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Indian Arrest Law Chain Letter - Women's Right to Refuse to Go With Police at Night

Message claims that women living in India have the right to refuse to go to a police station between the hours of 6pm and 6am unless the arresting officer is a woman (Full commentary below).

Example:(Submitted, July 2006)
An incident took place in Pune - a young girl was ra ped by a man posing as a plain clothes officer; he asked her to come to the police station when she and her male friend didn't have a driver's license to show.

He sent the boy off to get his license and asked the girl to accompany him to the police station. Took her instead to an isolated area where the horrendous crime was committed.

The law [which most are not aware of] clearly states that between 6 pm & 6 am, a woman has the right to REFUSE to go to the Police Station, even if an arrest warrant has been issued against her. It is a procedural issue that a woman can be arrested between 6 pm & 6 am, ONLY if she is arrested by a woman officer and taken to an ALL WOMEN police station. And if she is arrested by a male officer, it has to be proven that a woman officer was on duty at the time of arrest.

Please send this to as many girls you know.. Also to boys.. coz this can help them protect their wives, sisters & mothers. It is good for us to know our rights. To what extent it comes of use remains to be seen in any situation. But as they say, knowledge is power.

This message, which travels via email, blog entries and online forum posts, claims that women have the right to refuse to go to a police station between the hours of 6pm and 6am unless the arresting officer is a woman. According to the message, women have this right of refusal even if an arrest warrant has been issued against them. The message cites the case of a young girl who was raped when she accompanied a man claiming to be a plain clothes police officer. Most versions of the message claim that the alleged incident occurred in Pune, a city located in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

I could not find any credible information relating to the specific crime described in the message. The details of the alleged attack are sketchy and no collaborating references are included. However, it is not unknown for criminals to pose as police officers in order to facilitate their misdeeds and it is possible that such an incident happened as described.

The claim that a woman has the right to refuse to go to a police station if arrested at night may be misleading. It does, however, contain an underlying element of truth.

Although I reviewed a number of sources pertaining to citizens rights in India, I found no mention of an actual law that afforded women the right to actively refuse arrest by male police officers at night. The Constitution of India outlines a set of fundamental rights pertaining to the conduct of police during the arrest of a citizen. However, there is no mention in these rights about such a stringent limitation regarding the arrest of women. Information about the rights of a person arrested on the Madhya Pradesh Police website also makes no mention of such a limitation, nor does a page on the same site outlining special rights for women and children.

However, India's National Human Rights Commission [NHRC] issued guidelines several years ago concerning arrests and detention that do give some credence to the message's claims. A 1997 NHRC report (.pdf) on the issue states:
A large number of complaints pertaining to Human Rights violations are in the area of abuse of police powers, particularly those of arrest and detention. It has, therefore, become necessary, with a view to narrowing the gap between law and practice, to prescribe guidelines regarding arrest even while at the same time not unduly curtailing the power of the police to effectively maintain and enforce law and order and proper investigation.

According to this report, the NHRC requested that all Indian state governments "translate these guidelines into their respective regional language and make them available to all Police Officers and in all Police Stations."

The report includes the following guideline pertaining to the arrest of women
As far as is practicable women police officers should be associated where the person or persons being arrested are women. The arrest of women between sunset and sunrise should be avoided.

These guidelines are also reflected in a section titled "Safeguards to be taken while arresting women" available on the Andhra Pradesh Police website. The suggested safeguards include the following:
A: While making arrest of a woman submission to custody should be presumed unless circumstances to the contrary exist. There should be no occasion for a male Police Officer to touch her person. It is therefore advisable whenever it is proposed to arrest a female, women police should be employed.

B: Arrest of women should as far as possible during night times be avoided unless it is inevitable.

Thus, while Indian Police may follow these guidelines as much as possible, I could find no evidence to support the claim that a woman may actually refuse to comply with police requests to go to a police station at night. The NHRC qualifies the guideline pertaining to the arrest of women with the phrase, "As far as is practicable". I would suggest, therefore, that if an alleged crime committed by a woman was serious in nature and no female officer was available to make the arrest, a male officer would have the power to take the woman into custody, even between 6pm and 6am.

Given that this message contains an underlying element of truth, it cannot be dismissed as an outright hoax. However, the message also perpetrates unsubstantiated and possibly exaggerated information. Before forwarding this message, and certainly before asserting this supposed "right to refuse" in a real situation, it would be wise for Indian citizens to check with authorities to ascertain how stringently their local police follow the suggested NHRC guidelines regarding the arrest of women.

Wikipedia: Pune
India Constitutional Rights
Rights of a Person Arrested
Special Rights for Women and Children
On Visits to Police Lock-ups/ Guidelines on Polygraph Tests and Arrests (.pdf)
National Human Rights Commission [NHRC]
Safeguards to be taken while arresting women

Last updated: 1st August 2006
First published: 1st August 2006

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen