An Obligation to Protect, Not Harm: Powers Enjoyed And Misused By the Police During Lockdown

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If you want to know about how the police are punishing people, and whether these actions are legal and fair or not? Then this article will help you clarify the lawfulness of the police actions. In this article, we will talk about police powers during the lockdown and how they are further misused. Further, it will also deal with the legality of the same by citing a few cases. 

The Police and the Lockdown Period

Citizens are not permitted to move freely in the locality during the lockdown time. Therefore, it is the police’s responsibility to ensure that people stay inside their homes.If we take the lockdown in the “COVID-19” then the police were advised to provide reliable service. This Ought fo happen keeping in  mind the people, that is, whenever they needed support while conducting a sovereign role.

Police maintain an intrigued and interrogating mind during the performance of the sovereign duty. Police may prevent any person from venturing out during lockdown time. And may also use force on people and beat people who venture out in lockdown without proper cause. Beating people in such circumstances is permissible only in certain circumstances. When it goes beyond this limit of using force, then they show the abuse of governmental power.

The Code of Criminal Procedure frequently addresses the powers of police. And this can be further seen during a shutdown because of this coronavirus. Police may book any person found to be violating and misusing the law applicable. There are many cases in India where people were further denied access without a proper cause. Due to this people suffer in their day-to-day lives.

Before citing cases, the question arises- whether the police action is within the legal framework? Or we could say whether the police action is legal. Police action is lawful if they do use force but in a way that does not exceed the law like the police did in Kolkata. The sovereign function is lawful and reasonable, except to a certain degree. And when that degree is then exceeded in sovereign function, the act is further deemed to be unconstitutional.

Landmark Cases where access was further denied

In India v. Pakistan (Kulbhusan Jadhav),  India demanded consular access, however, the Pakistani military court declined to grant consular access. This was done without providing any enough reasons for consular access refusals. This instance shows the denial of access without giving any legit reason. 

Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India, is a landmark case. In this case, a four-year law student lodged a plea in the SC to make the court proceedings live. This was further done in the public interest. So that students of law and lawyers could enjoy live telecasting. The SC held that the ability to watch live broadcast flowed from the constitutional right of access to justice. However, they said that certain guidelines should not be further provided for this right, and that it is at the court’s discretion when the live broadcast of the proceedings will be done.

Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka is a famous case of 1989. It occurred when the Karnataka government issued a notification allowing extra tuition fees to be further charged. This was only for students who came through the ‘Government Seat Quota.’ This decision was then challenged by Mohini Jain, who was a medical student. The SC raised a question “whether, under the Indian Constitution, the right to education is guaranteed to the Indian citizen.” For this, the Supreme Court held that the right to education should be further read as an integral part of the right to life which is guaranteed.

The Police abusing its Power

The issue of legality emerges whether the police action falls within the regulatory framework or not? The Government does not exceed or execute any action. Especially the one that exceeds the authority with which it was then provided.

There are some provisions, charges and punishments specified for stepping out during lockdown. The police exercise their power only by the provisions mentioned below. They act under the order of the legislative and judicial body. But some policemen are on the other side of the coin. They are exercise extra power under the name of sovereign function.

Police were further given power not to intimidate citizens in this quarantine. This was to provide the citizens with aid and utmost support, so that they can spend the duration of lockdown without having any problem. An incident happened in Kolkata where Policeman had misused his power. A person was going to buy milk. But the police beat him so much that he died. This incident is so shameful and horrific.

Some of the important provisions 

  • Section 188 IPC– Breach of any regulation issued by the government. This regulation is in the interest of the general public.
  • Section 269 IPC– Performing any act to spread the disease within the community.
  • Section 270 IPC– Doing activities that may lead to transmitting. Or say activities in which contamination from disease is more likely to occur.
  • Section 271 IPC– Knowingly disobeying the rules of the quarantine period.

As far as the complete description is needed, a Zomato delivery boy was beaten with cruelty. He was delivering the order in quarantine. The brutality is a clear misuse of their sovereign power. And their act is contradictory to the sovereign role.

The obligation to protect people, not misuse their powers

Police and police functions are a sovereign function, and any act carried out under sovereign function will not be then labelled as incorrect. The policeman would not be accountable but the action must be rational. These actions must also be within the limits specified for the discharge of sovereign function.

Police is a part of the society, and they have an obligation and commitment towards the commoners. They have a responsibility to protect the public and to serve the nation. They should not intimidate the commoners, and abuse their position and oppress others.

Under no circumstances, the police should be bias towards any specific individual. Important provisions, such as Article 14 (Right to Equality), says that every individual should be further treated equally regardless of gender, caste, colour, race, status, etc.

Conclusion

Is it lawful for the cops to beat those individuals who step out during a lockdown with or without any justification? This topic shows both aspects in itself i.e. Moral and juridical. From the very beginning, the Police System is the most significant component of the society. It helps to control and secure every entity in society.

According to my opinion, police power in the locality or society should be exercised but with greater control over the exercise of their sovereign power and the discharge of sovereign function. Like everything that have two sides, the police also have two facets. One that helps individuals by fulfilling their duty in people’s interests and the other that misuses their power to suppress the common people. It is important that the police be liable for their improper acts.


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