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Kerala High Court: Citizens Can’t Be Charged For Questioning Police Authority Wearing Plain Clothes [READ ORDER]

“A policeman in uniform is immediately recognizable as a policeman, which implies that he is in charge of protecting the citizen from offenses and preventing crimes,” the court said.

By: Rashi Jain, SOA National Institute of Law

In the recent case of Avinash v State of Kerala, the Kerala High Court ruled that individuals who question a police officer’s authority cannot be charged with obstruction when the officer is not in uniform.

According to Justice Mohammed Nias CP, the Court upheld the decision by nullifying a case filed against an individual accused of interrogating a plainclothes officer.

Police officers must wear their statutorily-mandated uniforms while on duty to be easily recognized by citizens. “The uniform of a police man is his direct identification. A policeman in uniform is visible and a citizen immediately knows that he is a police man which will inform that the said individual is in charge of his protection and prevention of offences. It carries an undeniable symbolic value besides representing the State authority. The police uniform also symbolises pride, respect and authority over the citizens,” the order stated.

Police officers must appear before the Court in uniform on multiple occasions, and the Court stated that the requirement must be enforced fully. “The requirement of the police officer to wear uniform while in duty is to be enforced without exception. There have been instances where this Court had to remind the police officers to appear in Court in full uniform in the course of their official duty. This Court had also directed the officers under the Motor Vehicles Department to wear uniform prescribed under Rule 406 of the Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 and the corresponding circulars to be implemented and to wear the uniform prescribed therein,” the Court said.

Therefore, it directed the State Police Chief to investigate the matter. It also issued instructions on ensuring that officers complied with the relevant statutory provisions and guidelines that require them to wear uniforms while on duty.

The Court issued the order on behalf of a lawyer who had requested that the final report filed against him be quashed due to shoving and abusing him while on traffic duty to prevent him from carrying out his duties. The official’s car was parked near a sign reading ‘No Parking.’ A sticker was attached to the car.

P. Arun Kumar, representing the petitioner, contested the report and proceedings.

According to Kumar, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) submitted before the Kerala State Human Rights Commission found, based on the petitioner’s complaint, that the police failed to investigate the matter properly, which led to the petitioner to take action against the officer.

According to the petitioner, the official posted the sticker in plain clothes, not in his uniform, so the petitioner, unaware of the officer’s job, questioned his authority on serious grounds. Consequently, none of the allegations leveled substantiated any wrongdoing, it was noted. 

As the officer was dressed in plain clothes, Justice Nias concurred with the petitioner. He said that the petitioner would not have known that the officer was a city police officer. Further, the Court found no evidence of an intention to obstruct the officer’s duties in the reports or the charge sheet.

Due to the petitioner’s remission of the fine imposed for parking in a no-parking zone, the Court granted the petition by quashing the final report.

“I have no hesitation, for the reasons stated above to quash the final report. The continuance of the proceedings will be a sheer abuse of the process of the Court, as no purpose will be served by a trial in the aforesaid circumstances and to secure the ends of justice, this petition under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. is liable to be allowed,” the Court stated.

Nonetheless, the Court has emphasized the importance of police officers wearing uniforms on duty before parting.

There was a consensus that this is a statutory requirement, especially since Sections 43 and 44 of the Kerala Police Act mention police uniforms and vehicles and mention what makes them distinctive, exclusive, and easily identifiable, as well as why they must be.

“Since the police officer takes pride in his/her uniform and the visibility of a police officer is very critical for the police and the society, the requirement of wearing the same while on duty except where deviations are permissible, shall be scrupulously observed,” the Court ordered.

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