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The Police are the first authority whom we approach in case any crime or wrong is done against us. Does this thing come to mind for many people what are the powers of a police officer? As we see in movies, the Police come and start beating individuals. Does Police have the power to beat anyone? The answer is No.
Police don’t have the power to beat anyone

Read:- How to file FIR online in Haryana?

The Police are the authority that registers First Information Reports (FIR), and police officers are responsible for the maintenance of public peace and order. There are many statutes like- The Police Act, of 1861, The Delhi Special Police Administration Act, of 1946, The Model Police Act, etc., which make provisions for the administration and functions of the police force. But people are not aware of the duties and powers up to which the Police can exercise their functions and duties.

So who is a Police officer? What are the powers and roles of the Police in our country? and how is the Police responsible for the maintenance of law and order? What provisions of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 talk about various powers and responsibilities of the Police force in our country?

Police are the basic function of that branch of the administrative machinery of Government which is charged with the preservation of public peace, order, and tranquillity, the promotion of public health in various ways, safety, and morals in our country, and the prevention, detection, and punishment of crimes in our society.’

What are the Powers of Police officers?

What are the powers of police officer ?

Here we will first talk about the Powers of Police officers as per The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The Criminal Procedure Code confers important powers on police officers. The power to investigate, search and arrest are some of the powers.

Powers of a police officer under CrPC

  • Registering FIR- Police have the power to lodge FIR. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says that Police have to record the information related to any cognizable offense. Moreover, if Police don’t register FIR in the cognizable offense, then Any person aggrieved by a refusal on the part of an officer in charge of a police station to record an FIR as per section 154 (1) then that person may send the substance of such information, in writing and by post, to the Superintendent of Police concerned who, if satisfied that such information discloses the commission of a cognizable offense, shall either investigate the case himself or direct an investigation to be made by any police officer subordinate to him, in the manner provided by this Code, and such officer shall have all the powers of an officer in charge of the police station in relation to that offense.

Latika Kumari v. Govt. of UP & Ors. The Supreme Court, in this judgment, laid down eight guidelines that are to be followed by the Police till date. “whether it is binding for the police to lodge an FIR when it is informed about the occurrence of an offense which is cognizable in nature?”. The Apex Court affirmatively answered this question and ruled that it is obligatory for the Police to lodge an FIR on receiving information that discloses the commission of a cognizable offense.

  • Power to investigate and procedure of investigation- Section 156 gives the power to a police officer to investigate any cognizable offense without the order of a Magistrate, and the proceedings of the Police cannot be called into question on the ground that this Section does not empower a police officer to investigate. For investigation, as mentioned under Section 156 of the Code, the Police have to send a report to the Magistrate first and then start the investigation. The police officer, on completion of the investigation, has to send the police report as per Section 173(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The police report should contain the following:
    • names of the parties; nature of the information;
    • names of persons who appear to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case;
    • whether any offense appears to have been committed and, if so, by whom;
    • whether the accused has been arrested; whether he has been released on his bond and, if so, whether with or without sureties;
    • Whether he has been forwarded in custody under section 170.
  • Investigation into non-cognizable offenses : can be carried out by Police after an order has been passed by the Magistrate.
  • Power to inquire and report on suicide– Section 174 of the Code of criminal procedure, 1973 empowers Police to inquire and report the cases of suicide, or when has been killed by another person, by an animal, machinery, accident, or has died under the circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offense.
  • Power to require the attendance of witnesses- According to Section 160(1) of the Code, Police can order the witnesses (except the ones mentioned in the proviso to Section 160(1)) to present before themselves or any other person provided the order is in writing, the person is acquainted with the facts of case and person is within the limits of the police station.
  • Power of preventive arrest– Section 151 of the Code of criminal procedure, 1973 empowers the Police to arrest a person without the orders of the Magistrate if it appears to the police officer that such person is planning to commit any cognizable offense in any manner. In Medha Patkar v. State, the landowners of Madhya Pradesh and some other people gathered on the road and were shouting slogans and raised their demands. Police arrested those people along with women and children under Section 151 of the aforesaid Act. It was held that there was no danger that the gathering would commit a cognizable offense, so arresting them was not in accordance with the provisions of Section 151 of the Code and violated their Fundamental Right enshrined under Article 21 and its perfect example of misusing power by a police officer.

So Police officers have no right to arrest during a peaceful protest.

Moreover, CHAPTER IV, SECTION 36 TO 40 OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE (CRPC) also provides some powers of police superior officer section 36 of the CrPC basically says:-

Police officers superior in rank to an officer in charge of a police station may exercise the same powers throughout the local area to which they are appointed as may be exercised by such officer within the limits of his station.

The police Act of 1861 is an important statute that highlights the functions and powers of police officers. It provides all important things related to Police. The preamble to this Act itself states that “it is expedient to reorganize the police and to make it a more efficient instrument for the prevention and detection of crime.”

Therefore, another definition of ‘Police’ can be construed from the preamble of the Act itself, which is Police is an instrument whose objective is the prevention and detection of crime.

Police Acts.

Following are many acts that lay down provisions for the administration, powers, and duties of police officers:

  • The Police Act, 1861- It is the main statute, and it talks about the overall administration of Police statewide. It extends throughout India. According to Section 2 of this Act, the number of officers or men employed in the Police shall be decided by the respective state government from time to time and will be enrolled formally. The entire working of the police officer force in the State is in the hands of Director- General of Police, whereas as per Section 4 of the Act, the administration throughout the district is in the hands of the District Superintendent of Police under the directions of District Magistrate, i.e. ( IAS ) officer.
  • The Police Act, 1888– The objective of this Act, according to Section 2, is “the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, create a special police district embracing parts of two or more States, and extend to every part of the said district the powers and jurisdiction of members of a police force belonging to a State specified in the notification.”
  • The Police Act 1949– This Act has made the provisions for administration of the police force in Union Territories. According to Section 5 of this Act, the superintendence of Police throughout the general police district is exercised by Central Government. All the provisions of The Police Act, of 1861 are applicable to the administration of Police in UTs.
  • The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946– This Act has played a pivotal role in the functions of police officers. It provides for a special police force in Delhi, and this body can also integrate or aid the Police of other states with the concurrence of respective State Governments.
  • The Model Police Act, 2006– This Act lays down the Constitution of model police appointment of model police, the powers of police officers in this regard, role, and responsibilities of police officers.

Duties and responsibilities of Police

Section 57 of the Model Police Act, 2006 lays down the role, functions, and duties of the Police. Following are the important provisions of the aforesaid Section of this Act.

“The role and functions of the Police shall broadly be:

  1. to uphold and enforce the law impartially and to protect the life, liberty, property, human rights, and dignity of the members of the public;
  2. to promote and preserve public order;
  3. to protect internal security, to prevent and control terrorist activities, breaches of communal harmony, militant activities, and other situations affecting Internal Security;
  4. to protect public properties, including roads, railways, bridges, vital installations, establishments, etc., against acts of vandalism, violence, or any kind of attack;
  5. to prevent crimes and reduce the opportunities for the commission of crimes through their own preventive action and measures as well as by aiding and cooperating with other relevant agencies in implementing due measures for the prevention of crimes;
  6. to accurately register all complaints brought to them by a complainant or his representative, in person or received by post, e-mail, or other means, and take prompt follow-up action thereon, after duly acknowledging the receipt of the complaint;
  7. to register and investigate all cognizable offenses coming to their notice through such complaints or otherwise, duly supplying a copy of the First Information Report to the complainant, and where appropriate, to apprehend the offenders and extend requisite assistance in the prosecution of offenders;
  8. to create and maintain a feeling of security in the community, and as far as possible, prevent conflicts and promote amity;
  9. to provide, as first responders, all possible help to people in situations arising out of natural or man-made disasters, and to provide active assistance to other agencies in relief and rehabilitation measures; to aid individuals, who are in danger of physical harm to their person or property, and to provide necessary help and afford relief to people in distress situations;
  10. to facilitate orderly movement of people and vehicles and to control and regulate traffic on roads and highways;
  11. To collect intelligence relating to matters affecting public peace and all kinds of crimes, including social offenses, communalism, extremism, terrorism, and other matters relating to national security, and disseminate the same to all concerned agencies, besides acting as appropriate on it themselves.
  12. to take charge, as a police officer on duty, of all unclaimed property and take action for their safe custody and disposal in accordance with the procedure prescribed.”

The social Responsibilities of the Police, as mentioned under Section 58 of the Model Police Act, 2006, are as follows:-

“Every police officer shall:

  1. behave with the members of the public with due courtesy and decorum, particularly so in dealing with senior citizens, women, and children;
  2. guide and assist members of the public, particularly senior citizens, women, children, the poor and indigent, and the physically or mentally challenged individuals who are found in helpless conditions on the streets or other public places or otherwise need help and protection;
  3. provide all required assistance to victims of crime and of road accidents, and in particular, ensure that they are given prompt medical aid, irrespective of medico-legal formalities, and facilitate their compensation and other legal claims;
  4. ensure that in all situations, especially during the conflict between communities, classes, castes, and political groups, the conduct of the Police is always governed by the principles of impartiality and human rights norms, with special attention to the protection of weaker sections, including minorities;
  5. prevent harassment of women and children in public places and public transport, including stalking, making objectionable gestures, signs, remarks, or harassment caused in any way;
  6. render all requisite assistance to the members of the public, particularly women, children, and the poor and indigent persons, against criminal exploitation by any person or organized group; and
  7. arrange for legally permissible sustenance and shelter to every person in custody and making known to all such person provisions of legal aid schemes available from the Government and also inform the authorities concerned in this regard.”

