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Preventive Arrest Under Section 151 CrPC: Use, Misuse and Court Judgments

Use of Section 151 CrPC:

According to Section 151 (1) of the CrPC, a police officer has the authority to arrest a person without a warrant or orders from a Magistrate if they have knowledge of a plan to commit a cognizable offence. This is done to prevent the commission of the crime. Section 151 (2) CrPC further states that the arrested person cannot be held in custody for more than 24 hours, unless it is necessary under other provisions of the CrPC or any other applicable law. The reasons for such preventive detention include state security, public order, foreign affairs, and community services.

The authority of a police officer to take a person into custody in order to prevent the commission of a cognizable offense is addressed in Section 151 CrPC. This provision grants the police the power to take immediate action if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is on the verge of committing a crime.

The use of preventive arrest under Section 151 CrPC is a crucial measure for maintaining law and order, particularly in situations where there is an imminent threat of harm or disturbance. However, it is imperative to ensure that this power is exercised judiciously and in compliance with the principles of justice and human rights.

An example of a scenario where Section 151 CrPC may be invoked is in cases of public unrest or demonstrations.

If the police receive information that a group of individuals intends to participate in violent protests that could result in property damage or physical harm, they may detain the individuals involved to prevent the situation from escalating into a full-blown riot. Another example is in cases of domestic violence. If the police receive a complaint or have reason to believe that a person is likely to inflict harm on their spouse or family members, they can take preventive action by arresting the individual before the offense occurs. This not only protects the potential victim but also serves as a deterrent to the perpetrator.

The utilization of preventive arrest can also be utilized in situations involving potential acts of terrorism. When law enforcement agencies receive intelligence indicating that an individual or group is planning a terrorist attack, they may take pre-emptive measures by arresting the suspects to prevent the plot and safeguard the well-being of the public. This proactive approach is crucial in combating terrorism and preventing the loss of innocent lives.

Furthermore, Section 151 CrPC can also be invoked in cases of organized crime or gang-related activities. If the police obtain credible information that certain individuals are planning to engage in serious offenses, such as drug trafficking or extortion, they have the authority to take preventive action by apprehending the suspects before the crime is committed. This helps disrupt criminal networks and hinders the spread of illicit activities.

It is important to note that the utilization of preventive arrest under Section 151 CrPC is subject to certain safeguards to prevent its misuse or abuse by law enforcement authorities. The decision to arrest must be based on reasonable grounds and supported by credible evidence or intelligence. Additionally, the arrested person must be presented before a magistrate within 24 hours, and their rights must be respected during detention.

In conclusion, Section 151 of the CrPC grants law enforcement agencies the necessary power to take preventive action against individuals who pose a threat to public order or safety. While this authority is essential for maintaining law and order, it must be exercised with prudence and in accordance with the principles of justice and human rights. By utilizing preventive arrest strategically, the police can effectively prevent crime, safeguard potential victims, and uphold the rule of law in society.

Misuse of Section 151 CrPC:

One common abuse of Section 151 CrPC involves its use to suppress dissent and restrict the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Constitution. In a democratic society, citizens have the fundamental right to express their opinions and grievances through peaceful protests and demonstrations. Yet, authorities have at times invoked Section 151 CrPC to pre-emptively arrest individuals participating in peaceful assemblies, citing vague concerns of potential unrest or disruption of public order.

instance, during political rallies or protests against government policies, law enforcement agencies have been accused of arbitrarily detaining protesters under Section 151 CrPC without sufficient evidence of imminent violence or unlawful activity. Such actions not only infringe upon the constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly, but also undermine democratic principles of transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, Section 151 of the CrPC has been frequently exploited in personal disputes or vendettas, as individuals with ulterior motives manipulate law enforcement to seek retribution or harass their adversaries. In cases of property disputes, familial conflicts, or neighbourhood rivalries, false accusations are often concocted to secure the preventive arrest of opponents, resulting in the wrongful detention and infringement of the liberty of innocent individuals.

