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Summoned by the Police: Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

Being summoned by police or law enforcement can evoke trepidation and stress, but it is crucial to be aware of your legal rights and obligations. When asked for questioning, provision of information, or receipt of a summons, knowing how to respond will safeguard your legal standing and ensure appropriate interactions with law enforcement.

The CrPC's Section 41A allows for the issuance of a notice of appearance instead of immediate arrest for offenses punishable by up to seven years in prison. In contrast, Section 160 empowers the police to summon witnesses for investigation purposes without involving arrest, enabling them to provide information or evidence during the investigation.

As per Section 41A of the CrPC, an individual served with a notice must appear before the designated police officer at the specified time and place. Compliance with the notice generally prevents arrest, except in exceptional circumstances. However, failure to appear will result in arrest.

This guide provides essential measures to follow when called in by the police, highlighting the significance of cooperation while upholding your legal protections.

  1. Remain Calm and Composed: Maintaining composure is vital when encountering police summons. Anxiety is understandable, but it's essential to remain calm and avoid confrontations. Panicking or becoming aggressive can exacerbate the situation and have negative consequences.
  2. Review the Summons Carefully: Thoroughly review the summons or subpoena. Note the scheduled appointments, hearings, and specific requirements or instructions. This preparation will help you understand the purpose and expectations associated with the summons.
  3. Understand the Nature of the Summons: Determine the reason for the summons. Are you a witness, person of interest, or suspect? Understanding the nature of the situation will enable you to prepare for your interaction with law enforcement and respond appropriately to their inquiries.
  4. Seek Legal Guidance: If you have doubts or queries regarding the summons, consult with a competent attorney. An attorney can inform you of your rights and responsibilities, advise on appropriate actions to safeguard your legal interests, and represent you if necessary during questioning or legal proceedings.
  5. Cooperate with Law Enforcement: Although you have the right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination, it is advisable to cooperate with law enforcement within legal limits. Answer questions truthfully and accurately, while refraining from providing unnecessary or incriminating information. Maintain respect and courtesy during interactions, even if you disagree with their actions.
  6. Exercise Your Rights: As a citizen, you have fundamental rights, including the right to remain silent and legal representation. When questioned by the police, you may decline to answer questions that could incriminate you. Additionally, you have the right to request the presence of an attorney during questioning or legal proceedings.
  7. Prepare for Your Meeting: If you have an appointment with law enforcement, prepare by reviewing relevant information and consulting with your attorney. This will help you address potential questions or concerns during your interaction.
  8. Document Your Interaction: Remember to keep a record of your interaction with law enforcement. This includes noting any questions asked, your responses, and statements made by officers. If allowed, consider using your Smartphone or another recording device to document the encounter. However, always be sure to comply with any applicable laws regarding audio or video recording.
  9. Be Mindful of Your Conduct: Maintain a respectful and cooperative demeanor throughout your interaction with law enforcement. Any false statements or misleading information provided will not be tolerated. Doing so could have serious legal consequences. Stay attentive during questioning and avoid any behavior that could be perceived as confrontational or obstructive.
  10. Follow Up as Necessary: After your interaction, take the necessary steps to address any outstanding issues or concerns. If you provided information or agreed to any actions, ensure you fulfill those obligations promptly and responsibly. Don't hesitate to contact your attorney for guidance and support if you have any questions or need further assistance.

Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench) Rules against Verbal Summons to Police Stations:

The Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench) has ruled against the practice of verbally summoning individuals, including accused persons, to police stations. This decision, made on May 4, 2022, mandates that such summons can only occur with the explicit permission of the station in-charge (OC/IC of the police station) or a subordinate officer.

The court, presided over by Justice Arvind Kumar Mishra and Justice Manish Mathur, stressed that any investigation requiring the presence of an accused must strictly adhere to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This means a written notice must be served to the individual, but only after a case has been registered.

The court's ruling emphasizes the lack of legal justification for police officers to summon and detain individuals without a registered First Information Report (FIR), particularly through verbal communication. This practice violates both the Indian Constitution and the CrPC.

The Allahabad High Court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to implement a policy requiring all police summons, including those for accused individuals, to be issued in writing by the station in-charge. Oral summons by subordinate officers are prohibited unless authorized by the station in-charge.

Power of Police Officer to Summon Witnesses (Section 160 CrPC):

Any police officer investigating under Chapter XII of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, may issue a written order summoning any person within the jurisdiction of his station or any neighbouring station, who appears to have knowledge of the case based on information received or other circumstances. The summoned individual is legally bound to attend the proceedings.

However, no male person under 15 or over 65 years of age, no female person, and no mentally or physically disabled person may be required to attend at a location other than their residence.

The state government may enact rules specifying the payment of reasonable expenses to witnesses summoned under subsection (1) who attend at a place other than their residence.

Notice to the Accused Person under Section 41A CrPC:

Upon receiving a Section 41A notice under the CrPC, it's crucial to thoroughly read the notice, understanding the allegations, the date, time, and location of your appearance before the police officer. Immediately consult with a legal professional for guidance on navigating this process. Gather any relevant documents or information that can support your case or clarify the allegations against you, and prepare your response. Ensure you appear before the police officer at the designated time and place, providing information truthfully to the best of your knowledge, while exercising caution to avoid self-incrimination. If unsure about any questions or concerns, seek counsel from your legal representative before responding.

The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 includes Section 41A, which provides for a notice of appearance to be issued by a police officer. This provision, introduced via an amendment in 2010, aims to protect individual rights and reduce unwarranted arrests. Section 41A(1) of the CrPC authorizes a police officer to issue a notice to an individual implicated in an alleged cognizable offense punishable by up to seven years in prison. The notice instructs the individual to appear before the police officer at a specified location and time for investigation. Cognizable offenses covered by this provision include theft, cheating, forgery, assault, and others with maximum penalties of up to seven years in prison.

Upon receipt of information about an offense punishable by up to seven years of imprisonment, a police officer initiates a notice under Section 41A of the CrPC, specifying the time and place of appearance. The person is informed of their right to legal representation. They appear before the officer, provide information, and clarify the offense. The officer conducts a preliminary inquiry, assessing the need for arrest or further action. If the officer finds insufficient grounds for arrest, the person may be released; otherwise, appropriate action is taken.

Section 41A of the CrPC empowers police officers to issue appearance notices to enable preliminary inquiries before arresting individuals. This provision aims to reduce unnecessary arrests by providing opportunities for individuals to clarify or provide information. However, it does not apply to cases involving severe offenses punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment exceeding seven years, where officers retain the authority to arrest without an appearance notice.

According to Section 41A (2) of the CrPC, individuals served with a notice are obligated to comply with its terms. If they do so and appear before the police officer, the officer can proceed with the investigation without arresting the accused for the offence mentioned in the notice. However, if the officer, for reasons that must be recorded, believes that arrest is necessary, they can choose to arrest the accused - Section 41A (3) of CrPC.

In the event of non-compliance with the notice without valid reason, the police officer may initiate further proceedings, potentially including arrest. As stipulated in Section 41A(4) of the CrPC, if the person fails to adhere to the notice or refuses to identify themselves, the police officer may apprehend them for the offense specified in the notice, subject to any directives from a competent court.

The Supreme Court's landmark decision in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014) emphasized the importance of exercising restraint when using the power of arrest under Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The Court emphasized that arrest should be a last resort, utilized only when absolutely necessary. This requires police officers to conduct a thorough and impartial assessment, ensuring that any decision to arrest is supported by credible information and a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

Power of Police to Summon Persons under Section 175 CrPC:

A police officer conducting an investigation under Section 174 CrPC can issue a written order to summon two or more individuals for the investigation. They can also summon anyone believed to have knowledge of the case.

All individuals summoned must appear before the officer. They are obligated to answer all questions truthfully, except those that could expose them to criminal charges or penalties.

If the investigation doesn't reveal a cognizable offense (one that warrants immediate arrest) under Section 170 CrPC, the officer cannot compel the summoned individuals to appear before a Magistrate's Court.

In summary, Police officers investigating under Section 174 CrPC have the power to summon individuals for questioning. Summoned individuals must attend and answer truthfully, but are protected from answering questions that could incriminate them. They are not required to appear before a Magistrate's Court unless a cognizable offense is uncovered.

Summons by the police can elicit significant stress. Knowledge of appropriate responses empowers you to safeguard your legal entitlements. Foster respectful and protocol-compliant interactions with law enforcement officers. Maintaining composure facilitates navigating the process with self-assurance. Consulting with legal counsel is prudent. Comply with law enforcement directives within legal boundaries. Asserting your legal privileges is paramount. Meticulously record all interactions. Exercise self-control and propriety in your demeanour. Diligently follow up on unresolved matters to mitigate potential concerns. Meticulous planning and judicious decisions empower you to effectively navigate police summons.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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