Saturday, March 2, 2024

Ensure compliance with Police Manual to deal with missing arms and cartridges: Chief Justice Vinod Chandran

In pursuance of public interest, Rohit Kumar, the petitioner, a practicing advocate sought an audit as well as physical verification of the arms and ammunition as well as records of arsenal and armoury kept with the Bihar Police, including the Bihar Military Police, which are situated at District Headquarters (Police Line) and the Headquarters of Bihar Military Police. 

The petitioner had filed CWJC No.11642 of 2021 in the Patna High Court. The petitioner had prayed for setting up of a Special Team by the Patna High Court to investigate cases registered under Samsatipur and Siwan Mufassil Police Stations in relation to missing of huge cache of ammunition.

The petitioner relied on the report of the Accountant General (Audit) about missing of arms and cartridges from the arsenal of Darbhanga Police Line in February 2019. He had alleged that the police officials themselves are responsible for missing of arms and ammunition, which find their way to the hands of extremists/miscreants/criminals. The Superintendent of Police(E), CID, Bihar, Patna has filed a counter affidavit. It is stated that in pursuance to the order of the Court dated August 2, 2021, details of the progress of the investigation in the referred crimes were called for. 

The order records that with respect to the Samastipur Muffasil Police Station case, 10 persons, who were from the police force itself, were arraigned as accused and on investigation, it was found that 7 of them were involved in the incident. The Investigating Officer has also requested for issuance of arrest warrant against the accused persons. 

With respect to the Siwan Mufassil Police Station case, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against two Sub-Inspectors and a Constable and punishment has been inflicted on them. 

With respect to the Konch Police Station case, 18 police personnel were arraigned as accused and Charge Sheet No. 50 of 2019 dated March 9, 2019 had been submitted in the court against five of them. It was also stated that further investigation is going on against some other named persons also. The Senior Superintendent of Police, Darbhanga had reported vide Annexure-D that there was no case of missing arms’ cache reported in the District Police Lines.

In the counter affidavit, it was also pointed out from Police Manual (Vol-1) that an annual report of arms, ammunition, equipment and stores, as on 31st March previous year, is to be submitted to the Assistant Inspector General in Police Manual Form No. 169 on the 1st of May by all districts. The certification to be made in the said form is to the effect that the articles are duly accounted for and the balance corrected, with any variation also to be indicated. Strict compliance of the Police Manual Rule is directed through Memo No. 1991 dated 16.08.2021, communicated to all the Range I.G./D.I.G./S.S.Ps and S.Ps. of Bihar. As of now, it is submitted that there is regular compliance of the Police Manual insofar as the certification to be submitted on the close of year. 

Police Manual Rule Nos. 1096, 1097 and 1098 containing detailed procedure for inspection of arms and ammunition, is also specifically referred to. The responsibility to carry out such inspection has been conferred on the Range DIG/IG and the Arms and Ammunition Inspection Team from the Police Headquarters, Patna would also be carried out. As of now, in every district, officers and men from Armory Cadre have been posted to ensure proper upkeep and maintenance of arms and ammunition. Annexure-F is the detailed report submitted by the Dy.S.P. (Armoury), Central Arms Workshop and Stores, Patna for the last five years, which inspection was carried out by the Central Arms Inspection Team. 

A supplementary counter affidavit was filed pursuant to the orders of High Court dated October 5, 2021 regarding the present status of verification of the arms and ammunition and also the investigation in cases. 

In the Samastipur Mufassil Police Station case, departmental proceedings were initiated against many named accused police officials and four have been dismissed from service after they were found guilty in the disciplinary proceedings. 

As far as the Siwan Police Station case, it was found that 35 round cartridges were allotted to a police constable and the same were robbed from him, which has also been written off from the district records. A similar article of theft having been revealed in the investigation, has also been placed on record. One pistol, which was found missing, was also deposited in the armory by the allottee, afterwards. The reports of the Superintendents of Police, Samastipur, Siwan and Gaya are produced as Annexure- A, B and C in the supplementary affidavit.

The Court observed that "We are of the opinion that the department has been cautioned on the subject matter sought to be agitated before this Court in the above writ petition in the nature of Public Interest Litigation. We see that the Police Manual also has sufficient precautionary measures to ensure the proper up keep of the armouries and enable periodic inspection of the same. Sufficient progress has also been made in the cases registered in Samastipur, Siwan and Gaya Police Stations."

The Court did not set up any Special Team to investigate cases registered under Samsatipur and Siwan Mufassil Police Stations in relation to missing of huge cache of ammunition, as per the prayer of the petitioner. The Court concluded that "We are of the opinion that the writ petition can now been disposed of directing the Department and its officials to ensure due compliance of the Police Manual." The bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Madhuresh Prasad decided the case on April 18, 2023. The order was authored by the Chief Justice.

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