Human rights

Human rights and preventive arrest by police u/s 151 of Cr.P.C

Issue of Human Rights

To strike the balance between the needs of law enforcement on the one hand and the protection of the citizen from oppression and injustice at the hands of the law-enforcement machinery on the other is a perennial problem of statecraft. The pendulum over the years has swung to the right.[Smt. Nandinia Satpathy v. P. L. Dani AIR 1978 SC 1025]

The horizon of human rights is expanding. At the same time, the crime rate is also increasing. Of late, this Court has been receiving complaints about violation of human rights because of indiscriminate arrests. How are we to strike a balance between the two?

A realistic approach should be made in this direction. The law of arrest is one of balancing individual rights, liberties and privileges, on the one hand, and individual duties, obligations and responsibilities on the other; of weighing and balancing the rights, liberties and privileges of the single individual and those of individuals collectively; of simply deciding what is wanted and where to put the weight and the emphasis; of deciding which comes first – the criminal or society, the law violator or the law abider; of meeting the challenge which Mr. Justice Cardozo so forthrightly met when he wrestled with a similar task of balancing individual rights against society’s rights and wisely held that the exclusion rule was bad law, that society came first, and that the criminal should not go free because the constable blundered. In People v. Defore, (1926) 242 NY 13, 24:150 NE 585, 589, justice Cardozo observed:

“The question is whether protection for the individual would not be gained at a disproportionate loss of protection for society. On the one side is the social need that crime shall be repressed. On the other, the social need that law shall not be flouted by the insolence of office. There are dangers in any choice. The rule of the Adams case (People v. Adams, (1903) 176 NY 351:68 NE 636) strikes a balance between opposing interests. We must hold it to be the law until those organs of government by which a change of public policy is normally effected shall give notice to the courts that change has come to pass.”

To the same effect is the statement by Judge learned Hand, In Re Fried, 161 F 2d 453, 465 (2d Cir. 1947):

“The protection of the individual from oppression and abuse by the police and other enforcing officers is indeed a major interest in a free society; but so is the effective prosecution of crime, an interest which at times seems to be forgotten. Perfection is impossible; like other human institutions criminal proceedings must be a compromise.”

The quality of a nation’s civilisation can be largely measured by the methods it uses in the enforcement of criminal law.

Supreme Court in Smt. Nandinia Satpathy v. P. L. Dani AIR 1978 SC 1025 at page 1032 quoting Lewis Mayers stated:

The paradox has been put sharply by Lewis Mayers:

“To strike the balance between the needs of law enforcement on the one hand and the protection of the citizen from oppression and injustice at the hands of the law-enforcement machinery on the other is a perennial problem of statecraft. The pendulum over the years has swung to the right.”

Again in para 21 at page 1033 it was observed: “We have earlier spoken of the conflicing claims requiring reconciliation. Speaking pragmatically, there exists a rivalry between societal interest in effecting crime detection and constitutional rights which accused individuals possess. Emphasis may shift, depending on circumstances, in balancing these interests as has been happening in America. Since Miranda ((1966) 334 US 436) there has been retreat from stress on protection of the accused and gravitation towards society’s interest in convicting law-brakers. Currently, the trend in the American jurisdiction according to legal journals, is that ‘respect for (constitutional) principles is eroded when they leap their proper bounds to interfere with the legitimate interests of society in enforcement of its laws …………(Couch v. United States (1972) 409 US 322, 336). Our constitutional perspective has, therefore, to be relative and cannot afford to be absolutist, especially when torture technology, crime escalation and other social variables affect the application of principles in producing humane justice.”

The National Police Commission in its Third Report referring to the quality of arrests by the Police in India mentioned power of arrest as one of the chief sources of corruption in the police. The report suggested that, by and large, nearly 60% of the arrests were either unnecessary or unjustified and that such unjustified police action accounted for 43.2% of the expenditure of the jails. The said Commission in its Third Report at page 31 observed thus:

“It is obvious that a major portion of the arrests were connected with very minor prosecutions and cannot, therefore, be regarded as quite necessary from the point of view of crime prevention. Continued detention in jail of the persons so arrested has also meant avoidable expenditure on their maintenance. In the above period it was estimated that 43.2 per cent of the expenditure in the connected jails was over such prisoners only who in the ultimate analysis need not have been arrested at all.”

As on today, arrest with or without warrant depending upon the circumstances of a particular case is governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Whenever a public servant is arrested that matter should be intimated to the superior officers, if possible, before the arrest and in any case, immediately after the arrest. In cases of members of Armed Forces, Army, Navy or Air Force, intimation should be sent to the Officer commanding the unit to which the member belongs. It should be done immediately after the arrest is effected.

Sec 151 vs Sec 41  of Cr.P.C

41. When police may arrest without warrant ( apply after the execution of the offence)

150. Information of design to commit cognizable offences

Every police officer receiving information of a design to commit any cognizable offence shall communicate such information to the police officer to whom he is subordinate, and to any other officer whose duty it is to prevent or take cognizance of the commission of any such offence.

151. Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences

( 1 ) A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented.
( 2 ) No person arrested under sub-section ( 1 ) shall be detained in custody for a period exceeding twenty-four hours from the time of hi s arrest unless hi s further detention is required or authorised under any other provisions of this Code or of any other law for the time being in force.

Arresting power u/s 151 is a separate power to prevent any cognizable offence. The arrested person has all rights which are given by DK Basu case.

