Human liberty and dignity must never be compromised

Human liberty and dignity must never be compromised

Special criminal laws must not be a threat to human liberty

General criminal law is adequate to deal with normal crimes. However when some special type of crimes occur, having significant volume or intensity, special laws become imperative to deal with them. However, for fuller human development, it is necessary to create a free society, not a crime-free society.

We have to control crime within a free society. All criminal law, and especially a special criminal law, is a threat to human liberty. However, it is also required to protect human liberty. This calls for strict safeguards to prevent misuse of special criminal legislation in  particular.

The law enforcers, the Police, themselves agree that the issue of misuse of special laws like TADA, POTA (both repealed), M-COCA, SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, anti-dowry laws, and Section 66A of IT Act etc., can be prevented by taking concerted steps.

Sulkhan Singh, Additional Director General, Police Training Centre, Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, believes definitions used in specifying crime or criminal conduct must be precise, strict and closed. Open-ended definitions leave the field wide open for misuse. The definition of laws against terrorism or organised crime are so fluid and open-ended that almost anyone can be roped in.

In the case of such special laws, oral evidence is mostly biased, faulty and concocted. The need, therefore, is to require documentary or other scientific evidence; oral evidence being only corroborative, he adds.

Another serving officer, who wished anonymity, said ambush accusation ought not to be permitted. “You (police) must complain in good time. If you knew something, you ought to have disclosed it to the proper authority, failing which it should be treated as afterthought.”

In short, for every special procedural or evidentiary legal provision, there must be a corresponding strict legal safeguard.

Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been amended in 2010 to prevent arrest on suspicion. But vested interests have got it somewhat diluted. It now lies with the judiciary to be actively vigilant to punish those police officers who violate the provisions.

Rights activists, on the other hand, argue that an arrested person should be charge sheeted in say seven days in normal cases and two weeks in special cases, failing which he must be released on his bond.

The present provision of six months to a year (the latter under some special laws) is grossly unjust.

Compensation for unjustified arrests should be given at the rate of the pay of the highest paid civil servant. This compensation must be recovered from the guilty officer as a departmental punishment, they contend.

The media and intelligentsia should realise that harping on the arrest of accused persons immediately on registration of an FIR, builds pressure and a climate for unjustified arrests, they caution.

Convenience of officials and expediency of enforcement should not be facilitated by compromising on human liberty and dignity. It should be achieved by leveraging technology and other resources.

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