This article is written by Bhavyika Jain, a learner at Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. This article discusses the legal responsibilities of the Indian police towards its citizens, and also the inappropriate actions taken by them.
The police are primarily concerned with the maintenance of peace and the enforcement of law and order. It is also responsible for the security of the persons as well as property. Being an integral element of our society, they play a critical role in the criminal justice system. Juvenile delinquency and atrocities against women and children must also be avoided by the police.
According to Article 246 of the Indian Constitution, the police forces are a state-subject, which means that state governments can set rules and regulations for the police forces within their control, which are detailed in their state manuals. The police force is primarily responsible for maintaining peace and order, as well as conducting legitimate investigations, crime prevention, and detection. Apart from civil police, states have their own intelligence and criminal justice agencies. The Indian Police Services (IPS) cadres, who are recruited from around the country, occupy all senior police positions in various states.
What is a complaint
‘Complaint’ has been defined under Section 2(d) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, under which a Magistrate can take cognizance of a complaint under Section 190 of the CrPC. After taking cognizance of a complaint, the Magistrate examines it under Section 200 of the CrPC by questioning the facts and witnesses. If the Magistrate concludes that the complaint has validity, the case is declared committed for trial, and the Magistrate issues the process under Section 204 of the CrPC. If the offence may only be tried in a Session Court, the Magistrate must refer the matter to the Court of Session under Section 209 of the CrPC.
Police officers’ legal responsibilities
Police have legal responsibilities that include crime detection, investigation, arresting the offenders, gathering evidence, and so on. Police patrols and preventive action against suspected wrongdoers are part of their job. The most important responsibility entrusted to the police to prevent crime is to apprehend and detain lawbreakers and suspected criminals.
These police authorities are outlined in Chapter XI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, under sections 149 to 153. Police officers also have the authority to make arrests without a warrant under Sections 41, 42, and 151 of the CrPC, 1973, depending on the circumstances. Under Section 438 of CrPC, 1973, interrogation of criminals and suspects, and search and seizure are all legal activities of the police. The police may perform the search and seizure with or without a warrant, but it must not be unreasonable.
Under Section 174 of the CrPc, police officers are required to keep an inquest register and follow the law governing inquest registers. The police must record information in the inquest register if a person dies in unusual or suspicious circumstances. In addition to supporting the prosecutor, the police play a significant part in the prosecution. In fact, the success of prosecution is heavily reliant on the police’s capacity to undertake an investigation quickly and effectively.
Inaction by the police
The fundamental responsibility of police officers is to serve humanity by preventing crime, upholding and protecting human rights, investigating and detecting crimes, initiating criminal prosecutions, reducing public unrest, dealing with large and minor crises, and assisting people in need. But it is often observed that police officers do not carry out their official tasks properly and abuse their power for personal or official benefit while performing their jobs.
They violate their social contract by engaging in a variety of unethical acts. Police misconduct can be characterised as illegal or inappropriate behaviour. Miscarriage of justice, discrimination, and obstruction of justice are all consequences of police employees acting improperly or using more power than is objectively necessary. Though the goals and objectives of police are noble, they have been chastised and condemned for carrying out acts that are directly contrary to them. This is because the powers given to them to carry out their social responsibilities can be abused by them to trample on the community’s constitutional rights.
There is no internal structure in place to keep a check on police wrongdoing, providing the officers unrestrained licence to engage in such unethical behaviour. Not only does this abuse of power lead to obstruction of justice and corruption in the police department, but it also infringes on our constitutionally protected rights.
Preventive detention raises concerns about one’s fundamental rights. In Ahmed Noormohmad Bhatti v. State of Gujarat (2005), the constitutionality of preventative arrest was questioned. A three-judge Supreme Court panel ruled that a statute cannot be declared arbitrary solely because it may be misapplied by the relevant authorities. However, the Supreme Court has taken notice of the abuse and has questioned the police about their understanding of public order.
Types of misconduct by the police
Because of their professional duty, society expects the greatest standards of behaviour from the police. These include honesty, impartiality, and integrity. However, misuse of authority by police officers has become a common occurrence in Indian society. Misconduct includes the following:
- Unlawful or erroneous detention or incarceration.
- Forgery of evidence, forgery of a police report.
- Making a false statement on the witness stand or tampering with evidence.
- Brutality by police.
- Bribery and lobbying are two of the most common ways for people to get what they want.
- Unjustified monitoring, searches, and property seizures.
Punishment for misconduct by the police
Arrest refers to the legal deprivation of a person’s liberty. Every arrest is intended to be made in compliance with legal procedures, such as Article 21 and Article 22 of the Indian Constitution. It is not defined under the Criminal Procedure Code.
In D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal (1996) the Supreme Court established an eleven-point list of preventive steps that must be followed in every case of arrest and detention. Failure to comply with these conditions will result in the involved police officer being charged with contempt of court and being subject to disciplinary punishment.
