The government will soon bring an ordinance to tweak India’s arrest laws to ensure police officers do not arbitrarily throw people in jail and let hardened criminals go scot-free.
The ordinance to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) will make it mandatory for police officers to record reasons on file every time they decide to arrest, or not arrest, suspects in crimes that would be punishable with seven years’ imprisonment or less.
“We have sent a proposal for a cabinet decision. We want to make some changes to the CrPC on the recommendations of the law commission,” a senior official at the home ministry told HT.
The cabinet is expected to take up the proposal in a week or two.
The provision making it mandatory for the police to record reasons would ensure that a police officer is not able to abuse discretion and make his reasoning justiciable.
Home minister P. Chidambaram had asked the law commission to sit with lawyers including the Bar Council of India and government officials to put CrPC reforms back on track.
The third report of the National Police Commission suggested that nearly 60 per cent of arrests were unnecessary and unjustified.
It estimated that the abuse of the arrest law accounted for over 43 per cent of expenditure on jails. The third report of the National Police Commission termed every second arrest made by the police unnecessary and unjustified.
Nearly 67 lakh people were arrested in 2007 for violating the Indian Penal Code as well as state and special laws. Sixty-five per cent of 3.2 lakh prisoners in India’s jails are undertrials.
Parliament amended the criminal code last year to curtail powers of the police to arrest suspects in crimes such as theft, molestation and causing hurt.
But the government was forced to put its implementation on hold after lawyers went on strike in January this year, arguing that the cure could be worse than the disease.
In its new form, the lawyers and chief ministers of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu said, the law gave too much discretion to the police officer and enabled the police to abuse their power to not arrest suspect.
“This concern is not totally unjustified,” law commission chairman Justice A.R. Lakshmanan noted in his report to the home ministry in August.