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Rohit Ranjan: What Happens When Police From Different States Want Same Person?

In Rohit Ranjan’s case, the Raipur police never got around to arresting him at all.

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Law
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Even though interstate arrests in India are not quite rare, not everyday does the Uttar Pradesh police tussle with another state's police force over dibs on arrest.

But on Tuesday, 5 July, when Chhattisgarh Police showed up at TV news anchor Rohit Ranjan's Indirapuram home with an arrest warrant reportedly in hand, the Ghaziabad and Noida Police were having none of it.

An hour after the Chhattisgarh police arrived at his doorstep (5:30 am, as per PTI), and Ranjan tagged Uttar Pradesh Police and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister in a tweet questioning the legality of the arrest, the local Ghaziabad police showed up.

A couple of hours later (8 am), the Noida police came, and seemingly after some argument between the police teams, Rohit Ranjan was whisked away.

Over 12 hours later, the Noida Police announced that they had arrested Ranjan. But also later that night he was released on bail.
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But What Had Happened?

An FIR under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 467 (forgery), 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 504 (intentional insult) of the Indian Penal Code was filed in Raipur against Ranjan, in connection with allegedly misleading clips about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

An unnamed official was quoted by PTI as saying:

"We have registered a criminal case against Rohit Ranjan at Civil Lines police station in Raipur. We had the arrest warrant and the court order. We came here regarding that in the morning but even after 12 hours the police here (Ghaziabad and Noida) are not informing us about Rohit Ranjan's whereabouts.”

Meanwhile, however, Ranjan tagged the CM and the UP Police: tweeted in Hindi: "Chhattisgarh Police is standing outside my house to arrest me without informing the local police. Is it legal?"

In Rohit Ranjan’s case, the Raipur police never got around to arresting him at all.



Responding to Ranjan’s tweet, the Raipur police handle said:

“"There is no such rule to inform. Still, now they are informed. The police team has shown you the court's warrant of arrest. You should in fact cooperate, join in the investigation and put your defence in court.”
In Rohit Ranjan’s case, the Raipur police never got around to arresting him at all.

A Noida police officer, on his part, told PTI:

"Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan was picked up from his home for questioning on Tuesday morning by a team from Noida Sector-20 police station in connection with an FIR lodged under IPC 505 (public mischief) on a complaint by his own channel over a doctored video played during his show on 1 July.” (emphasis added)

Further, PTI also cited Noida Police as saying in a statement that Ranjan was arrested by them from his Ghaziabad home as part of an investigation in a case lodged under IPC 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill will between classes).
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A Raipur police officer, however, told PTI that the sections they have booked Ranjan under are more serious than those cited by Noida police. They went on to allege that Ghaziabad police had intervened in the legal procedure by taking Ranjan away with them from his home and then saying that he had been detained by the Noida police.

A Case of Peculiarities

If the fact that his own channel (as admitted by Noida police) filed a complaint against Ranjan on a show that they themselves had aired does not seem peculiar enough, a gleaming red flag would be the fact that the Raipur police were stopped from carrying out their arrest, just so that the Noida police could take custody of Ranjan in connection with a milder charge.

Legally speaking, if the arrest is happening in pursuance of a warrant, but in a different jurisdiction from where the warrant was issued, Section 79 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provides the procedure to be followed.

This procedure would apply to interstate arrests as well, and involves getting an endorsement from the executive magistrate or police officer in charge of the police station in whose jurisdiction the arrest is made.

However, Section 79 (3) also says "whenever there is reason to believe that the delay occasioned by obtaining the endorsement of the Magistrate or police officer within whose local jurisdiction the warrant is to be executed will prevent such execution, the police officer to whom it is directed may execute the same without such endorsement in any place beyond the local jurisdiction of the Court which issued it."

This means that if the police officer executing the arrest warrant does not have the time to go and seek endorsement of Magistrate or police officer of local jurisdiction, they can skip that stage.

They should, however, produce the arrested person before a magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest.

In Ranjan’s case, however, the Raipur police never got around to arresting him at all. They were seemingly stalled by the Ghaziabad police, while the Noida police rattled in and took him away.

This is also a problem, because even though the CrPC doesn’t expressly state this, the general expectation from the state police forces is that they will support and assist each other. In fact Section 79 (2) talks about endorsement by magistrate or police officer of that jurisdiction, but also states that “the local police shall, if so required, assist (in the execution of the arrest warrant.)”
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Even a two-member committee appointed by the Delhi High Court to look into interstate arrest procedures, had suggested, among other things, that the visiting officer should inform the concerned police station of the purpose of his visit, and the concerned SHO should provide legal assistance to him.

Given that the Raipur police has claimed that the UP police were informed of the arrest, it remains unclear why the UP police thought it wiser to show up a short while later and arrest Ranjan under a milder, bailable section.

Owing to the rare and unique nature of such an instance, the only option that the Raipur police seems to have been left with (for the execution of their warrant) was to wait for Ranjan’s release on bail. This is because a warrant remains in force until it is executed or cancelled by the court which issued it. But that option was never exercised by Raipur police either.

But Are Interstate Arrests Welcome?

It is also essential to, however, point out that even though the CrPC and other circumstances somehow pave way for interstate arrests, they are generally not preferred in law.

This is because such arrests can be easily misused by the different political parties in power in different states for political ends. Thus it makes sense to limit the power of the the police to the state in which it belongs, unless of course one is dealing with a case where the accused has crossed state lines to commit an offence.

In Rhea Chakraborty vs State of Bihar the Supreme Court had pointed towards this political precarity of police probes and ruled in favour of a CBI investigation, “not controlled by either of the two-state governments.”

In doing so the court had also noted that owing to the fact that Maharashtra and Bihar Governments were making “acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud.”

In yet another incident of a similar nature, the (former) Congress government in Punjab was often accused by the BJP of protecting gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari by keeping him in Punjab's Ropar Jail for over two years in connection with an extortion case.

The UP police had long sought custody of Ansari, as several of the cases against him were lodged in UP police stations. The then Punjab government was also accused by the BJP of providing purported "VIP treatment" to Ansari.

The Supreme Court had ultimately in March 2021 directed handing over of Ansari to the custody of Uttar Pradesh police, even as Ansari reportedly claimed that there was threat to his life in UP.

Meanwhile, Rohit Ranjan has moved the Supreme Court against the multiple FIRs registered against him.

As per a Raipur police tweet, they visited his house again on Wednesday morning, only to find it locked and deserted.

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