Police are one of the most significant organizations of the Indian social structure. In an hour of need, a policeman happens to be the most appropriate person to approach. Police rules clearly state a police station to be a dynamic organization where anyone can approach without any hesitation. The rule also imposes an important job on police which is to maintenance of law and order. All these powers vested into the police authority sometimes leads to the misuse of such powers which in turn leads to violation of basic Human Rights. In this article, we will deal with the principles of police interrogation and how it sometimes violates basic human rights, but before dwelling into any other thing let us first look into what Police means.
Definition of Police
In India, no statute defines the term police. Neither the Criminal Procedure Code nor the Police Act 1881 or any other statute of state mentions a definition for this term. The Police Act, in general, only discusses the structure and organization of the police force in a particular state.
As per the Black’s law dictionary, “police” means a governmental department which is charged with the preservation of public order, public safety and detection and control of crimes.[i] To simply put, any individual or group of individuals who receive the authority of the state, to maintain law and order thereby investigate and prevent crime could be termed as police.
The concept of Police as an organized body was developed in England in the 1800s with the establishment of London’s first Municipal Force under the control of Sir Robert Peel. Before this Police was a voluntary job where individuals voluntarily used to patrol the streets on a weekly basis.
Principles on Police Interrogation
There are no concretized principles on Police Interrogation but based upon various International Convention there are some inherent principles which the Police has to follow while administering Interrogation. The notion behind it is that even if Police is doing an authorized state action, it should in no way be violative of the basic human and fundamental rights of the person concerned. These principles are made to promote human rights and fundamental freedom which can never be absolved not even under the garb of state action. Some of the principles are as follows:
- The person subjected to interrogation has his/her basic right to life, liberty and security. Police authorities in no way can take away these basic rights from the concerned principles. Derived from Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is also preserved in various Constitutional provisions like under Article 20, Article 21 and the like.
- A person subjected to interrogation cannot be arbitrarily deprived of his/her life. The authority should have a subjective satisfaction to move further with such interrogations. Taken from Article 6(1) of the ICCPR it is specifically dealt under Article 20 of the Constitution of India.
- A person subjected to interrogation shall not be subjected to torture or any other inhumane punishment which would rob him/her of his/her basic fundamental rights
- Every person would have the fundamental right of equality before the law and equal protection of the law and no authority can take it away from a person subjected to interrogation. This is also dealt under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
- There are also standard rules for the treatment of a person subjected to interrogation in police custody which includes not tosubject him/her to torture and a due process established by law to be followed at every stage.
Rights against Police Interrogations
There are certain rights that a person possesses when subjected to Police Interrogation in police custody. Some of which are as follows,
1. In India, an accused person is innocent until the guilt is proved before the court beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden to prove the guilt is on the prosecution side which makes it the responsibility of the police to remove the shadow of doubt and prove the guilt. The police here have no right to inflict illicit torture on the subject and therefore the accused has a right to remain silent for which he cannot be forced to act otherwise. Article 20 (3) protects persons from self-incrimination which is similar to that of Right to remain silent.
In M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra[ii], the Apex court held that a person, whose name is mentioned in the FIR and an investigation was conducted against the charges has the right to remain silent, similar to what is given against self-incrimination under Article 20(3).
2. Right to a fair investigation is a basic human right available to every person by virtue of being an India Citizen. This right extends to individuals subjected to interrogation not only in Police Custody but also in Jail
In Babubhai v. State of Gujarat[iii], the Apex Court held that fair investigation is a part of constitutional rights guaranteed under article 20 and 21. It was also held that Speedy investigation is an integral part of speedy trial, and hence delaying investigation process by the police is against the constitutional right of the accused.
3. A person subjected to interrogation need not compulsorily be taken in police custody. A normal questioning, if possible, could also be made. Interrogation in custody is only when the authority has a subjective satisfaction with relation to the commission of the offence by the concerned person. The contrary would defeat the individual’s basic right to life.
4. Under no circumstance can a person be subjected to inhumane punishments or torture during the interrogation. Indian Parliament has since long been debating to abolish the treatment of 3rd Degree torture, but nothing substantial has been made till date. Our Constitutional rights and the basic human rights simply denounce torture during interrogation because it robs away a person’s right of humanness.
5. Our Constitution under Article 20 mentions the provisions for rights of a person during and after his/her arrest. These rights come into force once the person is taken into police custody and the same provisions also apply in cases of interrogation during arrests. An arrested person can seek to know the grounds of his arrest so that he can make a representation against the same. Under Article 22 the arresting authority is obliged to submit the person a copy of the grounds of arrest and give him consult a lawyer and make representation in accordance with the procedure established by law.
The main purpose of the Police Authority is to provide security to ordinary citizens and considering their job it requires great efficiency, honesty and professionalism. Considering the present scenario, it cannot be denied that our police forces at several instances have failed to stand on the aforementioned attributes. Corruption has maligned the mentality of the majority of police officials and considering many instances from the past, their job has lost its essence which it should have. Police are arbitrarily using its power which simply defeats basic human rights and even undermines the Constitutional values of our nation. The need for police reform is urgent and must be pursued as soon as it may be.
Some changes that could be made in contemporary machinery could start with the establishment of statutory institutions to ensure that the police are working strictly in accordance with the law. Accountability must be strengthened and improved and this could be done only at the very initial stage of training. New mechanisms, like that of Ombudsman, should be established to monitor the operations of the police and in deviance take actions against the same. Most importantly performance the Police Authority with individual behaviour should constantly be monitored. It is through these ways a change could be brought and it is only then the Police Interrogation techniques could go hand in hand with constitutional and basic human rights.
“The views of the authors are personal“
[i]The Black’sLaw Dictionary, (8thEd. 1999).
[ii]M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, 1954 S.C.R. 1077.
[iii]Babubhai v. State of Gujarat, Supreme Court, Judgement Delivered on 26, August, 2010.