- GS-2: Working of Executive & Federal Challenges
Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021
Context: The Bihar legislature witnessed noisy disorder inside and outside the Assembly on March 23-24 as Opposition parties opposed the government’s attempt to pass the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021.
Protesting Opposition lawmakers were forcibly ousted by marshals and additional police forces called in by the Speaker’s office, with many injured in the scuffle that followed. However, the contentious Bill, was passed in both the Houses.
What is the new Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021?
- Special Armed Force: The contentious bill proposes to set up a special armed force to maintain public order and combat any threat to security or extremism. It apparently seeks to arm the Bihar Military Police, rename them, and empower it on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
- Power to arrest people on mere suspicion: Section 7 of the Bill gives the force the power to arrest people on the basis of mere suspicion of disrupting state government functions, or attempting to conceal their presence with the aim to commit a crime or cognizable offence.
- No requirement of warrant: The forces wouldn’t need a warrant from a magistrate to carry out an arrest or to search their premises, and the provisions to search under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 will be applied.
- Check on arrest power: The only check in place for this is that it would allow any Special Armed Police Officer, not below the notified rank to carry out an arrest. The officer must take the suspect to a nearby police station to get a report lodged detailing the arrest.
- Role of Courts & Government Sanction: The Special Armed Forces personnel cannot be taken to court for any proceeding against them unless authorised by the government.
What is the Government Saying?
- The Bill says it will be for maintenance of public order, combating extremism, ensuring the better protection and security of specified establishments.
- The Bihar government cited that the Bihar Military Police, with its distinct organisational structure, has been handling industrial security, such as that in airports and Metros, and needs a separate identity as Special Armed Forces to fulfil the changing needs of the state’s security.
- Chief Minister has stated that the specially trained force will strengthen internal security.
Why is the Opposition protesting?
- The Opposition has termed the Bill “draconian and unconstitutional” and an attempt by the government to enforce “Police Raj” in the State.
- The joint Opposition statement said the Bill will “effectively transform the police force into an armed militia to throttle the voice of the people, academics, activists, journalists, political opposition and those who would dare to speak the truth”.
- There is also criticism of the bill on the grounds of separation of power. Section 15 of the Bill says even if a person is shot, the inquiry will be done not in the court or by the magistrate but by the police.
- Through this Act, it has been alleged by opponents that the BMP will function as National Investigating Agency (NIA)