Human Right violations

Since Police officers deal with a number of people, both accused and innocent, the use of force by Police to a certain extent is necessary to perform their duties, but in this process, the human rights and Fundamental Rights of the citizens should not be violated. Universal Declaration of Human Rights has given several important human rights to the people such as Article 3 states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and personal security.” Further, Article 5 says, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Also, many Fundamental Rights like Articles 19 and 21 give freedom and the right to life to everyone. Police are criticized for treating prison inmates or people under custody very often. Human rights are violated in many forms, such as illegal detention or arrest, and use of force which sometimes lead to death, false implications, etc.

Following are some guidelines laid down under the Constitution and various cases for the rights of prison inmates and people in custody:

  • Right to remain silent- Right to remain silent is the right of the persons in custody. Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India also protects persons to witness against them in court.
  • Right to fair investigation- This right can be interpreted from Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution. In Babubhai v. State of Gujarat & Ors., it was laid down that right to fair investigation forms part of Articles 20 and 21.
  • Handcuffing- Handcuffing is not a necessity in case of arrest. In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration, it was held that handcuffing is unreasonable and inhumane, and it is acceptable only in some exceptional circumstances.
  • Arrest- In cases of arrest, Article 22 provides that the person who is to be arrested has a right to know the reasons for his/ her arrest.

The Code of conduct for Police in the country, which was adopted at the Conference of the Inspectors General of Police in 1960, is as follows:

  1. The Police must bear faithful allegiance to the Constitution of India and respect and uphold the rights of the citizens as guaranteed by it.
  2. The Police should not question the propriety of the necessity of any law duly enacted. They should enforce the law firmly and impartially without fear or favor, malice, or vindictiveness.
  3. The Police should recognize and respect the limitations of their powers and functions. They should not usurp or even seem to usurp the functions of the judiciary and sit in judgment on cases to avenge individuals and punish the guilty.
  4. In securing the observance of the law or in maintaining order, the Police should, as far as practicable, use the methods of persuasion, advice, and warning. When the application of force becomes inevitable, only the irreducible minimum of force required in the circumstances should be used.
  5. The prime duty of the Police is to prevent crime and disorder, and the Police must recognize that the test of their efficiency is the absence of both and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
  6. The Police must recognize that they are members of the public, with the only difference being that in the interest of society and on its behalf, they are employed to give full-time attention to duties that are normally incumbent on every citizen to perform.
  7. The Police should realize that the efficient performance of their duties will be dependent on the extent of ready cooperation that they receive from the public. This, in turn, will depend on their ability to secure public approval of their conduct and actions and to earn and retain public respect and confidence.
  8. The Police should always keep the welfare of the people in mind and be sympathetic and considerate towards them. They should always be ready to offer individual service and friendship and render necessary assistance to all without regard to their wealth and/or social standing.
  9. The Police should always place duty before self, should maintain calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule, and should be ready to sacrifice their lives in protecting those of others.
  10. The Police should always be courteous and well-mannered; they should be dependable and impartial; they should possess dignity and courage, and they should cultivate character and the trust of the people.
  11. The integrity of the highest order is the fundamental basis of the prestige of the Police. Recognizing this, the Police must keep their private lives scrupulously clean, develop self-restraint and be truthful and honest in thought and deed, in both personal and official life, so that the public may regard them as exemplary citizens.
  12. The Police should recognize their full potential for the State. It is best ensured only by maintaining a high standard of discipline, faithful performance of duties in accordance with the law, implicit obedience to the lawful directions of commanding ranks, and absolute loyalty to the force and by keeping themselves in the State of constant training and preparedness.
  13. As members of a secular, democratic state, the Police should strive continually to rise above personal prejudices and promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic, and regional or sectional diversities and renouncing practices of derogatory to the dignity of women and disadvantaged segments of the society.

Police are an important instrument that is responsible for maintaining peace and order in the country. A country is able to live peacefully without insecurities if the Police perform its functions and duties efficiently and effectively. Police Act 1861 and Model Police Act, 2006 specify the administration, role, duties, and powers of the Police Department. Further, The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 empowers police officers to conduct investigations, and make arrests, including preventive arrests, requires the attendance of witnesses, etc.


  1. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  2. The Police Act, 1861
  3. The Police Act, 1888
  4. The Police Act,1949
  5. The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946
  6. The Model Police Act, 2006
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