Video Input: J Surya Reddy
Video Producer: Naman Shah
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
Amid an ongoing drive to eliminate 'ganja menace' in the city, visuals indicate that the Hyderabad Police, in a joint operation with the Excise Department, is conducting randomised searches and raids to identify individuals peddling or consuming marijuana.
Meanwhile, stating that the police can frisk a person if there is suspicious activity in the middle of the night, Anjani Kumar, Commissioner of Police Hyderabad, said that the police has not verified the video clips of random phone searches.
On Thursday, a video clip, circulated on social media, showed what appeared to be the city police asking youth for their phones, without warrant or cause, and searching keywords like 'ganja' to look for any related private chats.
The visual also shows raids at a local kirana store, and thorough search of the contents of several items on display.
As per a report by The News Minute, in the last few days, every police station in the city has been undertaking raids and searches for marijuana on the instructions of the Commissioner of Police.
Meanwhile, Telangana Today has reported that the police has registered seven cases, and arrested 10 alleged drugs peddlers in the last two days.
What Has the Police Said?
Speaking to The News Minute, Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Zone, Gajarao Bhupal claimed that the authorities are "not forcing anybody" to hand in their phones for checking.
"People are cooperating and no one is complaining, so I don’t think there is anything illegal," Bhupal added, The News Minute quoted.
However, upon being asked if the people have the agency to deny handing in their devices, the DCP stated, "The public can deny giving their phone. However, we will then have to see what legal provisions apply... There are no specific instructions as there has not been any issue so far."
However, Commissioner of Police Hyderabad, Anjani Kumar, said that though privacy of common law-abiding citizens is "most important and sacred", but as far as "rowdies, criminals are concerned, if we find anything in their possession, we have to check what is that and it is our prime responsibility."
He explained, "in few cases of grave and sensational crime, when the accused is likely to run away, police checks all the items found at the scene of the crime or available with the offenders caught. At that time, we do not know who are the gang members and who are accomplishers. That is why, whatever is found at the scene of evidence is examined immediately."
He added that the items can include anything ranging from laptops, hard disks, pen drives etc.
Further explaining that sometimes partners of "sensational criminals", such as "ex-convicts, narco dealers, gang members, drug offenders, murder accused", are not arrested, Kumar added, "in order to reach to those absconding criminals, police has to examine whatever is found from the possession of these criminals."
Moreover, he said, if the police finds a suspicious person "lurking at night", the police has the right to check their ID and if found suspicious, the police can frisk the person.
'Unconstitutional, Infringes on Right to Privacy'
Censuring the move as 'unlawful' and an 'infringement on the right to privacy', a Telangana High Court advocate Karam Komireddy stated, "Right to privacy is part of the constitutional framework and the Supreme Court has held that right to privacy is a fundamental right and is part of Article 21 that deals with right to life and liberty. The cops have no right to randomly check phones of people," The News Minute reported.
The Supreme Court had included the right to privacy in the list of fundamental rights inscribed in the Constitution of India in 2017. A nine-judge bench of the top court had delivered a unanimous verdict on the issue.