly involved in acts of brutality, murder and robbery targeting the very members they are supposed to protect are on the rise, society officials continue to flagrantly violate the law governing security personnel which is well in place too.

While, cooperative housing societies, on their part, are not covered by The Maharashtra Private Security Guards (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1981 that was passed with retrospective effect from 29th June, 1981 as they don’t qualify as either ‘factories’ or ‘establishments’ under the law and hence don’t have to complete any formalities. That however, doesn’t stop them from scrutinising the credentials of the security agency making tall claims of having offered services to factories / establishments / shops / commercial chains. The agency has to be registered – by law – with the Security Guards Board of Brihan Mumbai and Thane District.

Under the act, both the Principal Employer and the Employer Agency have to get registered with the Board. The security guards of the employers should open their individual Saving Bank Accounts in Union Bank of India which is near to the place of their posting. After opening individual Saving Bank Accounts, they should submit the list of their Account Numbers along with their name and registration numbers to the Board. The cheques of the payment are distributed from 5th to 12th and thereafter on Tuesday and Friday upto 25th of every month on receipt of Wages and Levy cheques by the Board. Even for disbursement of cheques, the guards need to present their identity cards.

A list of office orders for the security staff for factories and establishments includes:

  • The Security Staff must report for their duties atleast 15 minutes early, so as to take charge properly.
  • The Security Staff shall be in proper and clean uniform and cleanly shaved while on duty.
  • The Security Staff shall behave politely, attentively and in disciplined manner while on duty.
  • No Security Guard shall leave his respective check post unless/otherwise asked by his immediate Superior in the Shift, failing which the Superiors shall be held responsible.
  • The Security Staff shall preserve their Identity Cards, while on duty and while coming to the Office of the Board.
  • No Security Guard shall leave his duty unless the reliever or the next shift Security Guard relieves him.
  • No Security Guard shall proceed on leave or remain absent without prior sanction or intimation to the Management.
  • Leave application shall be forwarded to the Board in prescribed form devised by the Board.
  • Leave application for more than four days shall be submitted through Unit In-charge and Management, such application with their recommendation should be sent to the Board atleast seven (7) days in advance, so as to make necessary arrangement for substitute. The Security Guard shall proceed on Leave only after confirming sanction of his leave.

Sounds like a tall order doesn’t it, at least for the present lot of watchmen we’re forced to deal with? But then, that’s the law, well in place for you.

All that the authorities need to do is establish the credentials of the security staff by visiting any of their ‘factory’ or ‘establishment’ sites and double-check their claims; insist on copies of documents that they have provided the police while applying for a license; draw up a detailed legal agreement between the society and the agency enlisting the list of pertinent office orders among the string laid down by the statute with list of corresponding penalties and ensure it delivers.

Siddharth Thakur

Siddharth Thakur is a Law student volunteering with www.SocietyMatters.in – an initiative of DraftCraft International to educate and empower stakeholders and ensure the reach of laws affecting Housing Societies across India, in principle and practice.