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India

Inter-State Arrests: The Norm To Silence Critics And Political Opponents

In January 2020, the Delhi High Court had taken a strong view against such inter-state arrests, especially as many went against the regulations. The High Court ordered the implementation of recommendations proposed by a court-constituted committee in cases of inter-state investigation or arrest of persons located in another state or union territory.

Inter-state arrest is the new norm to silence the critics. (File Photo)

GUJARAT MLA, Jignesh Mewani has become the latest inter-state arrest, with the Assam police force travelling all the way to Gujarat to make the arrest late night on Wednesday, April 20. With the arrest of the Dalit rights activist, over his alleged tweet on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, questions are again being raised on how the police is used to arrest those speaking against political opponents or those critical of the government’s policies. The inter-state arrests are also highlighted for allegedly disregarding guidelines.

Mewani, who had last year extended his support to the Congress party was arrested for his alleged mention of PM Modi as someone who “worship and considers ‘Godse’ as God”, according to the FIR, which goes on to allege that he then “appealed that the PM on his visit to Gujarat on April 20 should make an appeal to the public for the peace and harmony in areas such as Himmat Nagar, Khambat and Berawal in Gujarat where communal violence (Komi Hadse) had taken place”.  Godse here is in reference to Nathuram Godse who shot and killed Mahatma Gandhi.

Procedure for inter-state arrest

The arrest which comes ahead of the Gujarat elections scheduled for the end of the year, is another example of a police force travelling inter-state to make an arrest over an FIR in their state. In January 2020, the Delhi High Court had taken a strong view against such arrests, especially as many went against the regulations. The High Court ordered the implementation of recommendations proposed by a court-constituted committee in cases of inter-state investigation or arrest of persons located in another state or union territory.

The committee was put in place to inquire into the conduct of police officials from police stations in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh over the detention of a couple from their home in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Campus, Delhi.

In view of the procedural irregularities from the part of police officials, the Bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh stated, “Such practice is obviously contrary to the police manuals and if such actions go unchecked, it will amount to condoning lawlessness by the police force. In a country governed by the rule of law, this is simply unacceptable.”

The committee comprising retired High Court judge SP Garg and IPS officer Kanwaljeet Deol, who issued a series of guidelines which include: The police officer after assignment of the case to him, must seek prior permission/sanction of the higher/superior officers in writing or on phone (in case of urgency) to go out of state/UT to carry out the investigation. Secondly, in a case when the police officer decides to effect an arrest, he must set out the facts and record reasons in writing disclosing the satisfaction that arrest is necessary for the purpose of investigation.

Third, the officer should move the Jurisdictional Magistrate to seek arrest/search warrants under sections 78 and 79 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) except in emergent cases when the time taken is likely to result in the escape of the accused or disappearance of incriminating evidence or the procurement of arrest/search warrant would defeat the purpose.

The police officer must also record reasons as to what were the compelling reasons to visit other states without getting arrest/search warrants. Importantly, the Police Officers should take their identity cards with them. All police officers in the team should be in uniform; bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. Furthermore, after reaching the destination, he should inform the concerned police station of the purpose of his visit to seek assistance and co-operation. The concerned SHO should provide/render all legal assistance to him. Entry to this effect must be made at the said police station.

All guidelines can be read here.

Arrests of opponents

A few cases of inter-state arrests of those critical of the government, the leaders, or policies:

  1. In August 2020, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested journalist Prashant Kanojia from his Delhi residence, claiming a tweet allegedly posted by him had “disrupted communal harmony”.

    Reports say that the family of Kanojia had said that police had not made it clear to him nor the family over which tweet the complaint against him had been registered. Jagisha Arora, his wife has been quoted by the media as saying that out of the five-six persons who came to arrest Kanojia, only one of them was in uniform. This, goes against the guidelines for arrest.

    The FIR against Kanojia’s case on August 17, was filed by a policeman from Hazratganj police station, Dinesh Kumar Shukla, which says:

    “On 17/08/2020, while on official duty, we found that on Twitter and WhatsApp, a Facebook post taken from Sushil Tiwari of Hindu Army was morphed with the intent to defame Sushil Tiwari. Prashant Kanojia wrote, “It is Tiwari Ji’s direction that entry for SC/ST/OBC be banned in the Ram Mandir and everybody should raise their voice for this.”

    “This was being circulated as a screenshot of Sushil Tiwari’s post. The viral screenshot of his social media message has been attached here. This kind of objectionable post will result in disturbing communal harmony, create tension between different communities and can hurt religious feelings, which can threaten law and order.”

    Kanaujia, earlier the same year, had an FIR against him for allegedly making objectionable remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on social media.

  2. The case of Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate change activist who was arrested from Bengaluru in February 2021. A case was filed against her for allegedly sharing a “toolkit” with Greta Thunberg related to the farmers’ protests which had started in August of 2020 and went on till December the next year. The protest was against three contentious farm laws introduced by the BJP ruled Centre, which were later dropped.

    Delhi police cyber cell – Delhi police which comes under the Centre – first registered an FIR on February 4, to investigate an “international conspiracy” to defame the country. The FIR was registered under sections 124A (Sedition), 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153 A (Promoting enmity between different groups) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy).

    Disha was brought to Delhi where she was formally arrested and produced before a magistrate at the Patiala House Court’s complex.

    Questions were raised over why Ravi did not have a lawyer present during this hearing – a fact which criminal lawyer Rebecca John, described as “a shocking abdication of judicial duties”.

    “If the accused was not being represented by counsel at the time of the hearing, the magistrate should have waited till her counsel arrived or in the alternate, provided her with legal aid,” John wrote.

    The then Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava had dismissed the claims that the police violated procedure while arresting Ravi.  Reports suggest that the police in Bengaluru were completely unaware of the visit of the Delhi Police’s team.

    The Bengaluru police confirmed later to the Quint that details of the arrest was not revealed to them. “A judicial officer was present. That was the extent of our cooperation,” the officer said.

  3. In more recent times, the newly elected Punjab government has seen their police book Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga and Naveen Kumar Jindal. But while they allege that the Police came to arrest them, the purported arrests did not take place.

    In the case of Bagga, an FIR was registered on April 1 for his statements against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and on charges of making provocative statements promoting enmity and criminal intimidation following a complaint by an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader.

    Bagga claimed that a team of Punjab Police had reached his residence in the national Capital to arrest him, but he was not aware of any FIR against him.

    In tweets, Bagga had said that he was in Lucknow. He also claimed that a Punjab police vehicle came to his house to arrest him without informing the local police. “Now they are tracking my friends’ addresses and going to their homes,” he said.

    FIR against Bagga included sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place, etc.), 505 (whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report) and 506 (criminal intimidation).

    The other BJP spokesperson, Jindal also claimed that Punjab police reached to arrest him as well. Punjab Police were at Jindal’s house after a complaint was filed against him for tweeting a fake video of Kejriwal. After Jindal’s tweet, Delhi BJP President Adesh Gupta held a press conference where he asked, “Why are you sending Punjab police to Delhi without informing the Delhi police, the Uttar Pradesh police like dacoits?”

  4. Punjab Police have also registered a case against former AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas and Alka Lamba, who is now a Congress member, for promoting enmity by allegedly making false statements against AAP national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal of having Khalistan links. Although, no arrests have been made.

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