Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021: Increasing police powers

On March 23, 2021, the Bihar Assembly passed the Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021.  The bill arms the police with unbridled powers to carry out raids and arrests without warrant. The passage of the bill in the assembly was met with massive protest from the MLA’s of the opposition parties.

Justifying the establishment of a new multi-domain Special Armed Police Force, the Preamble to the Bill states that “Bihar……. requires an armed police force with multi-domain expertise to meet requirements of industrial security, security of vital installations, airports, metro rail etc. in the larger interest of the state”.  The official press release states that “The deployment of such armed police units will help the state to attract capital investment, promote industrial development, protect and safeguard the places of historical and cultural importance and tourism etc.”

The Bill grants powers to any Special Armed Police Officer to arrest, without any order of a magistrate and without a warrant, any person whom the officer may accuse of “obstructing discharge of his duty” or “attempting to cause hurt” to any person or place. The Special Armed Police Officer is empowered to arrest a person on mere suspicion that he is “likely” to commit an offense against some person or establishment.  The Special Armed Police Officer has the power to detain a person and search him and his premises (residence, office, etc.), without a search warrant.  The Special Armed Police Officers will enjoy immunity from any court or legal proceedings, unless sanctioned by the government.

The utterly draconian and anti-people nature of the Bill is amply clear. Workers on strike or protest action in any factory or establishment, state-owned or private, may be arrested in the name of “threatening to use force” against the management. Women and youth participating in protest actions may be locked up, especially when the state provokes anarchy and violence to discredit and crush the protests, as is its standard practice. The victims will be denied recourse to justice from the law courts.

Political parties of the Opposition have voiced fears that the Bill will be used by the party in power to intimidate and silence them.

The bill to increase powers of the police comes in the wake of the orders issued by the Bihar and Uttarakhand governments in the first week of February this year, according to which people participating in protest actions or voicing their opposition through social media will have to face adverse consequences.

The Indian ruling class is increasingly resorting to police powers to crush all opposition to its rule. The Indian state defends the interests of the biggest monopoly capitalists – the Tatas, Ambanis and others – to enrich themselves at the fastest possible pace, through the unbridled exploitation and plunder of the land, labour and natural resources of our people. Towards this end, the repressive powers of the state are systematically being strengthened, to criminalize and brutally smash the growing opposition of the people.

The establishment of the Bihar Special Armed Police Force with draconian powers of arrest without warrant, in a state that has a history of active participation of workers, peasants, youth and students in the struggle for their rights, is clearly aimed at terrorising the people to give up their just struggles.

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