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Arrest Memo - Key Safeguard

JANUARY 06, 2021

By Vijay Kumar

THE Gujarat High Court in the case of Vimal Yashwantgiri Goswami - 2020-TIOL-1803-HC-AHM-GST, on 20.10.2020 observed,

- There is no doubt that the arrest memo is a key safeguard against illegal arrest and a crucial component of the legal procedure of arrest. Full and consistent compliance is a responsibility of both, the officers of the GST as well as the Magistrate.

- It is high time that the GST department prescribes a standardized format for the arrest memo.

- The format must contain all the mandatory requirements and necessary additions. The gist of the offence alleged to have been committed must be incorporated in the arrest memo.

- It would be the duty of the concerned Magistrate to check that an arrest memo has been prepared and duly filled.

- In a given case, if the Magistrate finds that the arrest memo is absent or improperly filled or bereft of necessary particulars, then the Magistrate should decline the production of the arrested person.

Will the CBIC act?

This was actually meant for the State GST officers, as the last para of the High Court judgement reads as:

The Registry is directed to circulate this judgment in all the sub-ordinate Courts across the State of Gujarat. One copy of this judgment shall also be forwarded to the Commissioner of State Tax, State of Gujarat.

Long back in 1996, the Supreme Court in the famous  DK Basu  case - 2002-TIOL-230-SC-MISC directed,

We therefore, consider it appropriate to issue the following requirements to be followed in all cases of arrest or detention till legal provisions are made in that behalf as preventive measures:

(1) The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. The particulars of all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register.

(2) That the police officer carrying out the arrest of the arrestee shall prepare a memo of arrest at the time of arrest and such memo shall be attested by at least one witness who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. It shall also be counter signed by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.

(3) A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or interrogation centre or other lock-up, shall be entitled to have one friend or relative or other person known to him or having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular place, unless the attesting witness of the memo of arrest is himself such a friend or a relative of the arrestee.

(4) The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the next friend or relative of the arrestee lives outside the district or town through the legal Aid Organisation in the District and the police station of the area concerned telegraphically within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.

(5) The person arrested must be made aware of his right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon he is put under arrest or is detained.

(6) An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest of the person which shall also disclose the name of the next friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the names and particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.

(7) The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his/her body, must be recorded at that time. The Inspection Memo must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer affecting the arrest and its copy provided to the arrestee.

(8) The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctors appointed by Director, Health Services of the concerned Stare or Union Territory. Director, Health Services should prepare such a panel for all Tehsils and Districts as well.

(9) Copies of all the documents including the memo of arrest, referred to above, should be sent to the Magistrate for his record.

(10) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation.

(11) A police control room should be provided at all district and state headquarters, where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by the officer causing the arrest, within 12 hours of effecting the arrest and at the police control room it should be displayed on a conspicuous notice board.

Some other observations of the Supreme Court in this landmark case are worth recalling:

Custodial violence is a matter of concern. It is aggravated by the fact that it is committed by persons who are supposed to be the protectors of the citizens. It is committed under the shield of uniform and authority in the four walls of a police station or lock-up, the victim being totally helpless. The protection of an individual from torture and abuse by the police and other law enforcing officers is a matter of deep concern in a free society.

'Torture' of a human being by another human being is essentially an instrument to impose the will of the 'strong' over the 'weak' by suffering. The word 'torture' today has become synonymous with the darker side of human civilisation.

Torture is a wound in the soul so painful that sometimes you can almost touch it, but it is also so intangible that there is no way to heal it. Torture is anguish squeezing in your chest, cold as ice and heavy as a stone paralyzing as sleep and dark as the abyss. Torture is despair and fear and rage and hate. It is a desire to kill and destroy including yourself.

Custodial torture is a naked violation of human dignity and degradation which destroys, to a very large extent, the individual personality. It is a calculated assault on human dignity and whenever human dignity is wounded, civilisation takes a step backward. Flag of humanity must on each such occasion fly half-mast.

In all custodial crimes that is of real concern is not only infliction of body pain but the mental agony which a person undergoes within the four walls of police station or lock-up. Whether it is physical assault or rape in police custody, the extent of trauma a person experiences is beyond the purview of law.

We are not very sure about the arresting powers of the GST officers - Supreme Court will one day tell us that. But till then, the arrests should be as per the law and the guidelines issued by the apex court, which have been later incorporated in the Criminal Procedure Code.

It is heartening to note that the CBIC has not only issued instructions on the arrest memo but has also prescribed a format for the same. In Circular No. 122/41/2019-GST dated, November 5, 2019, the CBIC directed

no search authorization, summons, arrest memo, inspection notices and letters issued in the course of any enquiry shall be issued by any officer under the Board to a taxpayer or any other person, on or after the 8th day of November, 2019 without a computer-generated Document Identification Number (DIN) being duly quoted prominently in the body of such communication.

Further in Circular No. 128/47/2019 - GST dated, December 23, 2019, the CBIC directed:

The standardized documents have since been uploaded by DDM and are ready to be used. When downloaded and printed, these standardized documents would bear a pre-populated DIN thereon. Accordingly, the Board directs that all field formations shall use the standardized authorisation for search, summons, inspection notice, arrest memo and provisional release order (the formats are attached). These formats shall be used by all the formations w.e.f. 01.01.2020.

Thus, what has been suggested by the Gujarat High Court in October 2020 has been already implemented by the CBIC in January 2020. But what about the States and what about the directions of the Supreme Court given 25 years ago?

What the supreme court concluded in 1996, is still valid:

It needs no emphasis to say that when the crime goes unpunished, the criminals are encouraged and the society suffers. The victim of crime or his kith and kin become frustrated and contempt for law develops.

Police is, no doubt, under a legal duty and has legitimate right to arrest a criminal and to interrogate him during the investigation of a an offence but it must be remembered that the law does not permit use of third degree methods or torture of accused in custody during interrogation and investigation with that view to solve the crime. End cannot justify the means. The interrogation and investigation into a crime should be in true sense purposeful to make the investigation effective. By torturing a person and using third degree methods, the police would be accomplishing behind the closed doors what the demands of our legal order forbid. No society can permit it.

Attention is also required to be paid to properly develop work culture, training and orientation of police force consistent with basic human values. Training methodology of the police needs restructuring. The force needs to be infused with basic human values and made sensitive to the constitutional ethos. Efforts must be made to change the attitude and approach of the police personal handling investigations so that they do not sacrifice basic human values during interrogation and do not resort to questionable form of interrogation. With a view to bring in transparency, the presence of the counsel of the arrestee at some point of time during the interrogation may deter the police from using third degree methods during interrogation.

Apart from the police, there are several other governmental authorities also like Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Directorate of Enforcement, xxx which have the power to detain a person and to interrogate him in connection with the investigation of economic offences, xxx Foreign Exchange Regulation Act etc. There are instances of torture and death in custody of these authorities as well.

We must remember that the arrested person is only an accused and not yet a declared criminal.

Until next week


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