From Sidhu Moose Wala Shooter to Mevani & Bagga, How are Pan-India Arrests Made?

The Pune rural police recently arrested Santosh Jadhav, a suspect in the murder of Sidhu Moose Wala.

3 min read
Hindi Female

The Pune rural police recently arrested Santosh Jadhav, who has been named as a suspect in the murder of Punjabi singer and politician Sidhu Moose Wala. Jadhav was detained from the Kutch district of Gujarat on Sunday. Jadhav's aide Nagnath Suryavanshi has also been nabbed. “We are coordinating with the Delhi and Punjab police and are exchanging information,” said Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) Kulwant Kumar Sarangal.

On Sunday, Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil had said that police teams from four-five states were working together on the Sidhu Moose Wala murder case. "The Maharashtra ATS [Anti-Terrorism Squad] is also keeping an eye on it," Patil added.


What Does the Law Say About Pan-India Arrests?

In another case recently, three police forces – Punjab, Haryana and Delhi – locked horns. The procedural law enables Indian police officers to pursue and arrest criminals anywhere within Indian territory with or without non-bailable warrants of arrest. Shorn of details, procedurally, the police are supposed to inform the local police and the concerned ‘ilaqa’ magistrate about either effecting the arrest or the intention to arrest. However, if the police team feels that delays may result in the person absconding or the destruction of evidence, the arrests can be made straight away and local police informed subsequently. In fact, in most cases, this is how things work.

In the past, most crimes used to be localised in terms of their commission and impact. Few criminals would abscond to outside jurisdictions or territories. This is what the laws catered to – police pursuit was limited and worked well.

However, newer problems have emerged today. Acts taking place in one geographic area may be normal there but may be construed as abnormal or criminal elsewhere. This is especially true of acts and posts on social media whose spread can cause ‘hurt’ in unintended places and to unintended people. The slew of recent cases, from the arrest of Jignesh Mevani to Tajinder Bagga, and now Jadhav, are mere symptoms. Then, there are crimes of passion, organised crimes and economic offences where multiple jurisdictions and agencies could have a stake.

Amid such confusion, the test surely has to be whether the well-being of society as a whole is endangered or hurt, rather than of individuals. Individual hurt can take the ‘civil wrong’ or ‘tort’ route.


What Happens When Multiple Jurisdictions are Involved?

India’s federalism and democratic ethos may also complicate things. The tolerance for such deviant acts and behaviours varies across regions, and often, the police are caught in the cross-hairs.

The police’s actions are often driven by political pressure, and thus, ideally, a criminal analogy should’ve been necessary. But with our numerous laws, that is not unattainable. Thus, police actions are, inevitably, legally justifiable.

The problem is when multiple ideologies and jurisdictions are involved. It is here that police professionalism and cooperation are tested.

The existing procedures can be strengthened by mandating reporting to the police of the relevant jurisdictions and seeking their assistance. Similarly, mandatory endorsements of arrest warrants by concerned magistrates can make things more transparent. Post-search and post-arrest intimations are desirable, too. However, in some sensitive cases, the ‘pursuing agency’ may not want to risk its information or operation.

Thus, every exigency cannot be resolved by laws or procedures. But two broad suggestions can perhaps be worth a try:

  • a consolidated data bank at the national level of wanted persons, and

  • inter-state extradition


Learning From the Supreme Court's 'FASTER'

With the police force being more connected than ever today, police agencies can perhaps draw a leaf out of the book of the Supreme Court, which recently devised ‘FASTER’ (Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records) for the quick dissemination and implementation of court orders. The police and the judicial magistrate system, too, can perhaps design a similar system, in which the summons, warrants, etc, issued by one magistrate are available in other jurisdictions almost on a real-time basis. This would perhaps take away the ambiguity and smoothen things out, bringing different courts and police/law enforcement agencies on the same page.

Besides this, I have also suggested in the past a centralised system on the lines of the Interpol Red Corner Notices.

Some federal countries have a system of inter-state extradition of criminals domestically. India still doesn’t have such a provision, and even our international interface and experience on this count is not encouraging. However, being a federal, democratic country, it may be worthwhile looking at inter-state extradition as a fruitful concept. Sure, it may be different from how we have been working traditionally so far, but faster means of transport and communication have much to offer. Systems need to evolve continuously and fresh ideas are critical to remaining relevant.

(The author is an IPS Officer currently posted as DG Prisons, Homeguards and Civil Defence in Nagaland. He tweets @rupin1992. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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