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Names Of Persons Declared As Absconding Accused Can Be Published In Social Media: Punjab & Haryana High Court

Sparsh Upadhyay
4 Jan 2021 1:42 PM GMT
Names Of Persons Declared As Absconding Accused Can Be Published In Social Media: Punjab & Haryana High Court
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The Punjab & Haryana High Court has recently observed that there is no harm in the publishing of the names of persons declared as absconding accused (as are statutory allowed to be published vide Punjab Police Rules, 1934), in the social media. The Bench of Justice Amol Rattan Singh observed thus while perusing the relevant provisions of the Punjab Police Rules, with regard to...

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The Punjab & Haryana High Court has recently observed that there is no harm in the publishing of the names of persons declared as absconding accused (as are statutory allowed to be published vide Punjab Police Rules, 1934), in the social media.

The Bench of Justice Amol Rattan Singh observed thus while perusing the relevant provisions of the Punjab Police Rules, with regard to the measures that can be taken by the police to try and apprehend persons who are absconding (whether by way of any declaration by the court or by way of warrants etc. having been issued but with them not having been traced despite such warrants issued).

The Court also noted that absconders/persons who are not being arrested despite warrants for their arrest having been issued, naturally the statutory provisions of the Punjab Police Rules, 1934 would be adhered to by the two States and the U.T., Chandigarh.

The Court also observed,

"Since in the year 1934 when the Punjab Police Rules were promulgated, there was no internet and consequently the only social media available at that stage would have been newspapers and magazines etc., this court would see no harm in extending the publishing of the names of such persons in the social media as is now available via the internet."

However, the Court clarified that as regards entries and continuation of names of "accused persons" in the surveillance registers maintained in police stations, the directions issued in Malak Singh and others vs. States of Punjab and Haryana and others AIR 1981 SC 760, would be complied with strictly by the two States and the U.T., Chandigarh, as they are bound to do.

[NOTE: In Malak Singh's case, the Apex Court had held that "ordinarily the names of persons with previous criminal record alone are entered in the surveillance register. They must be proclaimed offenders, previous convicts, or persons who have already been placed on security for good behavior. In addition, names of persons who are reasonably believed to be habitual offenders or receivers of stolen property whether they have been convicted or not may be entered. It is only in the case of this category of persons that there may be occasion for abuse of the power of the police officer to make entries in the surveillance register."

Further, the Apex Court had made it clear that it was necessary on the part of the Superintendent of Police that he must entertain a reasonable belief that persons whose names are to be entered in Part II are habitual offenders or receivers of stolen property.]

In a previous order related to the instant matter, the P&H HC had made it clear that the entry of the name of any offender in the surveillance register, which is otherwise a 'secretly maintained document', is to meet with certain parameters, including specific approval by the SSP/SP in certain circumstances and by a DSP in other circumstances, then naturally, "posting of pictures and information of any offender on the social media network, is not at all sanctionable by law and may possibly in fact amount to a criminal offence."

In November 2020, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had asked the Directors-General of Police (DGP) of Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh to specify as to whether the surveillance registers are being continuously reviewed.

The Bench of Justice Amol Rattan Singh was hearing the plea of One Jaswinder Singh who submitted before the Court that he was acquitted in 2 criminal cases registered against him in the year 1989, i.e., more than 30 years ago; however, his name still appeared in the surveillance register showing him to be a bad character.

Here it is important to note that in the year 2005, a Division Bench of Punjab & Haryana High Court in the case of Musa Khan v. State of Punjab and others 2005(1) RCR (criminal) 960, had stated that:-

"12. Before parting with the judgment, we direct that a copy of the same be sent to the Director Generals of Police, Punjab and Haryana and Inspector General of Police, Union of Territory, Chandigarh, who in turn would forward the same to the District Police Chiefs with a direction to re-examine the Surveillance Registers maintained in the Police Stations of the process, it is hoped, would be completed within two months."

Case title - Harjot Singh @ Sajjan vs. State of Punjab and others [CWP No. 13827 of 2020 (O&M)] along with Jaswinder Singh vs. State of Punjab and others [CRM-M-36564 of 2020]

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