The Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court comprising of Justices Vivek Agarwal and Pankaj Naqvi in the case Jeesha @Jannu and Another v. State held that the publication of names, IDs of the accused persons other than the proclaimed offenders is a clear infringement of the Right to Privacy under Article-21( Right to Life) of the Constitution.
The Court was hearing three petitions alleging a violation of privacy on the ground that the list of ‘ Top-10 Criminals’ was displayed in three different police stations of Uttar Pradesh. It was contended by the petitioners that this act of the respondents is interfering in their right to live a dignified life and is a clear infringement of the Right to Privacy which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article- 21 of the Constitution.
on July 6,2020 a circular was issued by the UP Government in which Paragraph No.2 states that each police station should prepare a list of 10 criminals and it should be displaced on the flyboards of the police stations for keeping an eye on hardened and functional criminals. The petitioners alleged that this move violated Articles-14(Equality before law),15( Prohibition of Discrimination Against Citizens)and 21( Right to life) of the Constitution.
It was argued by Additional Advocate General that the accused persons have no right to privacy and the society needs to be aware about the criminals and their acts and therefore revealing such information does not amount to discrimination.
The following issues were discussed by the Court,
(i) Whether policy/circular is ultra vires of the provisions contained in Constitution of India especially Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution, Police Act, 1861 or UP Police Regulations?
(ii) Whether the policy/circular grants right to the police authorities to publish names of so-called criminals/accused persons on the flysheet board of the concerned police station?
(iii) Whether the publication of names of such accused persons violates the right to privacy and dignity?
The court opined that the circular is not ultra vires as the policy will enable the police to be aware about the activities of the criminals and it will ensure public order and peace. Therefore, the Court remarked,
“I have no hesitation to hold that policy/circular in its content or language does not suffer from lack of competence. when tested within the four corners of the law laid down in the case of Indian Express Newspapers, policy cannot be said to be the arbitrary, illegal or ultra vires of either the Constitution or the Police Act or the Police Regulations.”
On the second issue the Court said that the circular in question or any of the provisions of the Police Act or Police Regulations does not empower the police to publish the names of so- called criminals on the notice boards of the police station unless they are declared guilty by the procedure established by law.
On the third issue, it was stated by the Court that dignity of the accused persons is violated by publishing their names without any proclamation issued against them u/s 82 of C.r.P.C. that provides for the conditions in which a proclamation can be issued by any court for an absconding person.
“…. it is apparent that neither socially nor politically it is desirable to curtail human dignity, which is infringed when names of accused persons are displayed on the flysheet board of the police station concerned or anywhere else without there being any proclamation issued against them under Section 82 Cr.P.C. Thus, this practice of putting the names on the flysheet board is derogatory to the concept of human dignity and privacy,” read the lead opinion authored by Justice Agarwal.
Justice Naqvi opined that,
“… the circular of DG (Police) dated 6.7.2020 cannot be faulted, but the action of its officers in disclosing the identity of petitioners in police stations in public gaze is absolutely unwarranted and uncalled for as being violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.”