By Aditi Tiwari
On September 13, 202, the official twitter handle of the Uttar Pradesh Government through a series of late night posts, quoted Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi, announcing setting up of a Special Security Force, constituted on the lines of CISF- the Central Industrial Security Force.
The force has been constituted to provide “better protection and security of a body or a person, or the residential premises” notified by the state government, and vital installations including courts, “administrative offices, shrines, Metro rail, airports, banks, other financial institutions, industrial undertaking,” etc. Thus, the main aim of the UPSSF is protect key establishments and provide security cover to the VIPS, similar to how CISF operates.
The proposal for SSF came into existence on the directions of the Allahabad HC pulled up the state government in December 2019 after three assailants opened fire in the court of the Bijnor chief judicial magistrate, killing a murder accused and injuring two policemen and a court employee, stating that most incompetent police personnel are being posted at the courts and that it will seek the deployment of central forces if the state government is not up to the task. This was following after other incidents of violence were reported as well.
The UP-Government twitter handle on September 13 said that initially there would be five battalions will be constituted in the first phase and it will be headed by an ADG-ranked officer, with the total strength expected to be of 9,919 security personnel. Expenses incurred in the first phase will be around Rs 1,747 crore. This is considered to be Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s dream project.
Controversy regarding the act:
Arrest and Search Powers
In a now deleted tweet of the UP Government, one of the most controversial provisions of the act is the Section 10 of the act, which states that any member of the force can, without the prior permission of any magistrate and without any warrant, arrest any person either for obstructing the force’s duties or on suspicion that the suspect is connected to an offence or taking steps to commit one. Section 11 allows the force to detain, and search without a warrant. With both these sections in place, the suspect is to be handed over to a police officer “without delay”. Both the above sections are modelled on Sections 11 and 12 of the CISF Act, 1968, which lay down “Power to arrest without warrant” and “Power to search without a warrant”.
It is important to note that such security acts are already prevalent in states like Odisha and Maharashtra, where the Maharashtra State Security Corporation Act, 2010, which came into existence after the 26/11 attacks, and Odisha Industrial Security Force Act, 2012, where they have similar provisions for making arrests. Although the Maharashtra legislation does not give the power to search without warrant, while the Odisha Act does, the UPSSF is still a bit different from these two acts in the kinds of institutions that it protects.
Ambit of the Act
The CISF and Odisha Industrial Security Force are meant to protect “Industrial Undertakings”; the Maharashtra State Security Corporation secures “State and Central Government offices, undertakings, establishments, institutions, employees of all such establishments, Public Sector Undertakings, Vital Installations, Financial Institutions, Religious Institutions, Cultural Institutions, Medical Institutions or commercial establishment like Malls, Multiplexes, Clubs and Hotels etc.” Vital installations are defined as “establishments, which if damaged or sabotaged, affect the economy, safety and security of the country or state” – for example, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
The UPSSF has a wider ambit, it will provide security to not just to a body but also to a person and to the residential premises, statues, monuments and both public & private buildings.
Protection given to the members of the force
The act is also facing criticism with respect to the sweeping protection it offers to the members of the force, i.e., Section 15 which offers protection against actions done in good faith, and Section 16, which states that “no court shall take cognizance of an offence against any member of the force for action taken in discharge of their duties”, thus essentially shielding them from prosecution even if they exceed their powers in exercise of their duties.
This is in fact not in consonance with the CISF act, Section 21 of which clearly states action can be taken against any CISF personnel on the ground that he/she violated the power of the force. If a complaint is made against a CISF member, legal proceedings shall be commenced with three months after the act complained of shall have been committed.