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Police Can't Carry Out Intrusive Surveillance: Opening Rowdy Sheets, Collecting Photos, Home Visits As Per Standing Orders Violate Privacy : AP High Court

Anila Sabu ,
  18 July 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
Andhra Pradesh High Court
Brief :

Citation :
Writ Petition Nos.21247, 26239, 31949, 32683 & 40632 of 2016, 11468, 31311 of 2017, 3721, 8473 of 2019, 6144, 19071, 23238, 23246, 23665 of 2020, 3919, 4212, 7309, 17453, 20139, 20220, 25363, 25448, 25451, 30789, 31142, 31212, 31405 of 2021, 1802, 2007, 2634, 3568, 3588, 3647, 4010, 4461, 4814, 5128, 5322, 5573, 5633, 5707, 5776, 5811, 6048, 6107, 6228, 6281, 6351, 6364, 6393, 6683, 6713, 6797, 6948, 7202, 7543, 7832 of 2022

Case Title:
Udathu Suresh Vs State Of Andhra Pradesh And Others

Date Of Order:
15th July, 2022

Judge:
HON’BLE SRI JUSTICE D.V.S.S. SOMAYAJULU

Parties:

Petitioner: Udathu Suresh
Respondent: The State of Andhra Pradesh and 4 others.

Subject

A "direct breach of the right to privacy" is the use of "rowdy sheets" to label people as "rowdies," the gathering and exhibition of their images, home visits, and summoning to the police station in accordance with current police standing orders.

Important Provisions

1. Article 21 of the Constitution of India

The goal of Article 21 is the Right to Protection of Life and Personal Liberty, which is a right guaranteed against State Action as opposed to violation of such right by private individuals.

Brief Facts

  • A group of writ petitions filed by individuals who questioned the police's opening and maintenance of riot sheets against them were granted by the bench.
  • The petitioners are summoned to the police station at inconvenient hours and forced to stay there for a day or two. The authority of the police to call petitioners and troublemakers to police stations, make them wait and stand in line, and then parade them before higher-ranking officers is also called into doubt. The homes of the petitioners are frequently visited by police officers for no apparent cause.
  • For public viewing, their pictures are taken and displayed in conspicuous locations in police stations under the label "Rowdies." Even if they commit one random crime, the petitioners are still categorised as habitual criminals, known depredators, or rowdies.

Questions Raised

Whether it is appropriate for the police to start and keep using rowdy sheets.

Arguments Advanced By The Appellant

  • The petitioner contested the Police Standing Orders' legality, which allows for the opening and continuation of these rowdy sheets.
  • The petitioner claims that there is no such thing as a "law" and that the PSO are only administrative rules.They hence prayed for a general order.
  • According to the appellant, all rowdy sheets in the State of Andhra Pradesh are opened and maintained in accordance with the Andhra Pradesh Police Standing Orders, which are merely departmental guidelines and not "law."
  • The directives included in the Andhra Pradesh Police Manual, on which the State relies, cannot be referred to as "law." Additionally, it is claimed that the standing orders have been declared to not have the status of law.
  • The appellant also claimed that even Standing Orders' regulations and procedures were not being observed, and that the Rowdy Sheets were being opened and continued automatically without any thought or basis and without any supporting evidence.
  • The appellant added that even offences not covered by the AP Police Manual are cited as justifications for the opening of disorderly sheets.
  • The appellant also argued that police are opening and continuing the rowdy sheets with complete disrespect for the established law, despite the highest courts in the land including the High Court of Andhra Pradesh issuing clear rulings on the law.
  • Additionally, none of the procedural protections are observed. Both the beginning and the rest of the noisy sheets lack any use of the mind or consideration of the material.

