Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha Wednesday pitched for more powers for the Railway Protection Force terming it a toothless organisation with Railway Minister Piyush Goyal saying a law in this regard is just a "technicality".
A bill to amend the Railway Act to empower RPF is awaiting clearance from Cabinet.
Speaking at a conference on security of railways, both Sinha and RPF Director General Arun Kumar pushed for handing over the registration, enquiry and detection of passenger-related crimes on board running trains to the railways' security force.
Currently, even if a crime is detected by the RPF, it has to hand over the case to the Government Railway Police for further enquiry.
"RPF is a toothless organisation. It is involved in security, but has no powers. Despite ability and efforts, the RPF has not got the powers it deserves. However, it is blamed for everything that happens on railway premises. But the reality is that other than taking care (of railway property), RPF has no real powers. An amendment in the law, I personally feel, is the need of the hour," Sinha said.
Goyal urged the RPF and the Government Railway Police to work together to secure railways and said that the amendment to the law was a "technicality".
"Whether the law is changed or not, whether the GRP does it or the RPF, these are all technicalities. We have to do decide that we need to work together to secure passengers. Then law will not come in the way," he said.
The RPF DG highlighted how his force can leverage its inherent advantage of having an all India jurisdiction to prevent and detect crime in moving trains.
He said that since the jurisdiction of an RPF posts cuts across jurisdiction of many police stations it puts it in a position of advantage for identification of place of occurrence, quick registration of the case and subsequent detection.
"Therefore, we may consider empowering RPF to register, investigate and detect passenger luggage thefts so that the state police can concentrate on control of serious crime like robbery, dacoity, rape, murder and focus its efforts in maintenance of law and order in railway premises.
"A draft bill for amendment in Railways Act to empower RPF to register, enquire and prosecute cases of passenger luggage theft and crime against women has been approved to be sent to the cabinet for further legislative action," he said.
Kumar also said that the issue of reporting and registration of crime against passengers is a weak link in the security apparatus which affects the service delivery to the passengers. The victim has to run pillar to post to get his FIR registered without which the criminal justice system would not set in motion, he said.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was part of the conference, suggested to Goyal to start a facility by which passengers can file FIRs online.
"There is no facility for a passenger to file an FIR online. If somebody is travelling by train (and something happens), he need to visit Government Railway Police (GRP) police station to get an FIR registered. It will then go to the state, to the district and eventually to the police station concerned. There is no guarantee that he would get the desired justice," he minister said.
He said there has to be a provision for the passengers to file the FIR electronically.
"You (Railway Ministry official) need to discuss and decide on this (online FIR). We will provide all possible support from the Ministry of Home Affairs," Singh said, citing the 'crime and criminal tracking network and system or CCTNS' for the integration of state police work implemented by his ministry.
One hundred and forty six criminals involved in crime against women were arrested and handed over to GRP and 139422 male persons were prosecuted for travelling in ladies coaches in 2018. Special measures were taken to ensure care and protection of distressed children in trains and railway premises, the DG said, adding the RPF was instrumental in rescue of 13091 children in need of care and protection during 2018.