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The mob violence on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus on Sunday night raises several questions at the inaction or to be precise “criminal dereliction” of the Delhi Police, who failed to come to students’ rescue from a murderous gang.

Several reports and videos doing rounds on social media clearly suggest that the Delhi Police remained bystanders while the goons were raising mayhem inside the campus. Despite several calls made to the Police by the students, the police didn’t bother to respond to the students cries and repeated appeal to intervene.

Moreover, by turning off the streetlights in the area and blocking the entry of journalists,  it seems the police give a leeway to the thugs for the rampage and finally allowed them a safe passage to leave the campus.

More than the fatal attack by students allegedly belonging to ABVP, the police inaction and complete impunity to these miscreants created fear and a sense of panic among the students.

In 2018, the Supreme Court had taken notice of the dangerous trend of mob violence in the Tehseen Poonawalla case and issued comprehensive guidelines to the states regarding preventive, remedial and punitive measures to be taken in respect of glaringly increasing incidents of mob-lynching. The apex court also asked the legislature to come with a special law to deal with such cases of serious nature.

Its’s been two years now, the stern guidelines from the top court don’t seem to have changed anything significantly on the ground. If  Delhi Police can openly flout the Supreme Court’s direction without any fear of legal prosecution, then it’s not difficult to imagine the role of police in other places where it seems to be more concerned about the property damage and cow among other things than a precious human life.

Moreover, in an ideal situation, the Delhi Police should be booked for contempt and dereliction of duty with Supreme Court guidelines in place.

What is Dereliction of Duty?

Dereliction of duty is an abuse of discretion under the law. The consequence of  Delhi Police’s inaction should be attributable to the criminal negligence. The police officials have not only breached the legal obligations they owe as public officers to serve the public, but also breached the trust and faith the people pose in it to maintain the peace and law in society.

Do police require permission from V-C to enter campus and set law into motion?

The police cited they didn’t have the permission to enter the campus, however, there is no provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure, which restricts the police from entering any place for effecting the arrest of a person for which the police has authority to arrest, either with or without a warrant.

As per Section 41 of the CrPC,  a police officer can enter any college or university to arrest a person. Generally, the police don’t trespass the university premises without prior permission from as university space is a private property under the guardianship of the VC. However, if police have a reason to believe that a cognizable offence has been committed, then the Police are duty-bound to enter the university premises to maintain the law and order situation.

The whole idea that the police cannot enter educational spaces without permission stems from a noition that the universities are a place of knowledge generation, and they are always at conflict with the society due to their inherent nature of challenging the prevailing societal norms and conventions. This is why the campuses have their own security arrangements to keep them “free of police”.

Section 48 of the CrPC clearly states that “A police officer pursuing a person at a location in India for the purpose of arresting a person without a warrant”. Thus, if a police officer is authorized to arrest a person, he may pursue such person to any place in India, even if the place is outside his jurisdiction.

During Jamia protest, the police acted without any permission and entered the university premises apprehending the law and order situation, while the police refused to set the law in motion even after receiving several calls and complaints. The police inaction rather amounts to abetment, which in itself is an offence under Section 107, IPC.

What is abetment?

Abetment basically means the action of instigating, encouraging or promoting a person into committing an offence. It can also mean aiding the offender while he is committing a crime. The definition of abetment under Section 107, Indian Penal Code (IPC) requires a person to abet the commission of an offence.

The Section says that abetment basically takes place when a person abets the doing of a thing by:

(1) instigating a person to do that thing; or

(2) engaging with another person (or persons) in a conspiracy to do that thing; or

(3) intentionally aiding a person to do that thing.

The police by not acting on the complaints and switching off all the street lights intentionally aided the perpetrators to commit the offence and leave. Not a single person was arrested or detained, to say the least. Police have been disrupting the peaceful protests and deatining the organizers and participants, but didn’t even detain the miscreants who mostly have been identified.

In Tehseen Poonawalla case, the Supreme Court directed the states that the departmental action must be taken against police or district officials who fail to act against the perpetrators. Such failure will be considered as an act of deliberate negligence and/or misconduct for which appropriate action must be taken.

Delhi Police have not only committed deliberate negligence, but also knowingly and intentionally disobeyed the Supreme Court guidelines by not taking action to prevent vigilante groups from inflicting violence against citizens as held in the case.

The court further directed the police shall cause to register FIR under Section 153A of IPC and/or other relevant provisions of law against persons who disseminate irresponsible and explosive messages and videos having content which is likely to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind.

When police can be said to have breached duty of care?

Being pubic servants, the police owe a duty of care towards the citizens. Any omission on part of the police will be a breach of this duty of care. The ommission is supposed to take place when–

1) The police are aware or should have reasonably been aware that the complainant is at a special risk of personal harm.

(2) The police, by virtue of their special status, have the power to protect the class of persons to which the complainant belongs, namely members of the public at a special risk of personal harm.

(3) The complainant is dependent upon the police as regards protection against the risk on the basis of the legal and civic duties imposed on him/her to inform the police about the incident and to refrain from taking measures beyond reasonable self-protection.

(4) The police, on the basis of the complaint, have taken charge of the situation.

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