Rise in Police Brutality Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Author- Kumar Harsh , Amity Law School, Noida


As we all know that the World is suffering from Covid-19 Pandemic and the Cases are rising day by day and are making records. Many countries including India, USA, Spain, Russia had imposed lockdown as a precautionary major to deal with this pandemic. In the wake of this Covid-19 crisis and Nationwide lockdown Countries like India has been brawling with atypical problems ranging from maintaining law and order, providing medical facilities, foods and social security to the availability of medical facilities. To tackle with all these hurdle India came up with the Epidemic Disease (Amendment) Ordinance. But at the same time in tackling with all these hurdles India failed to control the cases of Police Brutality. Police Brutality means the excessive and unwarranted or illegal use of force against the public. During the lockdown India witnessed brazen display of police brutality across the country. Various photos and videos have surfaced on the internet and the News channels depicting the dictatorial powers by the police officials on the public. There is no doubt that the police are also facing challenging situation in maintaining law and order in this pandemic but at the same time we cannot deny with the fact that this does not give them the arbitrary power to use unbearable force over public. These excessive and unbearable force has developed a fear among the people stepping out of their houses to get the essential goods and services. 

Various Provisions under IPC that are related to Lockdown:

  • Section 188 imposes a duty on the public to abide by the orders promulgated by Public Servant.
  • Section 269 deals with the “negligent act that is likely to spread infectious disease that is dangerous for life”.
  • Section 270 deals with the “malignant act that is likely to spread infectious disease that is dangerous for life”.
  • Section 271 deals with the punishment for the disobeying of quarantine rule.

All the above sections are Cognizable-bailable and provides for imprisonment and fines both while prosecuting any person under section 271 requires warrant to arrest as it comes under the category of Non-Cognizable.

Powers of Police and Immunity:

Chapter X (Section 129-148) of code of Criminal Procedural Act, 1973 talks about the Public Order and Tranquillity. While Section 149 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 provides a wide range of power to the police to prevent the commission of Cognizable offences by the best of their ability. Section 151 of CrPC empowers police to arrest the offender without warrant. 

While Police also have the power under Section 129 of CrPC to use civil force for the Dispersal of assembly given that the police officer should not below the rank of sub-inspector.

Furthermore, under Section 132 of CrPC Police officers also have the protection against prosecution for the acts done under Section 129, 130 and 131 of CrPC. Which means no prosecution can be initiated without the sanction of Central or State Government.

There should be no doubt in the prosecution of the violator of quarantine rule but there is an appropriate provision for that. However, the question arises that whether the use of such forces will make the public to abide by the law.

Police Brutality and Its Impact on Human Rights:

It is to be said that Police is one of largest and most important law enforcing authority in our country and there is no doubt in this that Police possess foremost and special responsibility in protecting Human Rights. According to Preamble of The Police Act, 1861 Police are being defined as the protector of rights. But at the same time this role takes a turn, when the protector of Human Rights himself being accused of violating them. There the question arises that “Who will POLICE the POLICE”. If we take a deep look into this we will find that the root cause of these violations of Human Rights by Police is because of the manner of its functioning in the Indian Criminal Judicial System. Police Brutality takes place only because the wholesome powers given to the Police and there is no proper body to administer those powers, in such a case Police uses such unwarranted, excessive or often illegal powers against the civilians which leads to Police Brutality. It may be in any manner like torture, assault, battery, false arrest, harassment, intimidation or verbal abuse etc. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has some inherent right which could not be taken away or violated”. Article 3 of UDHR provides that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security.[1] Similarly, as per Article 6(1) of ICCPR provides that Every Human Being has inherent right to life.[2] This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. Further Article 5 of UDHR provides that No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.Apart from these Article 7 of ICCPR provides that No one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation. Apart from these Article 21 of our Constitution provides that no one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and the procedure established by law.

Cases of Police Atrocities during lockdown:

As we all know that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced the first 21 days nationwide lockdown on 24th March 2020 to combat with cases of Covid-19.  But according to the lockdown guidelines issued by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi essential service providers like medical and health professionals, food and grain transporter, and media personnel were exempted. Even after this these were the people who suffered the worst, irrespective of their age and gender. According to a report by a non- government organization Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative 12 people were killed by police beating in the first five week of lockdown. Out of these 12 deaths 3 were suicides because the victims could not stand the humiliation of the public beating. Apart from these cases on record there are a lot of cases which were not even recorded.


As we all know that Police department is there in our system to protect the citizens and their rights and to implement the law and order in a better sense. But it would be a huge loss for us if the protector of the law will himself violates the law.