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A lawyer explains students’ rights when stopped by the police

A lawyer explains students’ rights when stopped by the police

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The youth has been bullied and robbed by police in Pakistan for as long as the police has existed. While many police officers serve honestly in protecting the citizens of the country, many young people maintain that members of the police force frequently harass them for money. 

An 18-year-old-male from Karachi reported being approached by the police, and accused of being at a spot that was under lock-down due to the coronavirus. Using a combination of intimidation and lies about the law, they threatened to take him to jail, until he paid them Rs. 2,000. The male later realized that the area was not under lock-down and he had broken no laws.

Similarly, an 23-year-old female told Team ProperGaanda that she was harassed by a police simply for being with a male companion. Despite doing absolutely nothing except sitting and talking in a parked car, they were approached by a police officer who threatened them with his gun, warned that he would take them to the police station and mused if he should call up their parents. He left them only after they paid him Rs. 10,000. 

Numerous instances such as these have been reported by youths all across the country. To try and mitigate this problem, Team PG reached out to a barrister working at a reputable law firm in Karachi and serving as a High Court Advocate to better understand the rights students have when approached by police officers. 

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Under what circumstances do the police have the right to make a young person get out of their car?

The answer to this question can be easily provided by Section 125 of the Police Order 2002.

“Power to search suspected persons or vehicles in street, etc.– When in a street or a place of public resort a police officer on reasonable grounds suspects a person or a vehicle to be carrying any article unlawfully obtained or possessed or likely to be used in the commission of an offence, he may search such person or vehicle; and if the account given by such person or possessor of the vehicle appears to be false or suspicious, he may detain such article after recording in writing the grounds of such action and issue a receipt in the prescribed form and report the facts to the officer in-charge of the police station for informing the court for proceeding according to law against the person.”

So this means that they can’t search your car unless they have probable cause. Meaning that they can only search it if they have reasonable and justifiable suspicion that you might have been involved in a crime. Without this, they do not have the legal right to search you or your car or make you get out of the vehicle.
youth became traffic police for complain | Mahanagar24x7

Under what circumstances does a police officer have the right to demand money? Do they have to give you a receipt or a formal fine?

Police officers generally have no right to collect any money, other than a fine for a traffic offence/violation committed by a citizen, the details of which are given in the Provincial Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1965. The amount of the fine is variable based on the vehicle type and the severity of the offence but it usually does not exceed Rs. 1000. Details of the amounts are provided in the Twelfth Schedule of the same law.

But if you’re paying them a fine, you’re not supposed to pay them cash. They usually take some original identification and keep it until you deposit the fine either at a bank or at the police station. Section 116-A of the above law explains this in detail.

This is naturally more effort than just paying them cash, which is what they count on. They count on you being unwilling to make the effort to pay the legal fine and instead just give them a bribe to be let off. But that is illegal.

In the event that a young person is stopped by the police, how should they interact with the police without endangering themselves and the people in their car, especially if they lack economic and social capital? Should they ask for ID and assert their rights?

If a young person is stopped by the police, my first recommendation would be to stay calm and not show visible panic. It is very, very unlikely that they’ll carry out half the threats they make. The person should speak with decency and respect. Anecdotally speaking, I’ve observed that police officers tend to become much more cooperative if you speak to them within the parameters of respect. If you show them attitude or act as though you’re a big shot, they’ll be more likely to intimidate you.

Yes, generally speaking you may ask them for ID, but only under the same principle of probable cause. If you have a reason to believe they stopped you for no reason or you haven’t done anything wrong, then respectfully ask them for their ID if you think it might help your case. 

As far as safety goes, I would recommend contacting a responsible older adult who is experienced with dealing with the police. I do understand some young people might not want to call their parents though, so in that case they can perhaps consider calling a teacher or a relative whom they trust.

It is unlikely that they’ll take you to the police station though, even though they make that threat very often. Again, anecdotally speaking, I’ve observed that police officers themselves know that if they take you to the police station, they will have to justify your presence there to their superiors. If you haven’t done anything wrong, it is unlikely they will be willing to make that effort.

 

Also read: How a failed judiciary robbed Sohail Yafat of 10 years of his life