Starting October 3, The Morung Express is publishing a series, “101 Things You Wanted To Ask About the Police but Were Too Afraid To Ask,*” an easy guidebook published by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on knowing the police better. The questions 88-91 in the series are given below:
If the police arrest me, can they keep me for as long as they like?
Absolutely not. The longest time anyone can be kept in custody in a police station is for 24 hours. That is the maximum. The police must produce anyone in their custody before the magistrate with all the necessary papers that justify the arrest before the 24 hours is up and not later than that.
How then, are people arrested on Friday evening and kept in custody until the following Monday?
The excuse for continuing with this illegal practice is for the police to say that there is no magistrate available over the weekend. But in reality there is always a magistrate on duty who is available every day and at all times. A person in custody whose 24 hour time limit is ending after regular court hours, can always be produced before the magistrate at his home. The magistrate cannot refuse to see the suspect.
How will anyone know where I am?
The law has lots of safeguards against you getting lost in the system. As soon as the police have arrested you they have to do several things. They must prepare what is called a ‘memo of arrest’ and send that to the local magistrate. They must make sure you know you can immediately get a lawyer – your own or from the legal aid system. They must inform a family member or friend of your choosing about where you are. All these things have been fixed by law to reduce the chances of abuse of power by the police. If the police don’t follow these rules they will have to answer to the courts.
Additionally the police also have to display on a notice board outside the district police control room the names and addresses of all arrested persons and the name and designation of the arresting officers. The control room of Police Headquarters in every state have to keep a database of arrested persons and the offences they are charged with, for the general public.
What use is a ‘memo of arrest’ to me?
It is a safeguard against illegal detention. The memo of arrest must have your name, time, date and place of arrest, along with reasons for the arrest and what the suspected offence is. It has to be signed by the police, two witnesses and you in order to ensure that the record gives a truthful account of the facts. It is given to the magistrate and when the magistrate meets you for the first time he will double check if what has been said is correct. The police also have to make up an ‘inspection memo’.
(To be contd…)
Source: *Written by Navaz Kotwal and Maja Daruwal, the contents of the book are reproduced here with permission.
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