Authority of Police Officers on Citizens During Lockdown

Indian citizens have been placed in a lockdown to be prevented from the spread of COVID-19 and must stay at home except to buy basic items like groceries, medicines etc. The lockdown excludes essential services workers.

Despite these special allowances, videos and photos have emerged from across the country where the Indian police are seen assaulting people and punishing out of limits to the people venturing out to buy essential goods or working in essential services such as medicine.

There have been several reports of the police officials where the officers are punishing and applying atrocities on the common citizens.  The laws are breached, and guidelines given by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the current situation of the lockdown are also not followed. The police are unable to apply the guidelines as they are giving the same punishment to the citizens In India and this trend can be seen globally also.

Prohibitory law allows police to arrest, but not use force

Section 144 of IPC breached

India has invoked Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which prohibits the assembly of four or more people, to ensure that people don’t come out during the lockdown and to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Indians violating section 144 can be arrested and detained by the police. However, the government hasn’t authorized the police to use force to impose the lockdown. [1]

Guideline 15 of Ministry of Home Affairs

Numerous reports have emerged of police targeting people venturing out to buy essential goods or working in essential services such as medicine. Officers have reportedly beaten people with sticks and in certain instances, forced them to crawl or do push-ups. Police are making people perform such acts which are the casual human dignity, even against the fundamental rights of citizens and guidelines issued by the ministry of home affairs.

The people going to buy essential items are also lathi-charged. There is an ambiguity even in the guideline number 15 of MoHA on the measures to be taken by the authorities—a classic example of hurried, poor drafting of even such momentous orders. It reads, “All enforcing authorities to note that these strict restrictions fundamentally relate to the movement of people, but not to that of essential goods.” This is clearly self-contradictory, and the police have not been explained there roles clearly.

Illegal Killing

Ignorance of the law is so rampant that, Telangana chief minister, K. C. Rao threatened people with shoot-at-sight orders. He is not aware of the law that this is illegal, as in the judgment in the case of Jayantilal Mohanlal Patel v. Eric Renison And Anr.[2], it has been held that police have no authority to shoot at anyone for a mere breach of the curfew order.

Guideline 4 of Ministry of Home Affairs

The confusion in MoHA guidelines as one government authority talks about the Laxman Rekha and atrocity by the police and in the guideline number 4 tells people that grocery shops, etc. would remain open, and that media personnel and bank workers have also been exempted.

CrPC Section 129 and 132 Not Followed

Chapter X of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) deals with ‘Maintenance of Public Order and Tranquillity’. Though section 129 authorises the officials to maintain peace and order and remove any unlawful assembly disturbing the peace, as per Section 132 of the CrPC, the prosecution of a police officer for an act committed while dispersing crowds can only be initiated with the sanction of the state government. The question to be raised is that the spontaneous punishment against human dignity is with state authorization, for example, the Indian police case of making few foreigners write sorry 500 times for breaking the lockdown,[3] Even the police is making people crawl in form of punishment, beating the persons recklessly, Ruining the grocery shops to make people stay inside but this can be included in the misuse of the powers and authority given to officials.

Force applied on the migrant workers relentlessly

The lockdown forces the migrant labourers to travel back to their homes as they are losing urban area jobs. The Mumbai panic at Bandra station was also by the workers only. Though the gathering of people was a threat posed to the city, that happened because of fake news in which police emptied the place using lathi charge and batons. The people faced the force of the authorities.

Global scenario of Reckless use of powers by the authority

We have examples of a few counties facing the high atrocities of the authorities.

In Kenya, officers are under investigation in multiple cases, including the death of a teenager shot while standing on a balcony during a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The police also used tear gas and batons on passengers at a ferry terminal and are being investigated in at least two other deaths, leading President Uhuru Kenyatta to say he regretted the violence. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered the police and the military to shoot anyone who “causes commotion,” after 20 protesters were arrested as they demanded food during the country’s lockdown. In Gorakhpur, India people who had gone to the vegetable market, were lathi-charged. The police circle officer said that only wholesale shops could be opened. The cops, of course, were intellectually incapable of understanding the rules and guidelines given by MoHA.

Hence, there is a dire need to control the epidemic in the country to bring a stable position, but the authority must check on there using the powers on citizens.

[1] Deutsche (www.dw.com), India: Police under fire for using violence to enforce coronavirus lockdown | DW | 28.03.2020 DW.COM (2020), https://www.dw.com/en/india-police-under-fire-for-using-violence-to-enforce-coronavirus-lockdown/a-52946717 (last visited Apr 15, 2020).

[2] 1975 CriLJ 661

[3] Tourists forced to write ‘sorry’ 500 times over India lockdown breach – France 24, France 24 (2020), https://www.france24.com/en/20200412-tourists-forced-to-write-sorry-500-times-over-india-lockdown-breach (last visited Apr 15, 2020).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Drishti Gupta

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Drishti Gupta is a first-year Law student at HNLU Raipur.

One thought on “Authority of Police Officers on Citizens During Lockdown

  1. Can you check if it is section 144 of IPC or CrPC, because 4 or more people are not allowed to gather under section 144 of CrPC.

    Like

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