Rights Group unveils SC guidelines in Bihar

By Gladson Dungdung 17 December, 2007

One of the most important Judgments of the Supreme Court on ‘lawful arrest and detention’ was displayed on signboards in Bihar on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day on 10th December 2007 by a Human Rights Group ‘People’s Watch’ under the European Union and FNST supported ‘National Project on Preventing Torture in India”. The judgment widely known as the “D.K. Basu guidelines”, which is a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court on lawful arrest and detention, came into being in 1996, allowed the development of practical mechanisms for preventing torture during arrest and detention and has had a significant impact on the manner in which individuals can be arrested and detained.

According to the provisions, the 11 points guidelines given under the judgment should be posted in a conspicuous place in every police station so that people would know and check it during their arrest and detention. The human rights group has noted down the guidelines in signboards and fixed these in front of the Collectorate, Town Police Station and the Civil Court, Nawada of Bihar. The group has also distributed 10 thousands pamphlets and organized many awareness programmes in the state for creating awareness on D.K. Basu guidelines. The Ex-district Judge A S Prasad says that it was a historic moment for Bihar as the first time; D.K. Basu guidelines were brought into public domain in last 12 years from its inception. He says that the Police department was intentionally hiding it because when people would come to know about it they will start raising the questions against illegal arrest, ill-treatment and unlawful detention.

The SC Judgment clearly says that the police arresting and interrogating suspects should wear “accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags, and details of interrogating police officers should be recorded in a register. A memo of arrest should be made and signed by a witness and countersigned by the arrested person, giving the time and date of arrest. The arrestees should be entitled to inform their friends or relatives of their arrest and place of detention ‘as soon as practicable. If such a friend or relative lives outside the district, the time and place of arrest and place of detention should be notified to them by police through the Legal Aid Organization within 8 to 12 hours. The arrestees should be informed of their right to inform someone of their arrest and detention as soon as they are arrested. The information about the arrest and the details of the person informed of the arrest should be kept in a diary at the place of detention along with names of police officers supervising custody.

Further more the guidelines say that the arrestees should be examined at the time of arrest and ‘inspection memo’ should be signed by the arrested person and the arresting police officer, and a copy given to the arrested person. Arrestees should be medically examined by a doctor in every 48 hours during detention. The copies of all the documents should be sent to the magistrate and detainees should be produced before the Magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. The arrestees should be permitted to meet their lawyers during interrogation. Finally a police control room should be established in all the districts and state headquarters, and the information of arrestees with the place of custody should be displayed on a notice board in the control room soon after the arrest.

Shalin, the IPS officer and Superintendent of Police, Bhagalpur says, “Without the D.K. Basu Judgment, the Police Department would become an illegal organization”. He says that people should not be tortured and their human rights must be protected at any cost as we live in a civilized society where there is no place for heinous crime like torture and ill-treatment. But irony is that such concerns for D.K. Basu Judgment and human rights are not converted into realities in Bihar by the Law Enforcement Agencies.

According to the report given by the Bihar Police headquarter under the RTI petitions; the D.K. Basu guidelines have been displayed merely in 21 police stations of Bhojpur district in Bihar. The report also says that the guidelines are kept in book form in all the police stations of Patna, Nawada and Nalanda districts. The remarkable point is that the Police headquarter has not circulated any letter for posting of the guidelines in police stations so far. The physical verification of the report brings out the hardcore truth about the ground realities. The irony is that the guidelines have been displayed only in 7 police stations of Bhojpur district in A4 size papers in English. Human Rights Activist Jamalludin Ansari says that it’s funny that the guidelines are displayed in the police stations of Bhojpur district in small papers in English that nobody can read. It is obvious that the Police have done such job just to fulfill the quorum because numbers of petitions are being filed under the Right to Information Act and they have no way rather then responding it.

The judgment also has provisions for the departmental action against the police officers that fail to implement it. At the same time non-compliance of the judgment would be the contempt of the court and police officers should be punished accordingly but the Bihar government does not even bother about it; not a single police officer faced any departmental action or punished for their inaction and non-compliance. The judgment also recommended that the requirements be broadcast on radio and television and distributed in pamphlets in local languages “creating awareness, transparency and accountability but unfortunately nothing has been done in Bihar by the government so far.

The people are being tortured because they are unknown about their rights and laws therefore they don’t raise questions against torture, unlawful arrest and illegal detention. The Human Rights Group has shown a noble way of making the Judgments and laws public, which is supposed to be done by the Law Enforcement Agency of Bihar. This may be a milestone, leading towards the prevention of torture in Bihar but it will not serve the purposes till the Law Enforcement Agencies of Bihar become transparent and accountable.

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