The Special Security Force was announced by the Uttar Pradesh government in June with the objective of reducing the burden on the Provincial Armed Constabulary. On July 30, the state Cabinet okayed the creation of an eight-battalion force, with five battalions comprising about 9,900 personnel, to be raised in the first phase and on August 31, the Special Security Force Act was notified.
The Act can also be said to be a response to the Allahabad High Court directive to the state government to strengthen security inside court campuses in a case of murder within the court premises.
As per the Act, the Force will be led by an Additional Director General-level officer. The purpose of the Act is stated as, “to maintain the smooth and strong security arrangements of the vital establishments and of notified persons, as at the Centre and in other states, there is no special security force established in the state of Uttar Pradesh.”
The Act clearly states that the Force is being constituted for “better protection and security of a body or a person, or the residential premises” as well as courts, administrative offices, shrines, Metro rail, airports, banks, other financial institutions, industrial undertaking etc.
A reading of the main purpose of the Act gives an impression that the Force is akin to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) that stands guard at most of the airports in India or the Railway Protection Force (RPF). In fact, the state government has claimed that similar forces exist at the central level and states of Maharashtra and Odisha have a similar Force.
Retired and serving personnel speak up
However, personnel from similar forces in Maharashtra and Odisha told the Hindustan Times, “We can arrest a person without a warrant but cannot search a place without it,” said D Kanakratnam, director general of police (DGP), Maharashtra State Security Corporation. While, a senior police Officer in Odisha stated that the security force in the state did not have the power of arrest, raid or seizure.
On the other hand, S.R. Darapuri, former Inspector General of UP Police, told The Wire, “It is nothing but a government security agency, much like private security agencies, whose primary duty would be to look after, guard and protect government installations such as courts, metro, government offices, and so on.”
He also added that the alarm generated by sections of the media due to the “search and arrest without warrant” provisions but without it will be rendered as nothing more than a private security agency. “Even after a search and arrest, the UPSSF will have to hand over the person(s) to local police, after which normal procedure will follow,” said Darapuri.
Provisions of the Act
Section 10 of the UPSSF Act empowers the force to arrest any person without a warrant or order from a magistrate on suspicion that the suspect is connected to an offence or taking steps to commit one. Section 11 allows the force to detain, and search without a warrant. In both cases, the suspect is to be handed over to a police officer “without delay”. Section 13 said personnel of this force would be considered on duty round-the-clock and could be deployed for security anywhere in the state.
Section 15 states, “No suit or prosecution shall lie against any officer or member of the Force or against any person acting under the order or the direction of any officer of member of the Force for anything which is done or intended to be done in good faith under this Act of any rules made thereunder.”
Section 16 of the Act states, “No court shall take cognisance of an offence against any member of the force with regard to anything done or any action taken or purporting to have been done or taken in the discharge of his duty except with prior sanction of the state government”.
Sanjay Hegde, Senior advocate at Supreme Court commented on sections 15 and 16 and said, “Though the protections under Sections 15 and 16 seem to be pari-materia [dealing with the same subject] with similar provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the Act when taken as a whole, constitutes a special force, gives them a carte blanche and assures them of state protection against allegations of misuse. Absolute, unaccountable power to a police force is the hallmark of a police state”.
Clearly, there are contrasting views on whether this Act poses any threat to human rights and has a potential for misuse. The objective of the Act is abundantly clear and the Force cannot act beyond its mandate; it is only the warrant-free arrest and search that has become a bone of contention and whether that will be misused and abused, only time will tell.
The complete Act may be read here.