×
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Info on arrests cannot be a secret

The state police website does not display any information about arrests made, unlike its counterpart in Kerala, which publishes such data every week
Last Updated : 09 July 2022, 21:32 IST
Last Updated : 09 July 2022, 21:32 IST

Follow Us :

Comments

Whenever a crime is committed, many people expect the police to arrest the suspect, as the first step towards setting in motion the wheels of justice. In fact, victims of crime look upon such arrests as a kind of preliminary punishment for the accused, before the courts decide their guilt and sentence them. But do we know how many people are arrested across the country every year? The National Crime Records Bureau reported 6.8 million arrests in 2020. That is slightly more than the entire estimated population of Hyderabad in 2022. The police detain hundreds more every day for preventive purposes, without publishing any data on such detentions. The deprivation of personal liberty of citizens does not attract our attention until it happens to one of our own.

Yet, the law on arrests in India is clear. Section 41C of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) requires the police to display on the public notice board of district police control rooms (PCRs) the details of who was arrested and by whom, every day. Every PCR has a statutory duty to collect details about arrested persons and the nature of offence they allegedly committed and forward it to the State Police Headquarters (PHQ) from time to time. The PHQ has a duty to maintain all this information in the form of a database. For whose benefit? Believe it or not, the CrPC says -- “for the information of the general public.”

Parliament made this law in 2009 in an effort to give statutory sanction to several guidelines that the Supreme Court of India had laid down in the 1996 D K Basu case. Releasing information about arrests from the portfolio of sarkari secrets is an important safeguard against the rampant tendency of the police to abuse their arrest powers.

Interestingly, Jammu and Kashmir had not bothered to include such transparency measures in its own criminal law. With the downgrading and bifurcation of the state in 2019, these safeguards have become obligatory in J&K and Ladakh. Nevertheless, the J&K bureaucracy and the police administration do not seem to have taken any action to implement these statutory provisions, even as scores of locals are arrested or detained by the police every day.

Merely amending the CrPC will not ensure the flow of arrestee information from police stations to the PCRs and the PHQs. Dissemination channels must be created to ensure timely communication of arrestee data and the responsibility of compliance must be pinned on specific officials.

In May, I filed an RTI application seeking copies of standard operating procedures issued in J&K to implement CrPC Section 41C. The Home Department transferred the request to the PHQ, which sent it to the Zonal Police HQs in Jammu and Kashmir. They, in turn, sent it to the Police Range HQs, which did not lose much time in sending it further down to every district Police HQ. So much of taxpayer funds spent on shunting one RTI application from desk to desk, and the citizen who requested the information is left none the wiser for the effort.

Karnataka fares no better. The state police website does not display any information about arrests made, unlike its counterpart in Kerala, which publishes such data every week. Many other states and UTs continue to ignore this statutory duty of disclosure. After sustained RTI interventions through 2018-19, the Uttarakhand Information Commission directed the state police to comply with these transparency obligations. Sadly, the Covid pandemic has caused undue delay vis-à-vis compliance.

More such interventions are required in other places, including J&K, as the first step towards curbing the tendency of the police to abuse their powers to arrest citizens.

ADVERTISEMENT
Published 09 July 2022, 18:25 IST

Follow us on :

Follow Us

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT