When police aligns with government, Jignesh Mevani, Tajinder Bagga episodes become a norm

The inter-State arrest of both the political leaders was illegal, but the question is why the officials are allowing the institution of police to be used as a tool of vendetta politics

The arrests of Bhartiya Janata Party leader Tajinder Bagga by Punjab Police in New Delhi as well as the arrest of MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani by Assam Police in Gujarat were outright illegal. However, the police from both Punjab and Gujarat went on with the arrests without caring about the law governing the inter-State arrests in the country.

Inter-State arrests illegal without involving local police

The simple rule is that a police force has the authority to arrest someone accused within its own jurisdiction, and there is no law allowing interstate arrest.

A police unit from one state cannot arrest or question an accused in another state that is not under its jurisdiction. A police officer might request cooperation and help from the local police of another state to apprehend an accused in that state.

The accused can only be arrested and brought before a magistrate by local police. When a magistrate issues a transit warrant, only then is the accused handed over to police officers from another state.

The case of Tajinder Bagga

On Friday (May 6), Tajinder Bagga, who has been targeting Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal over his comments on ‘The Kashmir Files’ movie, was picked up from his West Delhi residence and later arrested in connection with a case registered on April 1 by the Punjab Police’s Cyber Cell.

The charges against him include making alleged “provocative statements, promoting religious enmity, and criminal intimidation.”

In the case of Bagga, who belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre, the arrest was foiled by the Delhi Police and rightly so. The Delhi Police then took over the custody of the BJP leader and brought him back to the national capital.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday (May 10) stayed the Delhi BJP leader’s arrest till July 5. The development came three days after the court granted him protection from any coercive action till the next date of hearing.

The case of Jignesh Mewani

Jignesh Mevani, a 41-year-old Gujarat MLA and Dalit politician was arrested by the Assam Police on April 20 in Gujarat’s Palanpur. He was airlifted to Guwahati and appeared in a Kokrajhar city court.

Jignesh was arrested after an Assam BJP leader complained about his posts about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which were later removed from Twitter.

Mr Mewani was charged with criminal conspiracy, offence related to the place of worship, outraging religious feelings, and provocation that might lead to a breach of peace.

The arrest of Mewani was also illegal because he wasn’t produced before a local magistrate in Gujarat. However, in his case, the Gujarat Police didn’t show any resistance nor objected to the arrest of Mewani.

Interestingly, a local court in Assam’s Kokrajhar district granted him bail on April 25, but he was quickly re-arrested in another case involving “assault” on a lady officer from Barpeta district while he was in detention in Kokrajhar.

Re-arrest after bail: A method of punishment

The re-arrest of Mr Mewani is not an isolated case to be overlooked. In fact, there are thousands of cases in other regions of the country, especially Jammu and Kashmir, where the same phenomenon has been used for decades to keep the accused in jails and punish them without even proving the charges on which they are actually arrested.

The latest example from the union territory is that of a local journalist Fahad Shah who was granted bail by the Court in three cases filed against him. In three successive cases, Fahad was re-arrested each time the Court granted him bail.

When the police failed to gain his custody in all three cases, he was eventually arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA), an administrative detention law that permits anyone to be held for up to two years without prosecution or trial.

The Public Safety Act authorises people to be arrested and detained without a warrant, on specific charges, and often for an indefinite amount of time.

Institution of police continues to be eroded for vendetta politics

In all the cases discussed above, it needs to be pointed out that if the police would act as per its own manual, there would never arise a situation where the police personnel from two States confront each other nor would the police be used as a tool to punish people on ‘unproved’ charges.

The politics of vendetta is an open secret in both the cases of Tajinder Bagga and Jignesh Mewani because the inter-State arrest would not have been conceivable if the police had followed their manual. The cases, on the other hand, may have been pursued in a legitimate manner by enlisting the help of local cops.

The police officials, by acting as per the will of the government, are allowing the institution of police to be used as a tool of vendetta politics and consequently, turn the country into a police state.

In a police state, the government maintains strict control over its residents’ daily lives. The government potentially uses the law to limit freedom of expression and assembly, as well as to punish individuals who criticise it.

SC has cautioned about police aligning with government

When a political regime changes, police personnel who do the government’s bidding must ‘pay back with interest,’ the Supreme Court said in September last year, as it took a dim view of the increasing trend.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana was unequivocal that such police officials should not expect sympathy from a court of law if they choose to support a particular political party in power.

In India, the abuse of police forces is nothing new. Every government has put pressure on agencies and police to act in their favour, but the current regime has pushed it to a new level.

Opposition states are now repaying them in the same way. And it is leading the country down a perilous path where institutions have been weakened and vengeance politics has become the norm.

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