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 42-48 in the series are given below:
Do I have to go with a police officer if s/he asks me to come with her/him somewhere?
No. However, if the police officer is asking you to come along to be a witness to something he is doing as part of his duty i.e. arresting a person, seizing property, or examining a crime scene, then you must go along and help.
Traditionally, that is called being a pancha- a person who can tell the court independently what he saw at that moment.
Suppose a police officer asks me to come to the police station, do I have to go?
No. It is good to cooperate with the police but it is not necessary to go to the station unless the police officer is formally arresting you. Otherwise if he just wants to question you or is making inquiries about a crime he has to summon you in writing. Until that is done you cannot be forced to go to the station. Where any woman is concerned, or a child below 15 is involved, the police can question them only in their homes.
Do I have to answer all the questions the police officer asks?
Yes. It is always better to answer questions honestly in a straightforward manner and inform the police of any facts you may know. If you do not know something then he cannot force you to make any statement, or put words in your mouth. It is always better to make sure that someone else is there with you when you are being questioned.
Does the police officer have a duty to help me when I am in distress?
Yes. In 1985, guidelines for the code of conduct for the police were issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and communicated to all chief secretaries of all states/ union territories and heads of central police organisations. This requires the police to give any assistance to all without regard to wealth and social standing.
According to the code their general duty to provide security to all without fear or favour includes keeping the welfare of people in mind, being sympathetic and considerate toward them, and being ready to offer individual service and friendship.
Can I ask the police to help me out with family problems?
It depends on the problem. If what is happening is a crime, like violence in the family, badly beating a woman or child abuse, incest, or trespass, of course the police must help you and cannot turn you away and say it is a private affair. But if adult children are disobedient, say they run away to get married, then it is no business of the police to chase after them or force them to return. That is purely a family matter.
If a police officer will not help, or there is no police officer around, can the public catch a thief or wrongdoer and punish him there and then?
Yes and no. You can make what is called a “citizen’s arrest” and catch the wrongdoer and take him to the nearest police station. That is all. But you cannot beat up the wrongdoer or join a crowd that is doing that. Members of the public only have a right to protect themselves, which is called the right to private defence or self defence. But that too has to be reasonably used and cannot turn into a one sided beating or horrible humiliation. A police officer who allows such abuse, or joins in such an assault, is likely to face disciplinary or criminal charges.
What can I do if the police officer does not help me?
Wilful breach or neglect of duty by a police officer is punishable with imprisonment. If the police officer is not helpful, and you have been harmed, then you can complain about it to his senior. In such a case he may be found guilty for dereliction of duty.
(To be contd…)
Source: *Written by Navaz Kotwal and Maja Daruwal, the contents of the book are reproduced here with permission.
To know more about CHRI visit: http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org
Check Last Week Questions here: