Presently, the entire country is witnessing widespread protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. Citizens and civil rights groups across the nation are participating in these protests.
The right of citizens to protest peacefully is crucial to any democracy and is also an integral part of the Indian Constitution.
Article 19 of the Constitution provides every Indian citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression and to assemble peacefully and without arms, but there are conditions attached here.
For those wondering if the police can use force against the protesters, you need to read sections 129-132 of the CrPC.
Section 129 of the CrPC reads:
Any Executive Magistrate or officer in charge of a police station… may command any unlawful assembly, or any assembly of five or more persons likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace, to disperse; and it shall thereupon be the duty of the members of such assembly to disperse accordingly. If, upon being so commanded, any such assembly does not disperse, or if, without being so commanded, it conducts itself in such a manner as to show a determination not to disperse, the Executive Magistrate or police officer may proceed to disperse such assembly by force.
So if you are doing peaceful protests, you have nothing to fear. But if you do not abide by the commands of the police, they can use force against you.
The use of force by the police also varies according to the situation. They can use civil force and armed forces under these sections of the CrPC.
In case of detention, the person detained is not formally accused of committing a crime but is simply restricted and kept in police custody on a reasonable suspicion. During the time in custody, they are questioned or investigated by the police authorities. After the police questioning, the person detained would be released.
The situation is different if a person is arrested. Arrest can only be done if they are charged for a crime.
So the first thing is do not panic if you are detained by the police.
Article 22 of the Indian Constitution gives you the right to know the reason for your detention.
You have all the rights to ask the police under which section they are detaining you. Ask for a copy of the order under that section.
The same article also gives you the right to seek the services of a lawyer in case of detention. The police is required to present the detained person before a magistrate within 24 hours of detention. If this is not done, they cannot keep you inside a police station.
If you are being detained, make sure that you inform your friends or family so that they can arrange for legal aid. You also have the right to seek medical aid, if needed.
According to a Supreme Court ruling, women should be detained in the presence of female police officers as far as practicable.
Also, under section 46(4) of CrPC, women cannot be detained or arrested after sunset and before sunrise, except in exceptional circumstances.
Article 20 of the Indian Constitution safeguards your rights in case of conviction for offences. It reads:
(1) No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of the law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence (2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once (3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
As a precautionary measure, you should remain silent. You cannot be compelled to witness against yourself under Article 20(3). Therefore, you should not sign any blank papers or restrictive bonds that can be used against you.
You have all the above-mentioned rights in case of an arrest too.