Police can arrest any person even on suspicion that he or she may create disturbances.

 

New Delhi: A bill that was circulated among the members of the Bihar Assembly on Friday has led to a hue and cry over the draconian power that it gives to law enforcement authorities like allowing the police to arrest any person even on suspicion that he or she may create disturbances. The bill also forfeited authority of the courts to take cognizance of the complaints of the people illegally arrested under this bill.

The proposed Bihar Special Armed Police (BSAP) Bill, 2021, will be taken up in the House for amendments on 23 March. On Friday, the members of the House were provided advance copies, so that they could submit the amendments to the Assembly secretariat for discussion and subsequent passing of the bill on 23 March.

As per the objective and purpose of the legislation, Bihar was surrounded by Nepal and three states having high incidents of Naxal violence and the state needed a compact integrated force to deal with the forces hostile to internal security.

Under this new bill, the government will constitute a new Bihar special armed police whose personnel and officials will be deployed to protect industrial units, important institutions, airport and metro rail on the pattern of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) or other paramilitary forces of the Centre. Under Section 7 of the proposed bill, the newly constituted police force can arrest any person without warrant on mere suspicion of the likely threat to an installation from the person concerned.

So far, the district police was empowered to arrest anyone, but now with the new legislation, the members of the Special Armed Police would get authority to arrest anyone even without warrant or prior information. The Home ministry is headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The new legislation allows the Special armed police to search any premises without a warrant. “Whenever a special armed police officer has to reason to believe that an offence has been committed or is to be committed, he can detain the suspected offender and resort to quick search,” according to the provisions of the Bill.

The Bill, according to Opposition leaders, has also forfeited authority of the courts to take cognizance of the complaints of the people who are going to be arrested by the Armed Police.

Under this new bill, the name of Bihar Military Police (BMP), which has 21 battalions, has been changed to Bihar Special Armed Police. Those trying to provoke people to start revolt against the government or participate in any agitation against the government would be arrested by the Special Armed Police. Even those committing cognizable offence or attempting to commit such an offence would be arrested by the Armed Police.

Those violating the provisions of the legislation would be punished with minimum 7 years imprisonment and can be awarded maximum punishment up to life sentence.

Opposition members led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) tore the copies of the bill alleging that it would turn the state into a police state.

They claimed the provisions of the Bill were draconian and reminded of MISA during emergency when people were jailed without warrants and without trial. It is pertinent to mention that even Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was arrested under the draconian MISA during the emergency on the late 1970s.

Patna-based political observers, while speaking to The Sunday Guardian, said that this new bill was a knee jerk response by the CM to the increasing incidence of crime that was taking place in the state.

“Crimes like snatching, murder on roads, looting of jewellery shops, that indicates a lack of respect and fear of police has been steadily increasing in the state, putting pressure on Nitish Kumar and this new bill is a reaction to these increasing incidents of crime,” a senior Patna-based journalist said.