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Widespread criticism over ‘search and arrest without warrant’ clause in new legislation

Lucknow: Following widespread criticism over the “search and arrest without warrant” clause in the new legislation – the UP Special Security Force Act, 2020 – the UP government clarified on Tuesday that no new provision has been added in the law that has created the Uttar Pradesh Special Security Force (UPSSF) and only those powers which are already granted to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have been given to the force.

Issuing a clarification, UP’s additional chief secretary (home), Awanish Awasthi, said under Section 10 of the Act, the force can search any person without a warrant who (Section 8) is found obstructing the force’s duties or indulging or threatening to indulge in any kind of attack or displaying criminally aggressive behaviour, without giving him an opportunity to slip away or hide his offence. If the search validates the offence, an arrest can be made without the magistrate’s permission.

Under the Act, the force will be required to hand over the arrested offender to the police and in the absence of a police officer, prepare a report describing the conditions leading to the arrest and will take the arrested to the nearest police station. The government had on Sunday announced that the newly-constituted force being created at an expenditure of close to Rs 1,750 crore will have a strength of 9,919 and will guard courts, administrative offices and tourist sites, metro stations, airports, important industrial establishments and vital installations. A key event that had led to the formation of the law was a courtroom shootout in Bijnor last year where a man shot dead a person accused of his father’s murder.

Though similar forces existing in Maharashtra and Odisha also enjoy the power to search and arrest without warrant, critics feel that such a clause will give unhindered power to the force in a state whose police often face flak for laxity, collusion with criminals and corruption. Opposition Samajwadi Party had dubbed it a “black law” which was aimed at crushing the constitutional rights of the people at the behest of the ruling government.

Recently, the police chief of Mahoba district, Mani Lal Patidar, was suspended for demanding bribe from a businessman before the latter died of bullet injuries after being shot by men allegedly belonging to the family of Patidar’s men. In a video released by the businessman earlier, he had warned that if he were to die, Patidar should be held responsible. Charges of murder and conspiracy have been added against the SP but no arrest has been made yet.

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