The Indian police play a significant part in the criminal justice system. The primary goals of the police are to assist the victim immediately, take preventative measures, apprehend the accused, fairly investigate the crime, and enforce and preserve law and order conditions.
In this post, you will learn about the role of the Indian police in the administration of criminal justice. It will provide information and insights into the specific responsibilities and functions performed by the Indian police in the context of the criminal justice system.
Powers of Police Officers
The Criminal Procedure Code does not mention anything about the constitution of the police. It assumes the existence of the police and devolves various powers and responsibilities onto it. More expansive powers have been given to police officers in charge of a police station.
History of Police Administration in India
The first British leader to attempt to reform the police system was Lord Cornwallis. In 1791, he appointed a Superintendent of Police for Calcutta, and from that point on, he focused on the Mofussil.
Note: The term “Mofussil” refers to the rural or provincial areas of a country that are located outside of major cities or urban centres. The term is derived from the Hindi word “Mufassil,” which means “outskirts” or “peripheral.” In a broader sense, “Mofussil” is associated with areas that are less developed or less urbanized compared to metropolitan or urban regions.
In 1793, Cornwallis ordered the District Judge to open a police station every 400 square miles, staff it with a regular police station officer, and remove police authority from the Zamindars of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. The Daroga was his nickname. However, Kotwal remained in charge of the local police force.
Between 1801 and 1860, the country’s police system underwent a series of botched attempts to be organised. First, it was attempted to be organised in various ways by each province. A similar effort was made in 1816 by Sir Thomas Munro, who transferred the Madras Superintendent of Police from the Judge to the roving Collector, who was in charge of the local village police. Other provinces soon followed this.
Note: The phrase “from the Judge to the roving Collector” refers to a change in the administrative hierarchy of the police system. In the context provided, it means that the responsibility of overseeing the Madras Superintendent of Police was transferred from the Judge to the Collector. The term “Judge” likely refers to a judicial official who previously had some level of authority over the police. On the other hand, the “roving Collector” refers to an administrative official who had the task of overseeing various local matters, including the village police. This shift in responsibility was an attempt to reorganize and restructure the police system during that period. [Between 1801 and 1860, there were multiple unsuccessful endeavours to establish an organized police system in the country. Initially, each province attempted to organize it in different ways. In 1816, Sir Thomas Munro made a similar attempt by transferring the Madras Superintendent of Police from the Judge to the roving Collector, who was responsible for the local village police. This approach was subsequently adopted by other provinces.]
In the recently captured region of Sind, presently in Pakistan, Sir Charles Napier set out in 1843 to establish a police agency modelled after the Royal Irish Constabulary. According to his concept, the police force would still report to the Collector while being overseen by a district-level official whose sole responsibility was supervising and directing them. Napier established a distinct police force with its officers in charge. The Inspector General of Police and the Superintendent of Police provided leadership throughout Sind, respectively. The latter was answerable to the District Collector and the Inspector General of Police.
The Governor of Bombay, Sir George Clarke, appointed full-time European Superintendents of Police in numerous areas in 1848. The police in Bombay were reorganised in 1853 along Napier’s standards.
The 1857 uprising made the Indian government aware of the need for immediate police reorganisation. As a result, a commission was established in 1860 to investigate the government’s requirement for police thoroughly. The Indian Police Act of 1861 included its primary suggestions. The Act’s objectives were to reorganise the police and make them a more effective tool for investigating and preventing crime. Without any significant modifications, this Act is still in effect in India.
Meaning of Police
According to the Indian Police Act of 1861, police means all persons who shall be enrolled under the Act.
Meaning of Police Station
A police station is a physical facility or building operated by a law enforcement agency, typically at a local level, where police officers carry out various administrative and operational functions related to maintaining public order, enforcing laws, preventing and investigating crimes, and providing assistance and services to the community. It serves as a base of operations for police officers assigned to a particular geographic area or jurisdiction.
Police stations often serve as a hub for receiving and responding to emergency calls, conducting patrols, filing reports, processing arrests, conducting interviews and interrogations, gathering evidence, and other activities related to law enforcement. They may have holding cells or temporary detention facilities for the short-term custody of suspects or individuals awaiting further legal processing.
Further, a beat house, unless declared generally or mainly by the state government to be a police station, is not a police station. Whether the boundary between two police station areas is declared or specified by the government as the midstream of a river and that river changes its course, such change will automatically determine, increase or decrease the territorial jurisdiction under the police stations.
Role of Police in the Administration of Criminal Justice
The police force is an instrument for the prevention and detection of crime and is established and enrolled by every state government under the Police Act of 1861.
