"Stop and frisk" policing practices, also known as "stop and search" or "stop
and question," have been a controversial topic in the United States for decades.
This practice allows police officers to temporarily detain and search
individuals they suspect of criminal activity without necessarily having
probable cause for arrest.
In this article, we will examine the Indian constitutional implications of "stop
and frisk" policing practices. We will explore how these practices align with or
conflict with the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Indian
Constitution, and discuss the potential consequences for individuals and
communities affected by this type of policing.
The article will also look at the comparative scenario with US and other
countries. Overall, the article will provide a comprehensive analysis of the
legal and ethical issues surrounding "stop and frisk" policing practices in
The history of "stop and frisk" policing practices in India
"Stop and frisk" policing practices, also known as "stop and search" or "Terry
stops," refer to the power of law enforcement officers to temporarily detain,
question, and search individuals if they have reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity. The history of this practice in India is not well documented, but it
is likely to have existed in some form since the colonial era. During the
British colonial rule, various laws such as the Prevention of Sedition Act and
the Indian Police Act were enacted, granting police broad powers of arrest and
After independence, the power of police to detain and search individuals has
been codified in various laws, including the Code of Criminal Procedure and the
Indian Penal Code. The exact nature and extent of the power varies depending on
the jurisdiction, but it is generally seen as an important tool in preventing
and combating crime.
However, like in many other countries, the use of "stop and frisk" practices in
India has been controversial, with critics arguing that it is often used as a
tool for harassment and abuse of power, particularly against marginalized
communities and minority groups. As a result, there have been calls for greater
regulation and oversight of the practice to ensure its proper and lawful use.
The legal framework surrounding "stop and frisk" in India
The legal framework surrounding "stop and frisk" in India is governed by the
Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 and the Indian Constitution. Section 41
of the CrPC gives police officers the power to detain and search a person if
they have reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a cognizable
offense. This power is commonly referred to as "stop and frisk."
The Indian Supreme Court has provided guidelines for the use of this power in
various landmark cases, including the case of MP Sharma vs. Satish Chandra
(1954). The Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of ensuring that the
stop and frisk power is exercised in a reasonable and non-arbitrary manner and
that individual rights are respected.
The guidelines established by the Supreme Court for the use of stop and frisk
Reasonable suspicion: The police officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person has
committed a cognizable offense.
Non-arbitrary: The stop and frisk must be carried out in a non-arbitrary manner and must
not be based on discrimination or personal biases.
Respect for individual rights: The individual's rights, including their right to privacy and personal
liberty, must be respected during the stop and frisk.
Documentation: The stop and frisk must be documented, and the reason for the search must be
Proportionality: The extent of the search must be proportionate to the seriousness of the
In addition to the guidelines established by the Supreme Court, the Indian
Constitution also provides several protections for individual rights, including
the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21), the protection against
arbitrary detention (Article 22), and the protection of personal freedom
It is important to note that the use of stop and frisk powers in India has been
subject to criticism and controversy in recent years, with some arguing that the
power is often abused by police officers, particularly against marginalized
communities and minorities. The Indian government has taken steps to regulate
the use of stop and frisk, such as introducing measures to improve transparency
and accountability in its use.
In conclusion, the legal framework surrounding "stop and frisk" in India is
governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Indian Constitution.
The Indian Supreme Court has established guidelines for the use of this power to
ensure that it is exercised in a reasonable and non-arbitrary manner and that
individual rights are respected. However, the use of stop and frisk powers in
India remains a controversial issue and is subject to ongoing criticism and
The constitutional implications of "stop and frisk" practices in India
The constitutional implications of "stop and frisk" practices in India can be
seen through the interplay between the provisions of the Indian Constitution and
the legal framework surrounding stop and frisk as established by the Code of
Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Indian Supreme Court.
