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Duties of police on arrest, detention and ways to respect human rights

FILE PHOTO: Kangpokpi police's rally on creating awareness on the ill effects of drugs

Police must be sensitive to the rights of individuals, in particular to the rights of the marginalized sections of the society and treat them with dignity while performing their duties.


By Victor Chongtham

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) considers that policing and human rights issues are very important for the State as well as for the citizens. The role of the policemen in today’s age extends well beyond upholding of the rule of law and prevention and investigation of crime. They not only protect human life and property–a basic human right, but are also expected to implement the significant social legislations which aim at removing discrimination against minorities, poorer sections of society, women, etc. Such a task can be effectively achieved only when the policemen are clear about the specific human rights.

By the very nature of their duties, police personnel have to deal with victims of crime, as well as people who are in conflict with the law. Therefore, police must be sensitive to the rights of individuals, in particular to the rights of the marginalized sections of the society and treat them with dignity while performing their duties. In the larger perspective, respect for human rights is not just an issue of rights, but actually helps the police in effective law enforcement. The present articles is an extract from the guidelines published by the National human rights Commission with an aim to take the role of first defenders of human rights by the police.

This articles aims to help the police personnel perform their tasks effectively.

What is ARREST?

Law empowers the police to arrest people in certain circumstances and to use force for doing so, if it becomes necessary. Studies show that the number of preventive arrests and arrests for petty offences were substantially large, the percentage of under trial prisoners was unusually high and most of them were there because they were not able to post bail or furnish sureties. Arrest and detention does incalculable damage to a person’s reputation and mentally tortured. Our system, unfortunately, has no way of compensating the people who are needlessly arrested. The followings are the guidelines:


  1. Ensure that no person is deprived of his/her right to life or personal liberty, except in accordance with the procedure established by law (Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution).
  2. Ensure that the identity of the police officer effecting arrest is clearly indicated by means of a name plate and rank. (Guidelines on Arrest: DK Basu vs State of West Bengal AIR 1997 SC 610).

iii. Ensure that the arrestee is informed of the full particulars or the grounds of arrest (Art 22 of the Indian Constitution).

  1. Ensure that a relative or a friend of the arrestee is informed about the fact of arrest and the place where he/she is being detained.
  2. Ensure that information regarding the arrest and the person informed about the arrest is recorded in the designated register kept in the police station.
  3. Ensure that if some injuries are found on the body of the arrested person at the time of arrest, the same are specified in the Arrest Memo and the arrested person is medically examined.

vii. Ensure that no woman is arrested after sunset and before sunrise, other than in exceptional circumstances.

viii. Ensure that a woman police officer is associated while effecting arrest of a woman.

  1. Ensure that no force or beating is administered under any circumstances while effecting arrest of a juvenile or a child. Respectable citizens may be associated while arresting juveniles and children.
  2. Protect the human dignity of the person being arrested. Public display or parading of the person arrested should not be permitted.
  3. Conduct search of the arrested person with due respect to his/her human dignity. Avoid unnecessary use of force and respect his/her right to privacy. Searches of women should be conducted only by other women, with strict regard to decency.

xii. In case of a bailable offence, inform the arrested person of his/her entitlement to be released on bail so that (s)he may arrange for sureties.

xiii. Inform the Police Control Room and the District/State Headquarters about the arrest and the place of detention.


  1. Do not arrest a person without warrant, unless there is a reasonable satisfaction, on the basis of investigation done, about the person’s involvement in a cognizable offence and there is a need to affect his/her arrest.
  2. Do not arrest a person unless the commission of an offence cannot otherwise be prevented.

iii. Do not use more force than is  necessary to restrain an arrested person (Section 49 Cr.PC and Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution).

  1. Do not summon to police station, a woman or any male person, below 15 years of age associated with a case. The questioning of any such person may be done by the police officer only at the place of residence of such woman/minor. (Section 160 (1) Cr.PC).
  2. Do not detain any arrested person beyond 24 hours without the express order of a Magistrate (Section 57 Cr.PC).
  3. Do not use handcuffs or fetters on arrested person unless you have recorded reasons and obtained orders of the Court for such use.


A person detained by the police, whether for questioning, for the purpose of verification of identity, to test alcohol level, etc. comes under the custody of police and is, therefore, under the care of the State. It is the responsibility of the State to ensure protection of the human rights of all persons in its custody.


  1. Ensure that a written order is sent to any person who may be required to come to the police station for the purpose of questioning.
  2. Ensure that family members or friends of any person detained by the police are aware of his whereabouts.

iii. Ensure that whenever any person is detained in the police station, proper entry is made in the General Diary.

  1. Ensure prompt medical attention for anyone detained by the police, in case the need so arises.
  2. Treat all detainees with the dignity due to any human being.


  1. Do not subject any person in detention to torture, or to any cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  2. Do not compel a person in detention to confess, to otherwise incriminate him/herself or to testify against any other person.

iii. Do not detain anyone for a prolonged period in the name of interrogation as this may amount to harassment and wrongful confinement

(Victor Chongtham is a lawyer based in Imphal)



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