The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946, which established the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has played a crucial role in recent police operations. The CBI is known for its perceived impartiality and independence, which has often led the public to demand investigations by the CBI instead of relying on state police investigations. In certain cases, the judiciary has bypassed the inherent restrictions outlined in sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Act and ordered investigations to be conducted by the CBI. This demonstrates the judiciary’s confidence in the CBI’s ability to conduct fair and unbiased investigations.
The overall administration of the police in the entire state is vested in the Director-General of the Police. However, the administration of police in every district vests in the District Superintendent of Police under the general control and direction of the District Magistrate, who is usually the Collector of the District.
Every police officer appointed to the police force other than the Inspector-General of Police and the District Superintendent of Police receives a certificate in the prescribed form by virtue of which he is vested with the powers, functions, and privileges of a police officer which shall cease to be effective and shall be returned immediately when the police officer ceases to be a police officer.
In Prakash Singh vs UOI, (2006) 3 S.C.C. (Cri) 417, the Supreme Court issued some guidelines for the police set-up and directed the states and the centre to reorganise their police set-up as envisaged in its judgment.
The Code of Criminal Procedure confers specific powers on the members of the police force who are enrolled as police officers:
- Power to make an arrest (section 41 of CrPC)
- The procedure of arrest and duties of the officer making an arrest (section 41B of CrPC)
- Arrest how made (section 46 of CrPC)
- Power to seize offensive weapons (section 52 of CrPC)
- Power of police officer to take certain property (section 102 of CrPC)
- Police to prevent cognisable offences (section 149 of CrPC)
- Information in cognisable cases (section 154 of CrPC)
- Power to investigate non-cognisable cases (section 155 of CrPC)
- Power to investigate cognisable cases (section 156 of CrPC)
- Procedure for investigation (section 157 of CrPC)
- Power to hold investigation (section 159 of CrPC)
- Power to require the attendance of witnesses (section 160 of CrPC)
- Examination of witnesses by police (section 161 of CrPC)
- Recording of confessions and statements (section 164 of CrPC)
- Medical examination of the victim of rape (section 164A of CrPC)
- Search by a police officer (section 165 of CrPC)
- Procedure when investigation can’t be completed in 24 hours (section 167 of CrPC)
- Report of the police officer on completion of the investigation (section 173 of CrPC)
- Police to enquire and report on suicide, etc. (section 174 of CrPC)
- Power to summon persons (section 175 of CrPC)
The police officers in charge of police stations have been given broader powers as the Code of Criminal Procedure requires them to play a pivotal role in investigating and preventing crime. But they do not have powers to look into complaints that do not contain allegations of commission of cognisable offences. Under sections 177 and 178 of the CrPC, the police have broad jurisdiction enabling them to inquire into a complaint already filed in another jurisdiction.
Section 36 of CrPC: Powers of Superior Officers of Police
Police officers in higher ranks than the officer in charge of a police station may use the same authority in the locality to which they are appointed as the officer in charge of the station.
In the case of RP Kapur vs Sardar Partap Singh (1961), the Supreme Court made a significant ruling. The court held that if the Additional Inspector-General of Police, who holds a higher rank than the officer-in-charge of a police station, receives a complaint from the Chief Minister of the state, and considering the accused’s status, forwards it to the Deputy Superintendent of Police, CID, who has jurisdiction over the entire state for investigation, it cannot be regarded as an adoption of an unlawful procedure. The court emphasized that the provisions of this section did not restrict such a course of action.
In State of Bihar vs JAC Soldhana (1980), the Supreme Court held that the Inspector General of Police would have jurisdiction extending over the whole state.
Power of State Police Chief
In the case of State of Kerala vs PB Sourabhan, 2916 Cr.L.J. 1833 (1835) (S.C.), the Supreme Court directed that the state Police Chief/Director General of Police is empowered to appoint a superior police officer to investigate a crime case registered outside the territorial jurisdiction of such officer. Section 36 of CrPC does not, in any way, debar the exercise of powers by the state Police Chief to appoint any superior officer who, in his opinion, would be competent and fit to investigate a particular case keeping in view the circumstances thereof.
Section 36 of the Criminal Procedure Code does not restrict the authority of the state Police Chief to issue orders based on their satisfaction. The decisive factor in making an appointment is the satisfaction of the state Police Chief, considering the facts of a particular case. In such situations, the jurisdictional limits prescribed by section 36 will not impede or hinder the exercise of jurisdiction by the appointed superior officer. The appointment will not be constrained by the limitations imposed by section 36 of the CrPC.
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