Arguments Advanced By The Respondent

  • Early criminal detection and prevention, in the respondent's opinion, is one of the police's most crucial duties.
  • The learned government leader stressed the importance of gathering data, intelligence, etc. to identify prospective crimes before they happen and to prevent them.
  • The respondent reiterates that the Police Department's primary goal in initiating or maintaining the rowdy sheet is to prevent crimes from being committed by gathering information and intelligence.
  • He asserts that the main justifications for cracking open a disorderly sheet are the suppression of crime and the defence of society.
  • The respondent further claims that procedural safeguards are there and that the Police Standing Orders are being followed, and that they are not unlawful. He draws attention to the fact that proportionality is also in play and that the raucous sheets are only opened and maintained when doing so is absolutely necessary and in the general welfare.
  • The respondent contends that the Writ Petitions must be denied and that the rowdy sheeting and other processes shouldn't be abruptly stopped because doing so would put "compelling State interest" at risk.
  • A mass statement against rowdy sheeting is not necessary; at best, further measures can be recommended and only a case-by-case decision must be made based on specific situations.

Cases Referred

  1. Malak Singh Etc vs State Of Punjab & Haryana & Ors on 5 December, 1980 (1981) 1 SCC 420 = AIR 1981 SC 760
  2. Justice K.S.Puttaswamy(Retd) ... vs Union Of India And Ors. on 24 August, 2017(2017) 10 SCC 1
  3. Kharak Singh vs The State Of U. P. & Others on 18 December, 1962 AIR 1963 SC 1295
  4. M. P. Sharma And Others vs Satish Chandra, District ... on 15 March, 1954 AIR 1954 SC 300
  5. Smt. K.Ratna Prabha vs State Of Telangana Rep. By Its ... on 20 June, 2017 1993 (3) ALD 30
  6. Smt.Vasnthu Sumalatha vs 1. State Of Andhra Pradesh Rep. By ... on 29 September, 2015 1999 (6) ALT 240
  7. 1984 CrlLJ 909
  8. 1997 (6) ALD 583
  9. (1975) 2 SCC 148
  10. 2020 SCCOnLine Mad 6675
  11. AIR 1966 SC 1766 = 1996 CrlLJ 1486
  12. AIR 1981 SC 674
  13. 1998 (3) ALT 55
  14. 2003 Online AP 1013
  15. AIR 1964 SC 33
  16. (1997) 1 SCC 301
  17. (2012) 5 SCC 1
  18. AIR 1969 SC 125
  19. AIR 1952 SC 47
  20. (1978) 1 SCC 248
  21. (2008) 4 SCC 720
  22. AIR 1971 SC 2486

Analysis By The Court

  • The Court determined that the Police Standing Orders do not constitute "law" within the sense of Article 21 and that the police are not permitted to gather personal information about people or make house calls without a court order.’
  • The Supreme Court ordered the removal of all rowdy sheets after noting that privacy has been declared a basic right under Article 21 of the Constitution by a 9-judge bench in the KS Puttaswamy case and that the stated right may only be restrained in line with "law." The Police Standing Orders cannot be referred to as "law" because they are only departmental directives without any statutory support, according to the petitioners' contention, which was agreed by the court.
  • The Court also acknowledged the strong state interest in monitoring repeat offenders in order to reduce crime. However, it is illegal to conduct surveillance without a court order. As a result, the Court suggested that laws be written to gather intelligence to stop crime.The Court also stated that Chapter VIII of the Code of Criminal Procedure's rules about obtaining security from repeat offenders in exchange for maintaining order and good behaviour could be used.

Conclusion

The Writ Petition No. 3568 of 2022 is granted, invalidating the surveillance of the person (as described in Chapter 37 of the aforementioned Standing Orders) as well as the Standing Orders of the Andhra Pradesh Police Manual as they relate to the opening/continuation of Rowdy Sheets, Suspect Sheets, History Sheets, etc. Additionally, all other Writ Petitions are accepted. It is ordered that all the boisterous sheets opened in this batch of Writ Petitions be promptly closed. Without "law," the police are not permitted to begin, maintain, or gather information about a person.

Since "privacy" is now a Fundamental Right as per PartIII of the Constitution of India, the collection of personal data and its use for crime prevention can only be done in accordance with a "law" that exceeds the thresholds stated in the Constitution of India and the various decisions. It is stated again that police officers are not permitted to enter a suspect's or accused person's home at night or on weekends (under the current directives). They are not allowed to request or collect photos, fingerprints, or other personal information unless they follow the rules outlined in a "law" and meet all the requirements.

Learn the practical aspects of CrPC HERE, CPC HERE, IPC HERE, Evidence Act HERE, Family Laws HERE, DV Act HERE

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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