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Thursday, November 26, 2020

A step towards human dignity: Punjab Police says will no more parade accused before media

Various states have already made a very clear policy on this issue and have issued relevant orders to the respective state police force that no accused shall be paraded before the media.

Written by Jagpreet Singh Sandhu | Chandigarh | Updated: November 17, 2020 9:49:00 am
Punjab Police (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)

Punjab Police will no more parade the arrested accused before the media, the chiefs of police in the districts and the commissionerates in state have informed Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Human Rights.

The senior superintendents of police and commissioners of police, in an official communique, have informed the ADG that they will be adopting the directions issued by the Punjab Human Rights Commission (PHRC) on July 6, 2020. The PHRC had issued the directions on a petition by Advocate Nikhil Saraf of Mohali.

Saraf, in his petition before the PHRC, had sought directions to all the police officials in Punjab that no accused should be paraded before media, as this practice is contrary to the directions passed by the Supreme Court, amounts to gross violation of fundamental rights of the citizens, and is against all tenets of human rights.

The petitioner stated in the complaint that state police was indulging in unconstitutional acts by parading accused before the media, “amounting to blatant transgression into the domain of judiciary, wherein the Punjab Police has given itself the right to adjudicate the crime and declare anyone a criminal” without following due process of law.

“Our Constitution guarantees that an accused is innocent till proven guilty by the courts after following due process of law,” he contended.

Saraf further submitted that in various judgments, the Supreme Court has stated clearly and emphatically that parading of accused before media is grossly violative of Article 21 of the Constitution which ensures right to life and liberty including fair trial. Meanwhile, various states have already made a very clear policy on this issue and have issued relevant orders to the respective state police force that no accused shall be paraded before the media.

“The colonial practice to parade accused before media (newspapers and television) as some hunted animal trophy is worst form of abuse of human rights of an individual. The British adopted this practice to ensure that the masses remain fearful and subservient to handful of rulers, and they were very successful in doing so, but this sort of abuse cannot be allowed to carry on in a free India that has placed fundamental rights of its citizens as non negotiable,” argued the petitioner.

The PHRC bench of Justice Iqbal Ahmed Ansari (Chairperson) taking cognizance of the matter called for a report from the Punjab through the Director General of Police. A a copy of the complaint was ordered to be sent each to the Punjab DGP and the DGP, Human Rights for compliance.

The DGP Human Rights had sent an official communique to the SSPs and CPs to comply with the directions of the PHRC. In response, the 27 top police officials, including SSPs and CPs, sent a communique informing the DGP Human Rights that necessary instructions have been issued to all station house officers and in-charges of police posts for necessary action. The reports received from the SSPs and CPs have been submitted before the PHRC. The matter is now scheduled at PHRC for March 22, 2021.

Hearing a petition filed by NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by then Chief Justice of India RM Lodha in 2014 had asked security agencies to stop parading accused before the media. “Media briefings by investigating officer during ongoing investigations should not happen. It is a very serious matter. This issue touches upon Article 21,” the then Chief Justice had said, adding whatever is said by investigating officers during such media briefings “prejudices the person even before he is charged of the crime”.

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