Rani worked as a cashier in a departmental store. At around 8:00 pm one evening some policemen came knocking at her PG room, demanding that she come to the police station with them to answer some questions relating to a complaint by some customers. Despite her pleas, they forced her into a vehicle and took her to the station. There, she found a few of her co-employees being questioned. Apparently, customers had complained that the store had misused credit card information. After some questioning, Rani was asked to sign a few forms and was roughly pushed into the lock-up. She was not allowed to contact family or friends. The next evening she was produced before a magistrate and put in prison. Rani was clueless, unaware of what to do next. Thankfully, the very next day the Legal Aid Advocate visited the prison, informed her family, and moved for bail.
This is a nightmare that can happen to any woman. Here’s what you should know about proper police procedure.
Normally, women cannot be arrested or taken to a police station after 6:00 pm or before 6:00 am, unless the circumstances are extraordinary. Women witnesses and children under 15 cannot be summoned to the police station; they must be questioned at home.
Only female officials can search a woman, and it must be done with due respect for decency and privacy, and they must be kept in a separate women’s lock-up.
Normally, an accused, male or female, need not be handcuffed. Every person must be told the grounds for the arrest at the time. A non-bailable offence is one where bail can be granted only by the court; it does not mean as popularly misunderstood that no bail is possible. Cases where bail can be given in the police station itself are called bailable offences. The police must inform the accused about the right to be released on bail.
The police must inform and allow the accused to immediately inform family or friends about the arrest and the place of detention. And allow the accused to consult a lawyer immediately.
The police must prepare a memo of arrest that indicates the date and time of arrest. This has to be signed by a witness and the accused. The accused must be produced before the local magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. Only with the magistrate’s sanction can the accused be remanded to custody.
The accused has the right to be medically examined by a government doctor within 48 hours of arrest.
Details of every arrest and the corresponding place of detention must be given to the state and district control rooms within 12 hours of the arrest.
In case there is violation of any of these guidelines, it can be reported to the Human Rights Commission or a complaint lodged with senior police officers.
(The writer is a practising advocate in Chennai with keen interest in legal literacy and in making the law less intimidating to the common man. And woman. This column is legal information, not advice. Please consult a lawyer for specific cases.She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. )