Moreover, there have been instances where law enforcement authorities have misused Section 151 CrPC to target marginalized communities or individuals belonging to specific socio-economic or religious groups. This discriminatory practice based on factors such as ethnicity, religion, or caste has led to the unjust arrest and detention of innocent people, exacerbating social tensions and perpetuating injustice.

It is important to note that the misuse of Section 151 CrPC reflects larger systemic issues within law enforcement, including lack of accountability, inadequate training, and impunity for wrongdoing. When preventive arrests are made without proper justification or legal oversight, it can cause physical and psychological harm to individuals, with long-lasting consequences on their well-being and livelihoods.

Furthermore, the misuse of Section 151 CrPC not only violates the fundamental rights of individuals but also undermines the credibility and integrity of the criminal justice system. When law enforcement agencies abuse their authority to suppress dissent or settle personal scores, it erodes public trust in the fairness and impartiality of law enforcement, weakening the rule of law and perpetuating a culture of impunity.

To effectively address the issue of misapplication of Section 151 of the CrPC, a comprehensive revamp is necessary to bolster accountability, transparency, and protection of human rights within law enforcement bodies. Training programs for police personnel must prioritize the upholding of constitutional rights and the prudent exercise of discretion in pre-emptive arrests.

Furthermore, legal safeguards and oversight mechanisms should be strengthened to prevent arbitrary or abusive use of Section 151 CrPC. The intervention of the judiciary in scrutinizing such arrests is crucial to ensure that individuals are only detained when there is credible evidence of a genuine threat to public safety or commission of a cognizable offense.

The crucial role played by civil society organizations, human rights activists, and media outlets in monitoring and exposing instances of misuse of Section 151 CrPC cannot be understated. By demanding accountability and advocating for reforms, they can safeguard the rights of individuals and hold law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions.

There are numerous cases in which officials utilize legislation for minor issues, like holding people in custody for vending low-quality chili powder while disguising it as rowdyism. The vague language used in state laws creates uncertainty about the justification for detention, frequently expanding the scope of the law beyond habitual wrongdoers. Detractors claim that these outdated laws, originating from colonial times, no longer hold relevance in contemporary society and were previously employed against those fighting for independence. Furthermore, they violate fundamental rights, especially Articles 19 and 21, by permitting detention without clear reasoning, thus undermining the rights of individuals.

Court Judgments:

  • While quashing the preventive detention order, Supreme Court Justice Krishna Murari and Justice V. Ramasubramanian noted that such laws in India are a colonial legacy and have great potential for misuse and abuse. The Court emphasized that laws conferring arbitrary powers on the state must be critically scrutinized and used only in rare cases.
  • In Ahmed Noor Mohamad Bhatti v. State of Gujarat, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 151 of the CrPC ruling that misuse of this power by a police officer cannot render the provision arbitrary and unreasonable.
  • The case of Mariappan v. The District Collector and Others states that the purpose of detention and its laws is not to punish anyone but to stop the commission of certain crimes.
  • The case of Medha Patkar v. State of M.P. and Anr. (2007) involved a group of protesters who were demanding rehabilitation measures for a dam project. Despite having no intention of committing any offences, the protesters were arrested by the police under Section 151 of the CrPC and sent to jail. This was deemed to be a violation of Article 21 by the Court, and the protesters were awarded compensation.
  • In the case of Rajender Singh Pathania & Ors. v. State of NCT of Delhi & Ors. (2011), the Supreme Court stated that Section 151 of the CrPC lays out conditions that must be considered by the police before making an arrest. The Court further held that the police can only make an arrest if they have knowledge of a plan to commit cognizable offences. Otherwise, they will be held liable for violating the aforementioned articles.

While Section 151 of the CrPC serves the purpose of preventing crime and maintaining public order, its misuse poses a grave threat to civil liberties, democracy, and the rule of law. Effective measures to address this issue must focus on enhancing accountability, transparency, and protection of human rights within law enforcement agencies, while also promoting greater awareness and vigilance among the public and civil society.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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