BQLearning: Cops At Your Door. Should You Let Them In?
BQLearning is a special show that seeks to demystify financial markets, economic theories, legal processes and political structures.
In this series, we discuss citizens’ rights when interacting with the police in various circumstances — from reporting a crime to being investigated.
The relationship between the police and people should be “friendly”, according to Sudhakar Suradkar, a former Indian Police Service officer. The police cannot function effectively without citizens’ cooperation to ensure law and order.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while interacting with cops:
Identifying A Cop
There are frequent reports of individuals impersonating as police officers and duping citizens. Suradkar says if an individual is stopped on the road by someone claiming to be a cop, check the identity card and name plate on the uniform. They can also ask such a person to accompany them to a police station to confirm identity, he says.
Advocate Siddhartha Shah advises dialling 100 to be sure of the identity of the cop.
Can Cops Search Your Home?
The police must have a search warrant to enter a citizen’s home. A search warrant is issued by a magistrate, a judge or court authorising police officers to search someone’s home, premises or vehicle to investigate a possible criminal activity. Such a warrant specifies the place, date and time for a search by enforcement agencies.
The law, however, allows the police to conduct a search without a warrant in limited circumstances. For instance, when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a place needs to be searched without undue delay as something necessary can be found there as part of an investigation.
Suradkar says that a citizen can first search cops to ensure they don’t plant any evidence. Citizens also have the right to call two or more witnesses from the neighbourhood while the search is on.
After the search, the cops prepare a ‘panchanama’ detailing the exercise. Suradkar advises to pay very close attention to this document before signing it.
The ABCs Of An FIR
A first information report is the first step to report a crime. It need not be filed by the victim. Anyone can set the law in motion. The nature of the crime, events that took place, time, place and the name of the victim are some of the details to be provided in an FIR.
A FIR must be ideally lodged in a police station in the same locality or jurisdiction where the crime occurred. However, if a citizen is unsure which police station has jurisdiction, she can file a ‘Zero FIR’— a document that can be registered by any police station for a cognizable offence. This is eventually forwarded to the police station concerned, Shah says.
Obligation Of An Informant
As an informant of a crime, a citizen can choose to remain anonymous and even dissociate herself from the case after bringing it to the notice of the enforcement agency. But it’s also the duty of citizens to assist the police for successful closure of an alleged criminal matter. When a citizen witnesses a criminal activity and informing the police immediately isn’t feasible, she can exercise the ‘right to private defence’, Suradkar points out.
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