Journalist Stripped at MP Police Station: Is It Legal? Experts Weigh In

Days after the incident, the police station in-charge and a sub-inspector have been suspended.

3 min read
Hindi Female

A photo of a group of men stripped down to their undergarments has gone viral from the Kotwali police station in Sidhi district, Madhya Pradesh, raising serious questions on police proceedings.

Even as the photo drew harsh criticism from all corners, Mukesh Kumar Shrivastava, Superintendent of Police, Sidhi district, said the eight men who were arrested were "kept without clothes to prevent them from committing suicides."

The question is – is it standard practice? The short answer is no.

Talking to The Quint, senior advocate Gopal Swarup Chaturvedi explained that stripping the men at the PS is "beyond the law". Days after the incident, the police station in-charge of the Kotwali police station and a sub-inspector have been suspended.

"Police can't just strip people and keep them in the lock-up. This is totally outside the law. There is no such power vested in the police where they can do such a thing. This is outright humiliation of those people. There were journalists and theatre artists, and other people who were booked. They were stripped, and then the photo wetnt viral... this is lawlessness."
Gopal Swarup Chaturvedi

The incident took place on 2 April when local journalist Kanishk Tiwari, among others, had gone to the Kotwali police station to challenge the arrest of theatre artist Neeraj Kunder. The men were kept in preventive detention, and later arrested. They were then released on bail on 3 April.


What Does the Law Say?

The apex court of India has time and again emphasised that every 'prisoner, inmate or detainee retains their fundamental rights even after their arrest.' These rights are inclusive of their 'right to privacy and dignity.'

"In 1995, the Supreme Court of India held that minimal freedom of movement cannot be cut down using handcuffs and had termed handcuffing of prisoners without judicial consent 'illegal'. When the top court is saying that even handcuffing is illegal unless the judiciary approves, how can this blatant disregard to the fundamental dignity of people arrested and stripped in the lock-up in Sidhi be accepted within the purview of law?"
Gopal Swarup Chaturvedi

Advocate Tanveer Ahmed said that India is a democratic state, and the police cannot do as they please.

"The handcuff judgment has restricted even the use of handcuffs for prisoners, so an event like this is totally rubbish. The police should be asked which procedure, which judgment, which provision of the law allows them, empowers them to strip journalists, artists or even an ordinary citizen."
Tanveer Ahmed

"They can only arrest them, keep them in lock-up until they are presented in front of a judge and nowhere among these steps the police can humiliate or try to take away the dignity of those arrested," he added.

'There Are Other Means To Prevent Suicide'

Speaking on the conditions of protecting detainees or arrested people from inflicting self-injury, advocate Chaturvedi said that there are other means to avoid any untoward incident.

As the incident had come to light, Kotwali police station in-charge Manoj Soni had said, "They were not nude. They were kept in underwears to avoid any untoward incident like suicides as it has happened many times in the past."

"See, if the police feel that the people they have arrested could harm themselves, there are other means like strict searching, ensuring that they do not have anything on them which could be used to do self-harm, keeping the holding cell uncontaminated, keeping a watch on them at all time, but you can't just strip people and keep them in lock-ups."
Gopal Swarup Chaturvedi

"Imagine if someone is arrested in the month of December in a state like Himachal Pradesh, would the police keep them without clothes in the chilly weather fearing that they might use their own clothes to kill themselves? This is an absurd reason that they are giving and if the law takes its course and finds them guilty, they could even lose their jobs," added Chaturvedi.

Chhattisgarh's retired DGP RK Vij described the incident as a 'mass harassment'. He further alleged police violating the code of conduct of police department.

"This is a clear violation of code of conduct and legal provisions. A person can be searched but that cannot be turned into a harassment. People in the police department can't go running around like they have no boundaries or rules to follow. We are the enforcers of law and therefore we must all be in check and not commit to situations like this where fundamental rights are being violated."
RK Vij

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