The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), a think-tank under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), has asked police departments across the country not to make arrests as a regular act or for the sake of routine issues.
The bureau has suggested that a person should be first served a notice of appearance and when he/she fails to comply with it, then police should go ahead with the arrest.
The think-tank has issued elaborate “guidelines or draft Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for safeguarding persons to be arrested or detained by police authorities against custodial violence” to all police departments in the country.
The guidelines, which were issued last week, have strictly advised police authorities to follow the procedure while making arrests, or while dealing with people in their custody.
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It has said that the guidelines are aimed at restoring “a sense of security among the public and regaining the diminishing faith and confidence of the public in police”.
Police officials have been advised against torturing a person in custody or compelling a person to give testimony or evidence that may incriminate him or her or testify against any person.
“Do not subject any person in custody to torture, beating or cruel treatment. Ensure not to detain anyone for a prolonged period in the name of interrogation as this may amount to wrongful confinement and illegal detention,” the guidelines, reviewed by HT, have said.
The advisories assume significance in the wake of torture of a father and his son — P Jayaraj (51) and J Bennicks (31) — in police custoday in Tamil Nadu (TN) in June. The incident had occurred under the jurisdiction of Sathankulam police station in TN’s Thoothukudi district.
Jayaraj had died on June 22 and Bennicks the following day.
The guidelines have directed police personnel to ensure that when they are going to make any arrest, they must wear visible name tags and their names should also be recorded in a police diary.
An arrest memo of the arrestee must be prepared, mentioning date, time and place of arrest.
The memo must be signed by at least one reputed local witness and countersigned by the arrestee.
The guidelines have advised the authorities that, according to the provisions in the law, they cannot summon any male below 15 years of age or above 65 years of age or a woman to a police station for the purpose of questioning. “They shall be questioned at their place of residence,” they have added.
For women, the guidelines have stated that police cannot arrest any woman after the sunset and before the sunrise unless under exceptional circumstances.
The directives have asserted that abuse of powers of arrest has a chilling effect on society.
The bureau has said it also erodes the credibility of the law-and-order mechanism and creates a chasm between the police and the society.
The think-tank has pointed out that once a person is arrested, “the onus of safety, security and health of a person lies entirely on the police” and it should take utmost care to ensure that human rights of persons in police custody are not violated.
“The arrestee should be interrogated in an appropriate manner with the aid of scientific methods of interrogation and investigation and without the use of violence,” it has said.
“The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, contains provisions granting power to police to arrest or detain an individual in the process of investigation of crime and/or maintenance of order. The provisions enumerate the conditions in which arrest/detention can be made, along with the procedure for arrest or detention. These powers, when used indiscriminately, lead not only to abuse of the procedure, but also result in the violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Indiscriminate arrest by the police and custodial violence, while the individual is in police custody, are serious issues that need to be dealt with utmost sensitivity at the highest levels of the police leadership with a view to put a complete stop to such repugnant practices,” the guidelines have said.
“No police agency, without the constructive support of the society, can ever successfully achieve its objectives of crime control, maintenance of order,” it has added.
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