Hyderabad police face ire for checking mobiles in crackdown on drugs
The Hyderabad police have come under heavy criticism for checking the mobile phones of people as part of their crackdown on narcotics peddling in the city.
In a video shared on social media on Thursday, policemen were seen stopping vehicles in some parts of the old city in Hyderabad and checking people’s contact information and text messages. “New policing practices alert: stop and search phone chats by the @hydcitypolice. Police are searching phone chats for words like ganja. Wait until they replace words with NRC, Modi or BJP,” tweeted one netizen.
Another person asked: “Is it legal? How can police randomly check the phones without any order from the court? Not sure order from the police department to their team is legal (sic).”
“Under what rules and guidelines? Pls share rules, so that I’ll update myself,” said a person. “Are they allowed to do this without a search warrant?” asked another one.
Speaking to reporters, Hyderabad police commissioner Anjani Kumar said the police had been conducting searches and frisking as part of preventing ganja peddling. “We have every right to check anything, whether it is a mobile phone, iPad, laptop, pen drive or a hard disk when we find suspicious about the movement of people in the area of any crime incident,” he said.
Stating that two persons were arrested during the special drive on ganja peddling in the last month, the police commissioner said it was found that they were doing monetary transactions through Google Pay on their mobiles.
When quizzed about the video circling on social media, Kumar said as per his knowledge, the video was three years old, and the checking of vehicles and mobiles might have been done as part of an investigation related to any crime. Inquiries, however, revealed that the video was the latest one, as it showed the cops wearing masks as part of Covid-19 protocol.
The video showed one of the cops, who took part in the checking of vehicles and mobile phones, saying it had been going on for the last few days and would continue for one more month. “We are checking the mobile phones to get any leads on ganja peddling,” he said, adding that the searches were going on three shifts round the clock.
A senior police official said on condition of anonymity that the checking of vehicles and mobile phones was being conducted as part of preventing ganja and other narcotic substances. “There is no big issue, as the people are cooperating. So far, we could not find any cases of ganja smuggling,” he said.
People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) leader and advocate Jaya Vindhyala said it was illegal on the part of the Hyderabad police to look into the mobile phones in the name of obtaining info on ganja peddling.
“It is against the Right to Privacy, which is also a fundamental right of an individual, but the police would give it a different interpretation. But they should go as per the procedure if they want to check mobile phones. They should first issue notices to them asking them to show their phones. They cannot force the people to part with their mobile phones,” she said.