New Delhi: Police forces from two states — Congress-led Chhattisgarh, and BJP-led Uttar Pradesh — faced off Tuesday over the arrest of Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan from his Ghaziabad home.
The Chhattisgarh Police reached Ranjan’s house early morning, with an arrest warrant issued by a Raipur court with regard to a misleading video of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on the channel. Meanwhile, Ghaziabad Police reached the spot following a tweet sent out by Ranjan, which tagged the local authorities and questioned the Chhattisgarh Police action.
“Chhattisgarh Police is standing outside my house to arrest me without informing the local police, is it legal?” he wrote.
Eventually, the Noida Police stepped in and took the anchor away, citing another FIR filed with them over the same video.
The Superintendent of Police, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, told ThePrint that the UP Police interfered with legal action by taking Ranjan with them. The Raipur Police had responded to Ranjan’s tweet, saying there was no rule about informing local police in cases of interstate arrests.
There is no such rule to inform. Still, now they are informed. Police team has shown you court’s warrant of arrest. You should in fact cooperate, join in investigation and put your defence in court.
— Raipur Police (@RaipurPoliceCG) July 5, 2022
Speaking to ThePrint, sources in Ghaziabad Police said the Chhattisgarh Police informed them of the arrest after reaching the anchor’s house.
The debate around rules for interstate arrests and police jurisdiction has been in the news for the past couple of months — since Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Bagga’s arrest in May, which turned into a quarrel involving the Punjab, Haryana and Delhi Police forces.
Speaking to ThePrint about rules on interstate arrests, a senior Mumbai Police officer said, “Usually, police officers inform the local police about their operations unless they feel that it might hinder their probe or legal action. Issues generally arise in political cases or those that are deemed controversial.”
According to a senior UP police officer, informing local police is not necessary, “unless a transit remand is required”.
“They usually go to the local police for assistance to go to court since you have to present the accused in court within 24 hours. This [help is sought] because the police from the other state usually don’t know which court’s jurisdiction it will fall in,” the officer said.
Article 22(2) of the Constitution mandates that every person arrested or detained needs to be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours, and Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) warrants that he/she be produced without unnecessary delay.
According to Mumbai-based criminal lawyer Aditya Mithe, it is not mandatory to take permission from the local police but it is mandatory to inform them.
“Ideally, they have to inform them before the arrest, but I have seen a few cases where they have informed afterwards too. A letter has to be submitted to the local police to inform them of the arrest. Moreover, transit remand is also not compulsorily followed,” said Mithe to ThePrint.
“It can be said that the arrest procedure had irregularities but the arrest itself can’t be deemed illegal on this ground alone,” he added. “An arrest is only illegal if the arrestee is kept in custody without appearance before a court within 24 hours. In most cases in India, it is not that big a deal to reach the jurisdictional magistrate after making the arrest within 24 hours, unless it is in some remote area.”
Supreme Court advocate Shilpi Jain said that informing the local police is not mandatory when an arrest has been made on the basis of an FIR alleging a cognisable offence. “The police can always say that informing local authorities could delay the process,” she said.
“If the journey is less than 24 hours, then it is not a prerequisite, because the moment they reach their home state, they can produce the suspect in front of the magistrate of the local court,” Jain said. “If the accused is already in custody of police of another state, and the accused’s home state police have also lodged an FIR and want custody, they will have to go to court for remand.”
What the law says
While sections 41 to 60 of the CrPC give the police power to make arrests, sections 78 to 81 lay down procedures for the arrests made outside one’s jurisdiction.
Provisions for arrest without a warrant aren’t explicitly laid down under the CrPC.
Section 48 lays down the powers of the police but doesn’t define the procedure. It merely says — “A police officer may, for the purpose of arresting without warrant any person whom he is authorised to arrest, pursue such person into any place in India.”
Section 79 of the CrPC deals with interstate arrests done in pursuance of a court warrant and lays down the procedures of these arrests, wherein the police officer in pursuance of a warrant that needs to be executed beyond the jurisdiction of the local court shall ordinarily take it for endorsement in front of an executive magistrate or a police officer, in limits of the jurisdiction where the warrant has to be executed.
It further states that the local police shall assist the officer if required.
According to subsection 3 of 79, though, if there is reason to believe that there might be delay in obtaining the endorsement of the magistrate or police officer, which may prevent the warrant’s execution, it may be done without any further endorsement.
Precedent for cooperation
The Delhi High Court in a 2019 case — ‘Sandeep Kumar vs The State (Govt NCT Of Delhi)’ — issued guidelines to police officers to inform the police station concerned about the purpose of their visit, to seek assistance and cooperation, and said that the SHO in question must provide the required assistance.
The guidelines added that, while returning, the officer must also visit the local police station and “cause an entry made in the Daily Diary specifying the name and address of the person(s) being taken out of the state”.
The Delhi HC also stated that “endeavour should be made to obtain transit remand after producing the arrestee before the nearest magistrate unless exigencies of the situation warrant otherwise and the person can be produced before the magistrate having jurisdiction of the case… within 24 hours”.
Delhi-based lawyer Gyanant Singh pointed out that the “extensive guidelines” in the Sandeep Kumar judgment were “aimed at protecting the rights of the citizens as well as states, with law and order and police being state subjects”.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)