The Delhi High Court has directed the Centre and the AAP government to run an awareness campaign informing the general public about their rights in the event of arrest or detention by the police in criminal cases.A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar observed that there were Supreme Court judgements stating that no automatic arrest or detention can be made by the police, even in non-bailable and cognizable offences.
It noted that pursuant to the apex court’s direction, the police has also issued standing orders in this regard, but the public appeared to be ignorant of their rights in the event of an arrest.
The Supreme Court, in its ruling, had emphasised on the need of caution while exercising the drastic power of arrest, which has for years, been treated as a tool of harassment, oppression in the hands of the police authorities and greatly contributed to police corruption in India.
“Respondents (Centre and Delhi government) shall ensure that steps are taken forthwith to disseminate information about the standing order (issued in October 2008 by the Delhi police) setting up guidelines for arrest.
“The same should be published in the vernacular languages and circulated amongst the members of the public. A copy there of be made available to every person upon their arrest,” the bench said.
It said that the Delhi Police Commissioner shall also examine the possibility of creating of a helpline number from where information regarding a person’s arrest or detention could be made available to the family, relatives and friends.
“This consideration shall be effected within four weeks and report in this regard shall be submitted before this court,” it said.
The court’s direction came on a plea by Subhash Vijayran who had alleged that the governments were violating the mandate of Article 22(2) of the Constitution taking advantage of the ignorance regarding the rights of the citizens.
The public interest litigation (PIL) said that as per the Article and Section 57 of the CrPC, an accused must be produced before the Magistrate without unnecessary delay and in no circumstances beyond 24 hours, excluding the time necessary for the journey.
An accused may be kept in detention beyond 24 hours of his arrest only when authorised by the Magistrate, it added.
Citing statistics to demonstrate the misuse of the power of arrest by the police authorities, the Supreme Court had in one of its verdicts proceeded to set out certain objective criteria to be applied before making an arrest under the CrPC.
The apex court had held that no arrest should be made only because the offence is non-bailable and cognizable.
“Neither should arrest be made in a routine, casual and cavalier manner or on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person.
“Arrest should only be made after reasonable satisfaction reached after due investigation as to the genuineness of the allegation,” the apex court had said.