30, Mar 2021 | Sanchita Kadam
The Bihar Special Armed Police Bill caused a rather unprecedented uproar amongst the opposition parties in the Bihar Assembly during and after the passage of the Bill. While the opposing legislators demonstrated their resistance towards the Bill for giving unbridled powers to a police force, the police responded in a rather brutal manner, dragging opposing legislators, including women, assaulting them with sticks. A bill that caused such pandemonium in a state legislature, deserves to be critically looked at for its legal aspects, to analyse the probability of its misuse.
The Bill gives more teeth to the existing Bihar Military Police that has been given the responsibility of securing the Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya, the Darbhanga airport, and other industrial and commercial establishments. By giving it more power, the Assembly has attempted to bring it at par with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). The Bill renames the Bihar Military Police as Bihar Special Armed Police.
Arrest without warrant
The Bill gives the Special Armed police officer the power to arrest without a warrant or any order from the Magistrate under various circumstances such as:
- Any person voluntarily causing hurt/wrongfully restrains/ threaten to assault any employee of the establishment
- Any person against whom there is suspicion/ is found taking precautions to conceal his presence with a view to commit a cognisable offence in the establishment
- Any person who commits or attempts to commit a cognisable offence that could pose danger to life of any employee of the establishment
Search the person without warrant
The Bill further gives the police officer power to detain and search a person and his/her belongings without a warrant as well as eventually arrest him if there is reason to believe that he has committed the offence.
The Bill precludes courts from taking cognisance of any offence by the police officer unless there is previous sanction from an authorised officer for the same.
The object of the Bill
As per the press release issued by the Bihar Home Department, “It was necessary to give requisite powers of search and arrest to the military police battalions engaged in security of notified establishments on the lines of CISF”. The powers were given to the special police force in order to attract capital investment, promote industrial development, protect and safeguard places of historical and cultural importance and so on; as also to reduce the dependence on CISF and therefore lessen the economic burden on the state whilst creating employment opportunities for locals.
The opposition to the Bill
Disturbing images of RJD MLA Sudhakar Singh being kicked by the police have gone viral on social media. Other visuals also show police dragging out legislator Kiran Devi. Some images of male police personnel dragging a female MLA have also gone viral on social media.
Opposition members allegedly tried to physically prevent the Speaker, Vijay Kumar Sinha, from taking his Chair, reported The Print. He was allegedly held hostage inside his chamber as Opposition MLAs surrounded the exit points from all sides. According to media reports, the Speaker was allegedly prevented from taking his seat by women legislators of RJD, while other MLAs created ruckus in the Well. They allegedly threw away the chair of the Vidhan Sabha secretary, and prevented staff from bringing in another piece of furniture.
Jitendra Kumar Rai, RJD’s Marhaura MLA, told Indian Express, that the Bill should have specified in which areas it would be applicable. “The government says the Bill is applicable only to certain areas. But it has not specified which areas, nor has it said on what basis would these locations be notified. For a Bill with such strict provisions, the areas that will be affected are entirely left to the government’s discretion, creating the scope for misuse and targeting of those who protest against the government. Also, I was in the Assembly the day the Bill was passed. The government made no efforts for outreach or discussion – instead, it called in the police against Opposition MLAs.”
Tejashwi Yadav, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly said “Draconian Act which will give absolute powers to Police, so that it can act as veritable arm of Nitish’s dictatorial politics, has been passed in police protection by throwing out battered MLAs using Police itself.”
The complete Bill may be read here: