'Use of handcuffs is sadistic,' said SC once, yet time not ripe for the country to bid adieu to manacles?

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) has no provisions for handcuffs. But...
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Representative Image.(Photo | Pexels)

“it is sadistic, capricious, despotic and demoralising to humble a man by manacling him,” observed the Supreme Court on the use of handcuffs in the Prem Shankar Shukla vs Delhi Administrations (1980) case.

The use of handcuffs by the law enforcers has been long debated in the courts of law. There can be nothing more damaging to a person’s reputation than a pair of metal rings on his or her wrists.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) has no provisions for handcuffs. However, the Supreme Court in the Sunil Batra vs Delhi Administration (1978) case laid down guidelines for fettering a suspect at the time of the arrest. The apex court made it clear that a manacle should be used only as a final resort and must be taken off as soon as possible.

In the Prem Shankar Shukla vs Delhi Administrations (1980), Justice Krishna Iyer, following a letter received from an undertrial prisoner, struck down two draconian rules from the Punjab Police Rules 1934 which allowed such shackling for undertrials of a select category of offences.

The Supreme Court at the time observed thus: - “to torture him, defile his dignity, vulgarise society and foul the soul of our constitutional culture.”

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The final directive of the Supreme Court came in the Citizens for democracy vs State of Assam (1995). The court said where the authorities have a well-grounded basis to form an inference that a prisoner is likely to jump bail or escape from custody, the prisoner be brought before a magistrate and a prayer for handcuffing be made.

The confusion arises from the fact that the CrPC stays mum on the subject. The whole procedure of handcuffing comes under two words ‘Reasonable Force’. The lack of material has made it easy to abuse such unchecked power by the police.

With the Centre poised to bring in the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, things are likely to get more staggering.

Section 43 (3) allows handcuffs for habitual offenders, repeat offenders who escaped from custody or those committing specific offences like, terror acts, organised crime, sexual offences, etc., during arrest and beyond — when the accused is produced before a court. There are two sides to this fight.

Some people are confused about the whole matter and want more clarity.

Ayush Jha, Assistant Professor at K.L.E Society’s Law College, Bengaluru, told the newindianexpress.com that the term "habitual" or "repeat offender" is cryptic. He said it is not clear whether the new law will bring clarity to the issue. He noted that in practice the Supreme Court's directive is not being followed.

Henry Tiphagne, a lawyer practising in the Madurai High Court and executive director of People’s Watch, slammed the use of handcuffs.

"No person should be chained like an animal and made to stand outside in front of the public. It is a clear attack on personal liberty and a violation of the fundamental rights of a human being," he said.

"This law, if it comes into force, is by itself illegal. With this law the Government is trying to bring in provisions through the backdoor and do away with judgements from the front door. There is a heavy politicisation of the Judiciary," he pointed out.

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The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita comes into force on July 1, 2024. Section 43 of the new law, it is understood, allows a police officer to use handcuffs while making an arrest or producing such a person in court, keeping in view the nature and gravity of the offence.

In short, unfortunately, the country isn't bidding adieu to manacles anytime soon.

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