The Allahabad High court, in a significant ruling, Friday held that the practice of displaying the names of accused persons, who are not proclaimed offenders, on the flysheet boards at police stations is a violation of the right to privacy and dignity.
A division bench of Justices Pankaj Naqvi and Vivek Agarwal said it was “neither socially nor politically desirable to curtail human dignity”, which was infringed when names of accused persons were displayed on the flysheet boards at police stations or anywhere else without there being any proclamation issued against them under Section 82 Cr.P.C.
The bench directed the Director-General of Police (DGP) to remove the names and identities of the so-called Top 10 criminals along with their criminal antecedents from these flysheet boards.
The DGP was also directed to ensure that a circular in light of this judgment was sent to all district police heads so as to ensure strict compliance.
It also made it clear that the benefit of the judgment would not be available to proclaimed offenders and fugitives in law.
The bench was ruling on a batch of petitions filed by some aggrieved accused persons challenging the policy of the UP police which provided for preparation of an updated list of top 10 criminals at the level of each police station and district to help the police keep a tab of active hardened and functional criminals.
Though it found the policy itself valid, the court said there was no provision to publish a list of identified top 10 criminals and mafia elements either on the flysheet board of the concerned police station or anywhere else.
Referring to Police Regulation 287, the court held that besides public notices, it did not authorize the publication of anything other than a proclamation issued under the authority of a judicial officer who was authorized to issue such proclamation.
The court, thus, concluded that the publication of the top 10 list was not permissible even on careful and liberal consideration of Police Regulation 287.
Referring to the decisions of the Supreme Court in Kharak Singh Vs. State of U.P (1963), Francis Coralie Mullin Vs. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi and others (1981), the court said even convicts and detenues could not be relegated to an animal existence.
“When fundamental rights of the detenu and convict is intact, then there is no question of it being curtailed for an accused by naming and shaming him, so to relegate him to animal existence,” the bench held.
On the issue of awarding compensation to the petitioners for violation of their right to privacy and dignity, the court said it would have proceeded to make a determination, but as this aspect had neither been argued nor raised but had only been put forth, it left it to the petitioners to approach a competent court in appropriate proceedings to claim compensation for the wrongs done by the State.
The bench, however, observed that merely, saying that State was discharging its sovereign functions of governance by making society aware about crime and criminals, they cannot escape their responsibility for their failure to learn to understand constitutionally sanctified protections extended to individuals to preserve their fundamental right of privacy and dignity.
In his separate but concurring opinion, Justice Naqvi said it does not behove a State to dent the dignity of an individual howsoever horrific his conduct may be.
“All that the State is constitutionally empowered to do is to conduct fair and unbiased investigation against an accused, prosecute him in a court of law by providing adequate opportunity to defend himself”, Justice Naqvi penned.
The Constitutional Courts, Justice Naqvi said, are obliged under all circumstances to uphold the dignity of an individual.
“Human dignity has become an inseparable part of constitutionalism and human rights. The beauty of Article-21 is that its protection is available to all persons”, Justice Naqvi added.
Justice Naqvi held the action of police officers in disclosing the identity of petitioners in police stations in public gaze absolutely unwarranted and uncalled for and as being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.