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To track proclaimed offenders, HC directs Delhi Police to collect social media details during arrest

It has asked the agencies to collect a photograph, mobile and landline number, email IDs, details of all social networking accounts and copies of at least two identity documents such as Aadhar card, passport, PAN card and driving license from the accused at the time of arrest or soon after.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
July 2, 2021 12:11:52 pm
The court also asked the Delhi Police to set up a ‘Digital Surveillance System’ with ‘See Only’ access to view digital data of various government departments, telecom companies and banks.

The Delhi High Court Friday directed the Delhi Police and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to create a Special Cell within four weeks to trace proclaimed offenders. It also asked the Delhi Police to set up a ‘Digital Surveillance System’ with ‘See Only’ access to view digital data of various government departments, telecom companies and banks.

The court, in its order, also asked the Digital Surveillance Team of Delhi Police and CBI to keep an eye out on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter to track those declared proclaimed offenders. It has asked the agencies to collect a photograph, mobile and landline number, email IDs, details of all social networking accounts and copies of at least two identity documents such as Aadhar card, passport, PAN card and driving license from the accused at the time of arrest or soon after.

“Delhi Police as well as CBI shall create a Special Cell for tracing out the Proclaimed Persons/Offenders; for attaching their movable/immovable properties and for their prosecution. Delhi Police as well as CBI are at liberty to have a consolidated Special Cell. This Special Cell be created within a period of four weeks,” Justice JR Midha said in a 185-page judgement.

The court passed the directions while issuing guidelines to be followed in declaring an accused, who is absconding, a Proclaimed Offender. The court said it was necessary to ensure the process under Section 82 and 83 CrPC is not issued in a routine manner and due process of law is followed. “This Court is of the view that declaring a person as a Proclaimed Offender leads to a serious offence under Section 174A IPC which is punishable for a period upto 3 or 7 years”.

The court said the number of proclaimed persons in Delhi has increased from 13,500 in 2010 to more than 28,000 in 2021 due to which there was a need to create a dedicated cell for digital tracking and arrest of the proclaimed persons or offenders. The Delhi Police, in a status report, told the court there were 26,532 proclaimed persons and 2,826 proclaimed offenders as on September 31, 2019.

“This number is increasing day by day as no concrete steps have been taken to trace the Proclaimed Persons/Offenders; and to attach their assets and to prosecute them. There appears to be the tendency of the Court as well as the Police to close the matter after the person is declared as a Proclaimed Person/Offender and the file is consigned to Record Room. This is a serious lapse considering that the criminal law which sets into motion with the filing of an FIR, comes to an abrupt end which is against the most basic tenets of justice and causes an irreparable injury to the entire society including victims,” said the court.

The information, which the Delhi Police may have access to under the digital surveillance system, as per the order, includes data of savings account holders, loan account holders and credit cards holders in nationalized and private banks; PAN card holders; MTNL or private landline and mobile subscribers; passport holders, government and private insurance holders; Aadhaar card holders; voter card holders; driving license and vehicle registration data from the transport data and from registrar of death registration.

“Once given access, there are softwares which can act as web crawlers and search out the Proclaimed Persons/Offenders out of large data bases. The threat perception from these Proclaimed Persons/Offenders roaming around in Delhi fearlessly is immensely grave,” reads the court order.

The court has also constituted a High-Powered Committee to supervise the implementation of the guidelines. While noting that all the guidelines are important and need to be implemented, it has clarified that if all of them cannot be implemented immediately, the same may be implemented in a phased manner under the supervision of the committee.

“The Committee shall convene the first meeting within four weeks and shall, after hearing the Delhi Police and CBI, decide which guidelines can be implemented immediately. The Committee shall thereafter meet at least once a month for implementation of the remaining guidelines in a phased manner. The Committee shall ensure that all the guidelines are implemented in a phased manner within a period of eight months to one year,” reads the order.

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