The law of arrest is one of balancing individual rights, liberties and privileges, on the one hand, and individual duties, obligations and responsibilities on the other; of weighing and balancing the rights, liberties and privileges of the single individual and those of individuals collectively; of simply deciding what is wanted and where to put the weight and the emphasis; of deciding which comes first the criminal or society, the law violator or the law abider; of meeting the challenge which Mr Justice Cardozo so forthrightly met when he wrestled with a similar task of balancing individual rights against society’s rights and wisely held that the exclusion rule was bad law, that society came first, and that the criminal should not go free because the constable blundered.

In People v. Defore[1] Justice Cardozo observed:

“The question is whether protection for the individual would not be gained at a disproportionate loss of protection for society. On the one side is the social need that crime shall be repressed. On the other, the social need that law shall not be flouted by the insolence of office. There are dangers in any choice. The rule of the Aclams case (People v. Adams[2]) strikes a balance between opposing interests. We must hold it to be the law until those organs of government by which a change of public policy is normally effected shall give notice to the courts that change has come to pass.”

To the same effect is the statement by Judge Learned Hand, in Fried Re[3]:

“The protection of the individual from oppression and abuse by the police and other enforcing officers is indeed a major interest in a free society; but so is the effective prosecution of crime, an interest which at times seems to be forgotten. Perfection is impossible; like other human institutions criminal proceedings must be a compromise.”

The quality of a nation’s civilisation can be largely measured by the methods it uses in the enforcement of criminal law. Supreme Court in Nandini Satpathy v. P.L. Dani[4] quoting Lewis Mayers stated:

“The paradox has been put sharply by Lewis Mayers: ‘To strike the balance between the needs of law enforcement on the one hand and the protection of the citizen from oppression and injustice at the hands of the law-enforcement machinery on the other is a perennial problem of statecraft. The pendulum over the years has swung to the right.

Arrest procedure in India

As on today, arrest with or without warrant depending upon the circumstances of a particular case is governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure. Whenever a public servant is arrested that matter should be intimated to the superior officers, if possible, before the arrest and in any case, immediately after the arrest. In cases of members of Armed Forces, Army, Navy or Air Force, intimation should be sent to the Officer commanding the unit to which the member belongs. It should be done immediately after the arrest is effected.

Under Rule 229 of the Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, when a member is arrested on a criminal charge or is detained under an executive order of the Magistrate, the executive authority must inform without delay such fact to the Speaker. As soon as any arrest, detention, conviction or release is effected intimation should invariably be sent to the Government concerned concurrently with the intimation sent to the Speaker/Chairman of the Legislative Assembly/Council/Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha. This should be sent through telegrams and also by post and the intimation should not be on the ground of holiday.

With regard to the apprehension of juvenile offenders Section 58 of the Code of Criminal Procedure lays down as under:

Officers in charge of police stations shall report to the District Magistrate, or, if he so directs, to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, the cases of all persons arrested without warrant, within the limits of their respective stations, whether such persons have been admitted to bail or otherwise.”

Section 19(a) of the Children Act makes the following provision:

“[T]he parent or guardian of the child, if he can be found, of such arrest and direct him to be present at the Children’s Court before which the child will appear;”

Report of the National Police Commission

In India, Third Report of the National Police Commission at p. 32 suggested:

“An arrest during the investigation of a cognizable case may be considered justified in one or other of the following circumstances:

(i) The case involves a grave offence like murder, dacoity, robbery, rape etc., and it is necessary to arrest the accused and bring his movements under restraint to infuse confidence among the terror-stricken victims.

(ii) The accused is likely to abscond and evade the processes of law.

(iii) The accused is given to violent behaviour and is likely to commit further offences unless his movements are brought under restraint.

(iv) The accused is a habitual offender and unless kept in custody he is likely to commit similar offences again. It would be desirable to insist through departmental instructions that a police officer making an arrest should also record in the case diary the reasons for making the arrest, thereby clarifying his conformity to the specified guidelines……”

The above guidelines are merely the incidents of personal liberty guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

In ‘Joginder kumar v. State of UP, (1994)’, the supreme court made important observations,  

  • “No arrest can be made because it is lawful for the police officer to do so. The existence of the power to arrest is one thing. The justification for the exercise of it is quite another.
  • The police officer must be able to justify the arrest apart from his power to do so. Arrest and detention in police lock-up of a person can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self-esteem of a person.
  • No arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person. It would be prudent for a police officer in the interest of protection of the constitutional rights of a citizen and perhaps in his own interest that no arrest should be made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation as to the genuineness and bona fides of a complaint and a reasonable belief both as to the person’s complicity and even so as to the need to effect arrest.
  • Denying a person of his liberty is a serious matter. A person is not liable to arrest merely on the suspicion of complicity in an offence. There must be some reasonable justification in the opinion of the officer effecting the arrest that such arrest is necessary and justified.
  • Except in heinous offences, an arrest must be avoided if a police officer issues notice to person to attend the Station House and not to leave the Station without permission would do.
  • Then, there is the right to have someone informed. That right of the arrested person, upon request, to have someone informed and to consult privately with a lawyer are inherent in Articles 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution and require to be recognised and scrupulously protected.

The court further laid down the guidelines on arrest-

1. An arrested person being held in custody is entitled, if he so requests to have one friend, relative or other person who is known to him or likely to take an interest in his welfare told as far as is practicable that he has been arrested and where he is being detained.

2. The police officer shall inform the arrested person when he is brought to the police station of this right.

3. An entry shall be required to be made in the diary as to who was informed of the arrest. These protections from power must be held to flow from Articles 21 and 22(1) and enforced strictly. It shall be the duty of the Magistrate, before whom the arrested person is produced, to satisfy himself that these requirements have been complied with.


Joginder Kumar v. State of UP (1994)

[1] 242 NY 13, 24: 150 NE 585, 589 (1926)

[2] 176 NY 351: 68 NE 636 (1903)

[3] 161 F 2d 453, 465 (2d Cir 1947)

[4] (1978) 2 SCC 424: 1978 SCC (Cri) 236