New Delhi, Oct. 16: The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman accused can be arrested without a woman constable present, but only in certain circumstances.
A division bench of Justices . Santosh Hegde and B.P. Singh yesterday said this was a “slight” modification from the earlier position of law that a woman constable must be present while arresting a woman accused.
The court emphasised that “all efforts should be made to keep a lady constable present”.
“But in circumstances where the arresting officer is reasonably satisfied that such presence of a lady constable is not available or possible, and the delay in arresting would impede the course of investigation,” a woman accused could be arrested “without the presence of a lady constable”, the bench said.
The arresting officer, however, would have to “record the reasons” before or immediately after such an arrest, the court clarified. The judgment also modified another position of law that “no female person shall be detained or arrested after sunset and before sunrise”.
The court said a woman accused could be arrested “any time of the day or night” without a woman constable present “for lawful reasons, depending on the circumstances of the case”.
The judgment was passed in the case of alleged custody death of Junious Adam Illamatti in Maharashtra. His wife, Jarina Adam, was said to be illegally locked up when she went to the police station to enquire about the custody of her husband.
The Maharashtra government appealed to the apex court against a Bombay High Court decision that strictly directed a woman could not be arrested without a woman constable present and in “no case (should be) arrested or detained after sunset and before sunrise”.
The apex court agreed with the objective of the high court direction, but added “we think a strict compliance of the said direction, in a given circumstance, would cause practical difficulties to the investigating agency and might even give room for evading the process of law by unscrupulous accused”. The bench, however, took serious note of policemen’s misbehaviour with Jarina. It ordered that the compensation of Rs 150,000 awarded to the woman be recovered from the errant officials.
“While it is necessary to protect the female sought to be arrested by the police from police misdeeds, it may not be always possible and practical to have the presence of a lady constable when the necessity for such arrest arises. Therefore, we think this direction issued requires some modification without disturbing the object behind the same,” the bench said.