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution provides for the right to life and
personal liberty, and Article 22 provides for the protection against arbitrary
detention. These provisions, along with Article 19, which protects personal
freedom, provide a basis for the protection of individual rights during stop and
However, the Indian Supreme Court has held that the right to life and personal
liberty under Article 21 is not absolute and can be restricted in certain
circumstances, such as the maintenance of law and order and the prevention of
crime. In this context, the court has established guidelines for the use of stop
and frisk powers, including the requirement for reasonable suspicion,
non-arbitrary conduct, and respect for individual rights, documentation, and
In recent years, the use of stop and frisk powers in India has been subject to
criticism, with some alleging that it is often abused by police officers,
particularly against marginalized communities and minorities. This has led to
concerns about the potential violation of individual rights, including the right
to life and personal liberty and the right to freedom from arbitrary detention.
The impact of "stop and frisk" on marginalized communities in India
Stop and frisk" refers to a law enforcement tactic that allows police officers
to stop and search individuals on the street for weapons or illegal items
without a warrant if they have reasonable suspicion. The impact of this practice
on marginalized communities has been widely criticized for perpetuating racial
profiling and systemic racism.
Studies have shown that the majority of individuals targeted by stop and frisk
are people of colour, particularly Black and Latino men, even though they are no
more likely to be carrying contraband than white individuals. This has resulted
in increased distrust and resentment towards law enforcement in these
communities, leading to further marginalization.
Additionally, the intrusive and sometimes violent nature of stop and frisk
encounters can result in physical harm and psychological trauma, further
exacerbating tensions between marginalized communities and the police.
Furthermore, the disproportionate targeting of marginalized communities has
resulted in a disproportionate number of arrests and criminal records, leading
to increased barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities,
perpetuating the cycle of poverty and marginalization. The impact of stop and
frisk on marginalized communities has been overwhelmingly negative, perpetuating
systemic racism and exacerbating tensions between these communities and law
enforcement. It is crucial for policymakers to critically examine and address
the harmful consequences of this practice.
Comparisons to "stop and frisk" practices in other countries
Stop and frisk practices refer to the power of law enforcement officials to
briefly detain and search individuals without a warrant when they have
reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. This practice is implemented in many
countries, including India, the United States, and the United Kingdom. However,
the implementation of this practice varies in different countries, and the
extent to which it is used, as well as its legal basis, also varies.
In India, stop and frisk practices are regulated by the Code of Criminal
Procedure, which allows police officers to detain and search individuals when
they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The extent to which this
practice is used in India is unclear, but it is generally considered to be
In the United States, stop and frisk practices have been a controversial issue
for many years, with some advocates arguing that they are an effective tool in
reducing crime, while others argue that they are discriminatory and violate the
Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The
practice has been used extensively in New York City, where the New York Police
Department has been criticized for its disproportionate use of stop and frisk
against minority communities.
In the United Kingdom, stop and frisk practices are regulated by the Police and
Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The extent to which this practice is used in the UK
is unclear, but it is generally considered to be less controversial than in the
Stop and frisk practices are used in various countries, but the extent to which
they are used, as well as their legal basis, vary from country to country. In
India, stop and frisk practices are regulated by the Code of Criminal Procedure,
while in the United States, they are a controversial issue. In the United
Kingdom, stop and frisk practices are regulated by the Police and Criminal
Evidence Act 1984.
Conclusion and recommendations for future policy
Stop and frisk policies, which allow law enforcement officers to briefly detain,
search, and question individuals suspected of criminal activity, have been
controversial in many countries, including India. The policy is meant to help
prevent crime and protect public safety, but it has also been criticized for
violating civil rights and for its potential to perpetuate racial biases in the
criminal justice system.
Based on current data and evidence, it is recommended that the Indian government
re-evaluate and reform the stop and frisk policy to ensure that it is effective
in preventing crime while also respecting the rights of citizens. This can be
done by implementing stronger oversight mechanisms, such as increased
accountability and transparency, and training officers to avoid racial
profiling. Additionally, collecting and regularly analysing data on stops and
frisks can help identify and address any potential biases in the system.
In conclusion, while stop and frisk policies can play an important role in crime
prevention, it is important to ensure that they are implemented fairly and
equitably to avoid violating citizens' rights. Reforms to the policy should
prioritize accountability, transparency, and the minimization of racial biases.
- Indrajeet Singh, Final year student at Dr. RML-NLU Lucknow (U.P)
- Amritanshu Pathak, Final year student at Dr. RML-NLU Lucknow (U.P)