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What is the law on use of handcuffs?

Handcuffing -Guidelines of the Supreme Court

(a) Background: The arrested person must be produced before the Magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. Thereafter the person is remanded to custody only by judicial order. The accused is taken from court to prison and from prison to court by the escort party. The escorting police party is solely responsible for escape of under trial prisoners during transit. Insurance against escape may require handcuffing when the prisoner is violent, and aggressive. Many a time handcuffs are used on extraneous consideration like punishment by humiliation or for convenience of the escort party.

(b) No handcuffs in general: As a police officer is vested with power to restrain a person by handcuffing him, there is simultaneous restraint by the law on the police officer as to the exercise of the power. The handcuffs should not be used in routine manner. The minimum freedom of movement which even an under trial prisoner is entitled to under Article 19 of the Constitution, cannot be cut down cruelly by application of handcuffs or other hoops. [Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration -AIR 1978 SC 1675].

Involvement of the prisoner in a score of criminal cases is no ground for handcuffing. Nor can a person be handcuffed only because he is charged with a grave offence. It cannot be used only for the convenience of the escort party. The rules, regulations and manuals of various states authorising the police to use handcuffs have been struck down as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. [Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration -AIR 1980 SC 1535].

(c) Use of Handcuffs -conditions for: The handcuffs can be used by the escorting police party if the prisoner is dangerous and desperate, or if the prisoner is likely to break out of custody or play the vanishing trick. The escorting party must form the opinion on the basis of antecedents of the prisoner. [Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration -AIR 1980 SC 1535]. The escorting authority should record contemporaneously the reasons for handcuffing an under trial prisoner even in extreme cases and intimate the court, so that the court may consider the circumstances and issue necessary directions to the escort party. [Sunil Gupta v. State of M.P. -1990 SCC (Cr.) -440].

(d) Duty of Superior Officer of Police: The instructions given by the Apex Court must be obeyed from D.G. of Police to escort Constable and from I.G. of Prisons to Jail Wardens. The duty officer at the police station must ensure that an accused when brought to the police station or dispatched, the fact where he was handcuffed should be clearly mentioned alongwith reasons for handcuffing in the relevant diary of the police station. Disciplinary action should be taken against the defaulter for non-observance of the instructions of the Supreme Court. The supervisory officers at various levels are duty bound to see that the instructions of the Supreme Court are strictly complied with. [Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi Administration ľAIR 1980 SC 1535].

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