New Delhi, May 8: Police have had the right to use force on suspects resisting arrest but not kill them. Last week, Rajya Sabha approved a bill that lifts this restriction if the suspect is a proclaimed offender.
Till now, the code of criminal procedure (CrPC) made an exception only for people wanted for crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment. On Thursday, when Rajya Sabha passed the bill to free women from the risk of policemen knocking at their doors after sunset ' with or without arrest warrants ' it also widened the powers of the force to kill.
An accused becomes a proclaimed offender only if a court notifies him as such. The court may do this on a request from the police if the suspect has been evading arrest for a long time.
Existing provisions in the CrPC allow police to 'use all means necessary to effect the arrest' if the suspect forcefully resists or attempts to evade arrest. But it is made clear that this does not give them a right to cause the death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or a life term.
Thursday’s Rajya Sabha nod to the bill, which otherwise seeks to make procedures in Indian criminal jurisprudence humane and plug some of the loopholes that allow culprits to go scot-free, implies that killing proclaimed offenders may not be considered a serious deviation.
The police officer will only have to prove to an inquiry that the proclaimed offender was trying to resist or evade arrest.
Lawyers and human rights activists have been seeking modification in the powers of the police to make arrests by force. Government officials and the police have, by and large, resisted any dilution in the powers of the police to make arrests.
A 1999 study undertaken by the Law Commission and the National Human Rights Commission suggested that a sizeable proportion of arrests were preventive, and thus discretionary, in nature. The implication, a police officer said, was that in most cases there was no need for the police to make the arrest in the first place.