The object of the Sections 41/107/151 Code of Criminal Procedure are of preventive justice and not punitive. Section 151 should only be invoked when there is imminent danger to peace or likelihood of breach of peace under Section 107 Code of Criminal Procedure. An arrest under Section 151 can be supported when the person to be arrested designs to commit a cognizable offence. If a proceeding under Sections 41/107/151 appears to be absolutely necessary to deal with the threatened apprehension of breach of peace, it is incumbent upon the authority concerned to take prompt action. The jurisdiction vested in a Magistrate to act under Section 107 is to be exercised in emergent situation.

A mere perusal of Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure makes it clear that the conditions under which a police officer may arrest a person without an order from a Magistrate and without a warrant have been laid down in Section 151. He can do so only if he has come to know of a design of the person concerned to commit any cognizable offence. A further condition for the exercise of such power, which must also be fulfilled, is that the arrest should be made only if it appears to the police officer concerned that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented. The Section, therefore, expressly lays down the requirements for exercise of the power to arrest without an order from a Magistrate and without warrant. If these conditions are not fulfilled and, a person is arrested under Section 151 Code of Criminal Procedure, the arresting authority may be exposed to proceedings under the law for violating the fundamental rights inherent in Articles 21 and 22 of Constitution. (Vide: Ahmed Noormohmed Bhatti v. State of Gujarat and Ors., AIR 2005 SC 2115).

(See also: Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P. and Ors., AIR 1994 SC 1349, D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1997 SC 610).

Period of Arrest

The powers conferred upon the police authorities under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure were well defined, and guidelines for their exercise are also found in the provision so as to save it from the charge of being either arbitrary or unreasonable. The detention under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was only for a limited period of 24 hours for the purpose mentioned therein and the said provision, therefore, offended no provision of the Constitution.

Section 151 appears under Chapter XI of the Code of Criminal Procedure which relates to preventive action of the police. Sub-section (1) thereof empowers a police officer to arrest, without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant, a person designing to commit any cognizable offence. Section further requires that such an arrest should be made only if it appears to such police officer that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented. Sub-section (2) of Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure places a limitation on the period of detention by providing that no person arrested under sub-section (1) shall be detained in custody for a period exceeding 24 hours from the time of his arrest, unless his further detention is required or authorized under any other provisions of this Code or any other law for the time being in force.

A mere perusal of Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure makes it clear that the conditions under which a police officer may arrest a person without an order from a Magistrate and without a warrant, have been laid down in Section 151. He can do so only if he has come to know of a design of the person concerned to commit any cognizable offence. A further condition for the exercise of such power, which must also be fulfilled, is that the arrest should be made only if it appears to the police officer concerned that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented. The Section, therefore, expressly lays down the requirements for the exercise of the power to arrest without an order from a Magistrate and without warrant. If these conditions are not fulfilled and, a person is arrested under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the arresting authority may be exposed to proceedings under the law. Sub-section (2) lays down the rule that normally a person so arrested shall be detained in custody not for a period exceeding 24 hours. It, therefore, follows that in the absence of anything else, on expiry of 24 hours, he must be released. The release, however, is not insisted upon only when his further detention is required or authorized under any other provision of the Code or of any other law for the time being in force. It, therefore, follows that if before the expiry of 24 hour of detention it is found that the person concerned is required to be detained under any other provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure, or of any other law for the time being in force, he may not be released and his detention may continue under such law or such provision of the Code. The detention thereafter is not under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure but under the relevant provision of the Code or any other law for the time being in force as the case may be. Section 151, therefore, only provides for arrest of a person to prevent the commission of a cognizable offence by him. The provision by no stretch of imagination can be said to be either arbitrary or unreasonable or infringing upon the fundamental rights of a citizen under Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India.

While arresting a female person, all efforts should be made to keep a lady constable present but in circumstances where the Arresting Officer is reasonably satisfied that such presence of a lady constable is not available or possible and/or the delay in arresting caused by securing the presence of a lady constable would impede the course of investigation such Arresting Officer for reasons to be recorded either before arrest or immediately after the arrest be permitted to arrest a female person for lawful reasons at any time of the day or night depending on the circumstances of the case even without the presence of a lady constable[AIR 2004 SC 7]

Justification for Arrest

The existence of the power to arrest is one thing. The justification for the exercise of it is quite another. The Police Officer must be able to justify the arrest apart from his power to do so. Arrest and detention in police lock-up of a person can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and selfesteem of a person. No arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person. It would be prudent for a Police Officer in the interest of protection of the constitutional rights of a citizen and perhaps in his own interest that no arrest should be made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation as to the genuineness and bona fides of a complaint and a reasonable belief both as to the person’s complicity and even so as to the need to effect arrest. Denying a person of his liberty is a serious matter. The recommendations of the Police Commission merely reflect the constitutional concomitants of the fundamental right to personal liberty and freedom. A person is not liable to arrest merely on the suspicion of complicity in an offence. There must be some reasonable justification in the opinion of the officer effecting the arrest that such arrest is necessary and justified. Except in heinous offences, an arrest must be avoided if a police officer issues notice to person to attend the Station House and not to leave Station without permission would do[Joginder Kumar vs state of UP AIR 1994 SC 1349]

It be remembered that Preventive arrest is different from Preventive detention 


Categories: Human rights

Tagged as: ,