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Compensation for unlawful detention under section 151 crpc

Written By: Shivendra Pratap Singh

Practicing advocate at High Court Lucknow. Expert in Criminal, Civil, Services, Family, Revenue, Constututional Matters

June 23, 2021

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Section 151 crpc impowers the police officer to detain a person for preventing the commission of cognisable offence. If detention under section 151 crpc is unlawful then what right do the detenee have? Whether the government gives compensation for unlawful detention? These questions are obvious when police have exercised this power arbitrarily and violate the fundamental right of citizens. Here we discuss the power of police officers under section 151 crpc and compensation in unlawful detention. 

Power of police officer under section 151 crpc

Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure gives discretionary power to the police officer for prevention of cognisable offence. If the police officer has information about commission of a cognisable offence he can preventively arrest the proposed offender without warrant and order of the Magistrate. 

A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented.

Section 151(1) crpc

The police officer shall exercise his discretion of preventive arrest concerning the nature of offence and other prevailing circumstances. Hence, the police officer must act carefully while arresting a person under section 151 crpc. He must have knowledge that a person is designing to commit a cognisable offence.

That knowledge should not be a mere suspicion but well supported by some evidence. Thereafter, the police officer has reason to believe that without arresting that person he cannot avert the commission of cognisable offence. When these two conditions meet he can arrest the person without warrant or order of the Magistrate.

After arresting the person under section 151 crpc the police officer presents him before the Executive Magistrate (EM) under Section 107 crpc to take a bond from him for keeping peace. Conjoint reading of section 151 & 107 crpc infer that the EM, before taking a bond, also examines the possibility of breach of peace by the arrested person.  

Unlawful detention under section 151 crpc

The arrest becomes illegal when the police officer, without any sufficient reason, arrests a person under section 151 crpc. Arrest deprives a person from his personal liberty. Hence, law does not permit the public authority to harass a person under the shadow of legal provisions. 

In Kishor v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 6639 the Bombay High Court has held that: The police officer may take action as per Section 151 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure against a person, only if he has knowledge of a design of commissioning of any cognizable offence, or if it appears to him that commission of cognizable offence cannot be prevented unless preventive action is taken against the person who may commit cognizable offence.

There is only two grounds upon which the police officer can arrest a person under section 151 crpc: The grounds are

  1. Police officer has knowledge of a design of commissioning of any cognizable offence.
  2. Commission of cognizable offence cannot be prevented unless arrest of the person who is designing to commit cognisable offence. 

Absence of above mentioned grounds will render the arrest illegal. Such a capricious and whimsical act of a police officer violates the fundamental right i.e. right to liberty. Right to protection of life and personal liberty is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. 

The victim of unlawful detention can take appropriate action against the state. In Lucknow Development Authority vs M. K. Gupta (1994) 1 SCC 243, the Supreme Court has held that public authorities acting in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions oppressively are accountable for their behaviour. 

Police department is an instrumentality of the State hence, the state government is liable to compensate the victim of unlawful detention. 

Compensation for unlawful detention

Detention restraints the freedom of movement therefore the arrestee deprives from personal liberty. It is thus, the constitutional duty of the law enforcement authority to make an arrest in the conformity of established procedure of law. Any breach of procedure established by law confers huge liability on the state.  

The victim becomes entitled to claim compensation for wrongful detention and infringement of his fundamental right. Illegal confinement is a great example of abuse of power.

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