Does police need permission to enter premises of educational institutions such as JNU?


Does police need permission to enter the premises of a University or an educational institution? As in the past in similar situations, after the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) incident, some people have raised objections as to how could police enter the JNU campus without the permission of the authorities of the university. Five persons accused in the JNU incident are openly sitting within the JNU premises. Police is seeking permission to enter the University area. This is what media tells us. Let it be made clear. No such permission is necessary under law for police to enter the premises of a university such as the JNU. Any contrary suggestion is just nonsense.

Jawaharlal University (JNU)Powers of arrest are laid down in the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.). The general power of a police officer to arrest a person, without an order from the Magistrate and without a warrant, is provided under Section 41 of the Cr.P.C.

There is no provision in the Cr.P.C. which restricts the police from entering any place for effecting the arrest of a person for which the police has authority to arrest, either with or without warrant. On the other hand, Section 48 of the Cr.P.C. clearly lays down that “(a) police officer may, for the purpose of arresting without warrant any person whom he is authorised to arrest, pursue such person into any place in India”. Thus, if a police officer is authorised to arrest a person, he can pursue such person into any place in India, even if such place be out of his own jurisdiction.

Likewise, Section 47(1) of Cr.P.C. lays down that if any police officer having authority to arrest, has reason to believe that the person to be arrested has entered into or is within any place, then on demand of such police officer, any person residing in or being in charge of such place is legally bound to allow such police officer free ingress to such place and afford all reasonable facilities for a search therein.

Further, Section 47(2) of Cr.P.C. also lays down that if ingress to such place cannot be obtained by such police officer in the above manner, it shall be lawful for a police officer to enter such place and search therein. Moreover, in order to effect an entrance into such place, the police officer has the legal power to break open any outer or inner door or window of any house or place, whether that of the person to be arrested or of any other person, if after notification of his authority and purpose, and demand of admittance duly made, he cannot otherwise obtain admittance.

It is noteworthy that Section 46(2) of Cr.P.C. states that if the person to be arrested forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or attempts to evade the arrest, the police officer, having authority to arrest him, may use all means necessary to effect the arrest. This implies that all necessary force may be used to effect the arrest in such a situation. Section 46(3) says that “Nothing in this section gives a right to cause the death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life”. So, a combined reading of sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 46 shows that a police officer may use force to effect arrest of a person who forcibly resits such arrest or who attempts to evade the arrest, and in cases where such person is accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life, in such a situation, even the death of such person (who forcibly resits the arrest or attempts to evade the arrest) may be caused while effecting his arrest, if it is necessary. It is pertinent to mention that in the case of JNU students, offence of sedition under Section 124A of IPC has been registered, which may be punishable with imprisonment for life.

It may be pointed out that way back in 1914, while interpreting Section 46 of Cr.P.C. (in respect of the equivalent provisions under the old Cr.P.C.), in the case of Ramesh Chandra Banerjee v. Emperor, AIR 1914 Cal 456 : 15 Cri LJ 385, the Calcutta high court had held that the said legal provision was not intended to restrict the powers of the police to enter the place to be searched; on the contrary, it was a provision compelling householders to afford the police facilities in carrying out their duties, and the legal provision also provided that if difficulties are placed in the way of a police officer, he may use force to obtain ingress to such place.

Further, Section 165 and 166 of the Cr.P.C. permit police, without a search warrant, to conduct search in any place for anything necessary for the purposes of an investigation in a cognizable offence. Procedure for conducting such search is as laid down in Section 100 of Cr.P.C, and sub-section (2) thereof provides that the provisions of Section 47(2), as mentioned above, can be used for this purpose for forcibly entering any place.

These legal provisions make it abundantly clear that police has sufficient powers to enter any place for the purposes of effecting arrest of a person, for whose arrest the police has authority, or for the purposes of searching anything that is necessary for an investigation in a cognizable offence.

There is nothing in law exempting any specific place, such as a university or a place of worship, etc., from these general powers of police. There are umpteen number of cases wherein the police has entered educational institutions or even places of worship for performance of their lawful duties. In 1984, the armed forces had forcibly entered the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This one example can very easily illustrate the extent and scope of this power that is vested in the law enforcement agencies.

Thus, there is nothing in law that requires that the police should first formally obtain permission from the Vice Chancellor (VC) of a university for entering the university for effecting arrest of an individual, for whose arrest the police has the authority. No law restrains the police. It is only because of a convention or a courtesy that generally police takes the higher authorities of an educational institution into confidence (either by taking his permission or by informing him in advance) before entering its premises. But, the law does not restrict such entry.

In fact, on the other hand, if the authorities of the university do not permit the police to enter its premises to effect the arrest of persons hiding therein, for whose arrest police has the authority, such authorities may be themselves liable for the offence of harbouring the offender(s) under Section 212 of IPC or under other appropriate sections of IPC.

It is ridiculous that anti-nationals (who are not genuine students) can freely enter the JNU to raise anti-national slogans, but the police officers cannot do so even in the due exercise of their statutory duties. Suppose there is a law and order problem within the university, should the police wait for the VC to permit it to enter its premises to control such problem?

It is just nonsense to suggest that police needs permission to enter premises of a university even in the due exercise of its statutory powers. Let me make it clear from my personal experience (of my past service in IPS) that I have myself entered the premises of educational institutions on several occasions for due performance of my legal duties. I did not have to take any permission for doing so. As I mentioned earlier, it is only as a courtesy that usually the authorities of the educational institutions are contacted by police in advance before entering its premises. Sometimes, such prior approval is taken so that situation does not worsen by hurting sentiments of students who may already be on agitation. But, the law does not require it and the police has the power to enter such premises, without permission and forcibly also, if need be, as I have shown above from the relevant legal provisions.

In the light of what is mentioned above, I am of the considered opinion that police has full powers to enter the JNU premises to effect arrest of the students involved in the offence of sedition, either with or without the permission of the VC. Of course, keeping the VC in picture is advisable, but if the VC acts erratically and/or delays the so-called permission to enter JNU premises, or if it is not possible to seek such permission, the police has full powers to enter the premises of JNU, if needed even forcibly. Any contrary opinion in this regard can only be termed as erroneous and ill-informed.

About Dr. Ashok Dhamija

Dr. Ashok DhamijaDr. Ashok Dhamija is a New Delhi based Supreme Court Advocate, holds Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, is author of 3 law books, and is an ex-IPS officer. He is the founder of this law portal. Read more by clicking here. List of his articles. List of his Forum Replies. List of his Quora Answers.

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