It is an unlawful limitation of an individual’s liberty or freedom when an arrest is made without following the processes or regulations outlined in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. This is known as a false or illegal arrest. Unlawful arrests and wrongful imprisonment are violations of the Indian Constitution’s fundamental rights. Arrests must be made regularly, to ensure the administration of justice and protect and upholding citizens’ human rights.
Tampering of evidence
Authorities occasionally tamper with actual evidence, resulting in innocent people being wrongfully convicted based on fake evidence. Police officers are frequently accused of corruption, such as fabricating records. Officers involved in the case have been caught tampering with confessions, witness statements, and testimonies to create a fake report, even though the police report is a document that the court significantly relies on when making a decision.
Evidence tampering is punishable under Section 193 of the Indian Penal Code, which stresses the severity of the penalty. Anyone who knowingly or willfully gives false evidence or swears by it at any stage of a judicial action, allowing the court to assume it is true and treat it as evidence, will be penalised with a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and a fine. The essential factor in this form of wrongdoing is malice.
Brutality by the police
Police brutality is a form of civil rights violation in which a police officer abuses his authority and tortures a person with far more force than is necessary. This has resulted in several in-custody deaths; the record of which has yet to be discovered and produced in court.
Police brutality must be thoroughly investigated and reviewed. Sec 197 of the CrPC, which exempts public workers from punishment for any misappropriate conduct committed while doing their duties, has to be modified, and tougher regulations need to be implemented to prevent future corruption. For a civilised society, the courts need to be given a little more judicial attention, giving them the authority to investigate every complaint and prosecute police brutality offenders. Police officers must be given strict instructions that indiscriminate use of force would not protect them from the eyes of the law.
The Supreme Court stated in Sakiri Vasu v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2007) that if a Magistrate believes that a proper investigation is not being conducted by the officer-in-charge of a police station, the Magistrate can certainly direct the officer to conduct a proper investigation and monitor the investigation. As a result, the complainant/victim of a crime can request the concerned Magistrate to have the police investigation monitored, and the Magistrate can then provide necessary directions for the inquiry to be completed as quickly as possible.
Bribing and lobbying
The most prevalent sort of corruption discussed in our society is getting things done by paying bribes to police officers, government employees, and authorities. Officials from the police department have been observed lobbying on occasion.
To avoid circumstances like this and to put an end to this type of frequently practised corruption known as bribery, the first and most important step is for citizens to become familiar with the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the amount of fine that must be paid in the event of a violation. It is more or less consistent across the country, but it is still a good idea to keep track of the various state statutes.
Unjustified monitoring, searches, and property seizures
If a police officer believes that evidence of a crime can be located in a certain location, it is their responsibility to persuade a Magistrate or court to issue a search warrant order. By issuing such an order, the court authorises police officers to search a person, as well as their movable and immovable property, and to seize goods.
During a search or observation by the authorities, the occupant should be extremely vigilant and, at the very least, demand the presence of a police officer or a few reputable persons in the neighbourhood, as well as his lawyer. Having a lawyer present during a search, surveillance, or seizure is critical. The occupant should request that a seizure list be prepared and signed by the police officer present during the search.
Even technology can be used as a remedy because there is always the risk of planting evidence against a person during a search that might later be used against him in court. Videotaping or documenting the searches is the greatest method. Digital recording has become more common as technology has advanced, and it is helping to raise public awareness about police misbehaviour.
Participation of NGOs and the media
In India, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) must become more involved in offering support and aid to victims. Though many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are striving to combat corruption these days, they are dealing with delicate themes such as crime against women, gender-based concerns, and so on. Independent media also plays a critical role in exposing corruption and raising public awareness about it.
Commission on Human Rights
For the prevention of human rights violations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and State Commissions were founded. An individual can approach or initiate an investigation into a violation of human rights at any level of the investigation. It has the authority to recommend monetary compensation to the victims as a kind of interim remedy. It may also provide recommendations for safeguarding the rights guaranteed by our Constitution or any current law.
The Supreme Court has taken notice of such abuses of power, as well as a rise in preventable arrests and fatalities in custody. It has taken steps to prevent such abuse. In the cases of Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P. (1994) and D.K. Basu v. State of Bengal, the Supreme Court outlined guidelines that every police officer must follow when conducting arrests. To summarise, arrest and preventative legislation are vital for society’s smooth functioning, but they must be subjected to rigorous judicial scrutiny to ensure their fair application.
Police corruption has become a major worldwide problem that will continue to affect us all. In truth, many citizens who are victims of police misbehaviour or abuse do not approach the police because of their fear and distrust of them, and as a result, many crimes go unreported, especially those that are less severe and involve victims from marginalised groups in our society.
It is unfortunate to report that police corruption is on the rise as a result of the continual meddling of powerful people such as politicians in police operations. Political pressure on police officers causes them to become corrupt, dishonest, and ineffective.
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