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Monday, September 23, 2013

Inform arrests via e-post, cops told

CHENNAI: Now that the telegram is dead, how should police personnel arresting suspects inform the arrest to the relatives or friends of the suspect, as is required by law? Can oral intimation through mobile phone substitute telegraphic message? 

Settling these issues which concern the fundamental right to liberty of citizens, the Madras high court has said officers arresting a person should now make use of the e-post system. Pointing out that e-post had come into force from January 30, 2004, a division bench of Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice C T Selvam, in an order on Wednesday, said it's is a credible alternative to telegrams for intimation purposes. If information is to be passed on through mobile or landline phone, the state government must first invite BSNL authorities and device a mechanism to put in place an effective method of communication, including receipt of acknowledgement, the bench said. 

The third alternative suggested by the bench was that the arrests be communicated through fax, from the police station where the arrests are made to the station nearest to the suspects' relatives or friends. 

The bench was discussing the proper method to inform the arrest of suspects when two habeas corpus petitions filed on behalf of M Shanmugam, 51, and K Manjunath, 39, came up for hearing. Detained at the central prison in Salem, they said their arrest was unlawful because it had not been communicated to their family members. 

Denying any illegality in their detention, additional public prosecutor M Maharaja told the court that the arrests were communicated through mobile phone, as it was an effective and speedy way of communication available with the authorities. 

The judges asked additional solicitor general of India P Wilson about the services available with the postal department for instant communication of emergency messages. After Wilson narrated the details of e-post services, and how it has been tied up with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to make full use of the internet revolution, the judges said it was a worthy alternative to the now-defunct telegraphic service. 

Citing the Supreme Court verdict in the famed D K Basu case, which laid the pre-arrest formalities to be followed by police, the judges said intimation of arrest should be communicated to the relatives of the person concerned through legally recognised modes. If such intimation has not been made effectively, then the detention order would get vitiated.

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