Lucknow / New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government on Monday defended a controversial new security force with sweeping powers to arrest or detain suspects even after some legal experts warned of the possibility of abuse and the Opposition claimed the force could be used to defraud the dissident.
The constitution of the UP Special Security Force (UPSSF) to guard strategic and vital installations, courts, government premises, religious sites, transportation centers, industrial enterprises and private buildings – if permitted by the state government – was announced on Sunday. The first phase of the 9,919-strong force is expected to begin within three months, at a cost of Rs 1,747 crore.
Additional Secretary-General (in-house) Awanish Kumar Awasthi said the UPSSF work profile will be similar to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which maintains vital airports and installations across India. “We have not given the new force any extraordinary power and most of the provisions are similar to the CISF Act,” he said.
Section 10 of the UPSSF Act empowers the force to arrest any person without a warrant or order from a judge on suspicion that the suspect is involved in a criminal offense or is taking steps to commit one. Section 11 allows the force to stop and search without an order. In both cases, the suspect will be handed over to a police officer “without delay”. Section 13 stated that personnel of this force would be considered on duty at all times and could be deployed for security anywhere in the state
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) backed the force. “This is an excellent initiative by Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath to protect the sovereignty of the state institution. This is also a good step to gain investor confidence. “The opposition must rise above the voting bank policy and join in welcoming this movement,” said UP party secretary Subhash Yaduvansh.
But the Opposition called the force a hoax. “It is a tool and a conspiracy to suppress constitutional rights by political power … this is a violation of human rights, constitutional rights,” the Samajwadi Party said. The Congress party compared the provisions to the Rowlatt Act of 1919 which gave British forces the power to detain and imprison indefinitely without trial. Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee Chairman Ajay Kumar Lallu called the act undemocratic and said it could be used against citizens.
The legal basis of this force is the UPSSF Act, 2020, which was approved by the state legislative assembly at its monsoon session and approved by the governor on 28 August. The act, which followed an ordinance, was passed after the Allahabad high court in December 2019 became aware of a murder inside a courtroom in Bijnor and ordered the state government to strengthen security inside the court camps.
A senior state government official said the UPSSF powers were similar to those provided by the CISF and special forces in Odisha and Maharashtra. “Such powers can not be abused in any way,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
But a CISF officer disagreed, saying the central paramilitary force has no arrests or search warrants. “It can stop people in its place of duty like airports or subway stations, but they surrender to the police after all … we do not know how the SSF will work but we are a completely different force,” he said. said the officer who did not say t wish t be named.
A senior Odisha police official said that while the eastern state created a special force in 2012 to protect public and private industrial enterprises, it had no power of arrest, raid or seizure.
In Maharashtra, the state security force was formed after the 26/11 terrorist attacks to guard vital installations and institutions. “We can arrest a person without a warrant but we cannot claim a place without him,” said D Kanakratnam, director general of police (DGP), Maharashtra State Security Corporation.
Legal experts differed in their views on the provisions – particularly Sections 15 and 16 which provided protection to compel prosecution for any act “done in good faith” under the Act.
“No court shall be aware of any offense against any member of the force in connection with anything done or any action taken or alleged to have been done or taken in the performance of its duty, except with the prior sanctions of the Government of state “, read Section 16 of the act.
“Although the defenses under Sections 15 and 16 appear to be material pariahs [dealing with the same subject] with similar provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the Act when taken as a whole, constitutes a special force, gives them a blanche card and provides them with state protection against allegations of misconduct. “Absolute and irresponsible power for a police force is the hallmark of a police state,” said senior Supreme Court attorney Sanjay Hegde.
He agreed that the force was given broad powers to arrest, even in situations that might otherwise be an indicted offense (less serious offenses for which an arrest warrant is required), such as eavesdropping on a court building or near a bank premises.
Alok Prasanna Kumar, a senior resident at the Vidhi Center for Legal Policy, said Sections 15 and 16 were “very standard provisions”.
“The function of the Special Police of UP according to Article 3 (of the Law) is very clear – to protect institutions, high courts, district courts, administrative facilities of the state government, religious places, subway railways, airports, etc. If this is being done to reduce the burden on UP police, fine and good. It is not as if this special force can investigate criminal offenses, register FIR, etc. This is more like a State-level Central Industrial Security Force. “If they have the money to do it, good luck to them,” said Kumar.
Senior lawyer based in Lucknow IB Singh said the deployment of the force was quite limited to maintaining strategic installations and VVIP.
Raja Bagga, a senior officer in the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said the presence of detailed oversight provisions in the CrPC was a recognition of the importance of procedural safeguards to ensure fair trial rights.
“The Uttar Pradesh 2020 Special Security Force Act, providing discretionary powers to the police to search and arrest without a warrant or order from a judge, is giving more power to an already irresponsible police … UP police is “It is seriously insufficient and has one of the lowest sanctioned points,” he said.
(with data from HTC in Lucknow, Mumbai and Bhubaneswar)
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