New Delhi: In a bid towards smart policing in the city, the Delhi Police have initiated the ambitious e-Malkhana project to digitise the Malkhanas in all of their 195 police stations in the national capital for faster and easier retrieval of case property and to save resources, time and energy of the police personnel handling Malkhanas in each police station.
The Malkhana is a storehouse in every police station, storing crucial evidence that becomes part of the case property to any crime that has taken place within the jurisdiction of that particular police station. The Sunday Guardian visited the Hazrat Nizamuddin police station’s Malkhana in the South East police district of the Delhi Police. It was one of the first to be digitised by the Delhi Police in 2017. As part of the e-Malkhana project, all the evidence unlike earlier times is now stored in barcoded cardboard boxes in neatly placed racks after packing and sealing the evidence.
The Malkhana in the Hazrat Nizamuddin police station is located just a few metres to the left of the entry to the police station. A small room with many shelves and storage places keeps the most important assets of the police station. It houses the crucial evidence in all cases registered in this police station—be it a murder weapon or a car seized during rash driving or drunk driving or be it furniture, jewellery or cash confiscated in dowry cases or any other case that comes under the purview of this police station.
This Malkhana was digitised during the first leg of the digitisation programme started by the then Delhi Police Commissioner, Amulya Patnaik in 2017-2018. The Malkhana is now neat, clean and has seating space for two constables and one computer operator who barcodes the boxes that store the evidence and places them in racks according to the FIR number and the year of the crime.
The caretaker of this Malkhana, Head Constable Bhagirath, explains how the e-Malkhana has helped ease out his work. He says that earlier it was very difficult for him or his colleagues to fetch case properties when these were required to be presented in court or during the investigation. He told The Sunday Guardian, “It used to take hours for us earlier to search for a case property in this room since there are thousands of case properties with us. But now, since it is organised and bar-coded, we can just find the exact case property with its exact location just by entering the FIR number in the computer. It saves us a lot of time and effort.”
According to the Delhi Police, the e-Malkhana system consists of both software and physical upgradation of Malkhanas. The case properties which are called “mudh” in the police parlance, is first received by the Malkhana in-charge or “Malkhana muharar” from the Investigating Officer and cross checked with the seizure list; when every item matches with the seizure list a new cardboard box is pulled out and the evidence is placed inside the box and a unique barcode is pasted on the top and sides of the boxes.
Once the barcode is pasted, the barcode number is scanned into the computer and a list of the items stored in the box along with the FIR number, name of the investigation officer, and photographs of the items in the box are uploaded into the computer to store the evidence records digitally. The barcoded box can now be retrieved at any point by the Malkhana in-charge by just entering the FIR number into the computer which will then tell the exact location as to where the box is stored inside the storehouse.
DCP South East district, Esha Pandey told The Sunday Guardian that e-Malkhana has become an example of model and modern policing in the country as it has transformed the way Malkhanas function within the police structure. Pandey said, “The e-Malkhana started in 2017 was a major transformation from the old system to the digital era. The digital system of storing evidence has transformed the way Malkhanas function within the Delhi Police, saving time and manpower.”
Although the e-Malkhana system has eased much of the hard work in finding the right evidence attached to the right FIR, for Bhagirath, who is the head of the Malkhana in the Hazrat Nizamuddin police station, he has to still toil through the day running from one court of the city to another with boxes of evidence that he is the custodian of. Bhagirath says: “I protect all the exhibits under me and it is my responsibility to do it and I will do it till the last drop of my blood. All this evidence which I am the custodian of can make or break the case for the police.” He further adds that according to police rules, the Malkhana in-charge is the one who has to go to the court with the evidence when called for and he cannot hand over the evidence or any exhibit, which is part of the case even to the Investigating Officer of the case.
“Leave alone the Investigating Officer, even the Station House Officer (SHO) does not have the keys to the Malkhana. No exhibit can leave this Malkhana without a court order.” Bhagirath said. Any exhibit that becomes a part of the case can only leave after the case is over and through an order from the competent court. All the case properties in Delhi are also monitored and headed by the district Nazir for each district, who is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
Typically, Bhagirath’s life starts at 8 am when he reports to duty in the police station. On most days, he along with his colleagues cleans the Malkhana and then takes stock of all the exhibits that have been stored under his purview. At what time does his work end? “It is not fixed. Generally, I retire at about 10 pm every night, but then this is a 24X7 job. One cannot say that my duty is over so I cannot do anything more. A crime can take place any time and I have to be present if the Investigating Officer wants me to be there to collect evidence,” he says.
According to Bhagirath, when a case property is brought to him by the Investigating Officer, he first matches the case property with the seizure list and then makes an entry in his register with all the details along with barcoding and uploading the same on his computer. The exhibits are then sealed with the official seal of the police station and packed and stored in these barcoded boxes in the racks which have been assigned for the same.
The Hazrat Nizamuddin police station’s Malkhana, which is covered with 24X7 CCTV surveillance, has over 2050 “mudhs” and most of the exhibits in this Malkhana are of crimes related to murders, dowry, narcotics and cars. More often than not, the common issue that Malkhanas face is of rodents and termites who at times eat up documents, money and even furniture that are stored as case properties. Even the problem of seepage is not uncommon during the monsoon season and the in-charge has to make every possible arrangement to make sure that the stored exhibits are saved from the rain water. The stored blood samples and viscera which become a part of the case, especially in murder and other heinous crimes as rape, etc, can sometimes create problems. This Malkhana, like others, also has a small fridge which often stores such samples. Interestingly, a packet of meat which had got into a controversy after a complaint was filed claiming it be cow meat has also been stored here as case property. “We ensure that such leakages do not happen, we have to take care of it. We get the place cleaned and work goes on,” Bhagirath says.