new Punjab Police Bill to expand police authority

February 14, 2005 | Comments Off on new Punjab Police Bill to expand police authority

The draconian measures of the new Punjab Police Bill are stirring controversy and criticism from its opponents. Although the Punjab government claims that the bill is a progressive attempt to replace the “retrograde” 1861 Act, critics say that it shifts too many powers to the police.

The new police bill erases the distinction between cognizable and non-cognizable offences, making any minor offence subject to police control.

The distinction between cognizable and non-cognizable offence is sought to be obliterated. Section 41 of the draft Bill empowers the police to arrest any person contravening any provision, and Section 98 provides that notwithstanding anything in the CrPC, all offences are cognizable.

So, you can be arrested without warrants for failing to drive on the left side of the road, using a mobile phone while driving, leaving a package in the street, for screaming/shouting in a public place or for lighting a bonfire in front of your house.

The draft Bill says that citizens in a disturbed area will be billed for security, even if they ordinarily do not reside there but have property (Section 24.3).

Civil servants are also saying that the new police bill attempts to shift some of their day-to-day functions to the police. The Punjab Civil Service (Executive) Officers’ Association has demanded that the government rewrite the bill to govern the police and not citizens.

The Punjab Civil Service (Executive) Officers’ Association has written that:

The proposed legislation increases scope for harassment of citizens… does not envisage need for any magistracy, drastically weakens civilian authority (and has) draconian legal provisions (and) should be scrapped.

The bill will transfer most magistrates’ power to the police, as well as the powers of the municipal and district authorities. This will enable the police to make regulations.

According to it, all powers of executive magistrate and district magistrate under CrPC to be given to police officers (Section 73) and “the provisions of this section shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the CrPC” (Section 73.4).

Police, a law-enforcing agency, has also sought to give itself, under Chapter 7, powers to make regulations on a large number of matters. “Most of these fall under the domain of civil authorities like municipal bodies and deputy commissioners. The draft Bill takes away this role of the deputy commissioner,” the association said.


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