PUCL Bulletin, July 2001

Police fail to arrest the rich and the powerful, while thousands of poor languish in Bihar's jails

Copy of the Letter Sent by Bihar PUCL to the CJ, Patna High Court

To, The Chief Justice, Patna High Court, Bailey Road, Patna

Sir, We are appalled and outraged at the double standard practised by the state in arresting the people accused of committing cognisable offences. While on the one hand common citizens without any previous criminal record have been routinely arrested by the police u/s 41 of the Cr. PC without warrant of the basis of the complaints of even minor cognisable offences, on the other history sheets and other notorious persons with criminal records occupying position of power or enjoying political patronage are not only allowed to move freely but are regularly seen rubbing shoulders with the CM., Ministers, and high police officers even though competent courts have issued non-bailable warrants of arrests against them. It outrages the conscience of the law-abiding citizens mutely and helplessly watch the spectacle in contrast of thousands languishing in jails. They are too poor to arrange for their bail and continue to live in subhuman condition in overcrowded jails, while the powerful criminals enjoy immunity from legal action without any basis in law.

There have been cases of Ministers and senior civil servants against whom non-bailable warrants had been issued, but not arrested because the police claimed that they were traceless though they were accessible to the media and all else in the capital itself. It was on the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission that a couple of the so-called absconding former ministers recently surrendered and were remanded to judicial custody. This sham game of hide and seek between the police and influential notorieties is now the rule and not an exception. It is in desperation that we turn to you to put an end to such blatant and brazenfaced violation of the law.

The most recent case in the series is that of Mr. Md. Shahabuddin, an RJD M.P. who is facing serious charges in Hussainganj P.S. Cases No. 32 /2001, 33/2001 and 34/2001. The charges include u/s 147/148/307/302/334/35/332/333/435/427/120 in case No 32/2001 one policemen and eight others were killed and several injured. The police claim to have seized various arms including pistols AK 47, hand grenades and a rifle etc. As reported in the media, there are 30 other cases against him (Pub. The Hindustan Times Patna, 19.3.2001). The following is the list of the cases against Mr. Shahabuddin as reported in the aforesaid newspaper, and a fact-finding team of PUCL from the concerned police stations has duly verified the same. The purpose of arresting a person following a complaint of commission of a cognisable offence is to prevent him from destroying evidence, intimidating witnesses, committing further crimes or absconding. It has been alleged and is widely believed that Mr. Shahabuddin has terrorised witnesses in the past and as a consequence they have refrained from appearing in the court to depose against him.

They perceived reluctance or inability of the police to arrest these privileged persons results in erosion of faith in law as well as the system. It demoralises honest junior level policeman on the one hand and gives a clear message to the common man that he has no protection whatsoever from such persons. Consequently, it is almost certain that few would dare to give witness against them thus vitiating the judicial process altogether. The cases against Md. Shahabuddin are a case in point. Not to speak of witness, in a process as open as elections, his adversaries cannot even put up banners and posters. The pliability of administration has reportedly reached such a nadir, where the district Magistrate likens him to Gandhi and interprets this to be the situation because of his immense popularity, if newspaper report is to be believed.
Even with such a track record, he continues to move about with absolute immunity in the state capital attending parties and giving press statements. According to the Times of India, Patna edition of March 31, 2001, he attended a reception hosted by the CM. The photograph published on the front page shows him sitting between the Speaker of the Assembly. Mr. Sadanand Singh, and Mr. Laloo Prasad. It is also reported in the same newspaper on Page 4 under the news item 'Laloo, Shahabuddin add colour to Rajak's Reception party' as follows:

"He spent a few minutes with RJD chief before going to the table served with food. DGP RR Prasad made a silent exit in front of the RJD MP who had resisted his police force for eight hours." The media have also reported that the police have been instructed not to arrest him, as the case has been transferred to the CID now again referred to Judicial enquiry by J. Vidya Nand commission.
To the best of our knowledge and understanding, the Government has no power to suspend or interfere in any other way with a non bailable warrant of arrest issued by a court of law nor has the power to order the police not to execute such a warrant. Thus the conduct of the police officers in whose jurisdiction Mr. Shahabuddin has been moving about freely is tantamount to not only a gross dereliction of duty but also complicity in and connivance with the illegal activities of a fugitive from the law apart from contempt of court and utter disregard for the majesty of law. Should the Hon'ble High Court too turn a Nelson's eye to the wilful subversion of the rule of law?

During the British rule, there existed some laws which did not treat the Indians and the people of European origin alike, and widespread discrimination was practised, but any discrimination between one set of citizens and another now is repugnant to the principle of the rule of law and the various articles and another now is repugnant to the principle of the rule of law and the various articles of the constitution specially Art 14. But it is also a sad fact of life in Bihar that a handful of people in power and their protégés are more equal than the others making a mockery of the principle of the rule of law and Art 14 of the constitution. The people of the state have been reduced to the status of second class citizens and helpless spectators of their own humiliation.

We appeal to you to ensure that the course of justice is not obstructed or subverted and the principles of the rule of law and equality before the law as well as the dignity of the citizens is restored. It is for the courts to decide on the guilt or innocence of Mr. Shahabuddin, but the law-enforcing agencies must be compelled to deal with him in the same manner in which it would deal with any other citizen similarly placed.

We have faith in the judicial system and while we understand that your lordship can and will take appropriate action, we seek your indulgence for submitting certain suggestions from our side.

  1. It is, of course, imperative that Md. Shahabuddin is arrested immediately and remanded to judicial custody, so that the case against him can be investigated and properly pursued.
  2. Beyond that the court can ask the Government to provide a list of MPs, MLAs, Ministers, former and present and senior civil servants against whom warrants of arrest have been issued but who have not been arrested. Suitable direction may be given in this regard.
  3. If one case is taken up as a test case, it needs to be probed deeper to see at what level laws have been flouted by the members of police force and what is their liability. Perhaps the DGP, Govt. of Bihar has to explain the situation and lackadaisical attitude of the machinery. The Hon'ble High Court may kindly decide what action is needed against them. Suitable directives as deemed necessary may kindly be issued.

We hope you would appreciate our anguish and feeling of outrage and take appropriate measures to uphold the rule as well as majesty of law.

-- Prabhakar Sinha (National Vice President); Ram Chandra Lal Das (State Vice President); Kishori Das (State General Secretary); Dr. B. D. Prasad (Member State Council)

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