The Principles of Police Interrogation: An Approach Towards an Ideal System

The Police as an institution plays a very significant role in maintaining a balance in the societal norms. In the hours of need, a policeman happens to be the most appropriate person to approach, facilitated by the Police Manuals which put forth that a police station is supposed to be a dynamic institution where anyone can approach without any hesitation. The most important duty of this institution is of the maintenance of law and order. But as it is said, “ideal power corrupts humans”, on a similar note the Police Power has also in many cases has to lead to the misuse of its powers which then turns out to be the violation of basic Human Rights. Here in this article, we would discuss the role of Police as an institution and how, in India, the Police Manuals has become a debilitated rule book, which has led to the sufferings of innocents, and how its effects could be palliated.

Understanding Police as an Institution

Even as of now, no Indian statute defines the term police. Even if searching the Cr.P.C. or the Police Act 1881 or any other statute, both Central or State, which deals with Criminal Laws one may not find any mention of its definition. The Police Act, in general, only discusses the structure and organization of the police force in a particular state.

As a full-fledged concept, the institution of Police was first developed in the Crown rule of the 1800s with the establishment of London’s first Municipal Force under the control of Sir Robert Peel. Before this Police was a voluntary job where individuals voluntarily used to patrol the streets weekly.[i]

As stated in the Black’s law dictionary, “police” essentially means a governmental department which has the power and duty to protect and preserve the public order, safety, and detects, and control occurrences of crimes.[ii] In light of this definition, the term may be comprehended as an institution that receives authority from the state, to investigate matters and prevent crime to maintain tranquillity in the state through law and order.

Fundamentals of the Principles of Police Interrogation

There are no consolidated or well-laid principles on the mechanism of Police Interrogation but based upon writings of the Jurists and various international conventions there are some inherent principles that the Police has to follow while administering Interrogation. The notion behind it is that even if Police are performing an action authorized by the state, their actions must not be violative of the basic human and fundamental rights of the person concerned. These principles are made to promote human rights and fundamental freedom which can never be absolved not even under the garb of state action.[iii] Some of the principles are as follows: [iv]

  1. The person subjected to interrogation has his/her basic right to life, liberty, and security. Police authorities in no way can take away these basic rights from the concerned principles. This principle is adopted from Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is also a part of Constitutional provisions like Article 20, and Article 21.
  2. A person subjected to interrogation cannot be arbitrarily deprived of his/her life. The authority should have a subjective satisfaction to move further with such interrogations. This principle is adopted from Article 6(1) of the ICCPR and is specifically dealt with under Article 20 of the Constitution of India.
  3. A person subjected to interrogation shall not be subjected to torture or any other inhumane punishment which would rob him/her of his/her basic fundamental rights, and could not be forced to incriminate against his/her findings.
  4. Every person would have the fundamental right of equality before the law and equal protection of the law and no authority can take it away from a person subjected to interrogation. This is also dealt with under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. 
  5. There are pre-established guidelines and procedures for the treatment of a person subjected to interrogation in police custody which includes not to subject him/her to torture and a due process established by law to be followed at every stage. 

Rights of an Arrested Person subjected to Interrogation

There are inviolable rights that a person possesses when subjected to Police Interrogation in police custody. Some of which are as follows,

  1. In India, an accused person is innocent until proven guilty, which should be furthered with evidence, so concrete, that they would not leave even an iota of doubt. Primarily, the liability for proving the guilt is on the prosecution side which, in turn, makes it the responsibility of the police authority to remove the shadow of doubt and prove the guilt. To fulfill this duty the police cannot inflict illicit torture on the subject and therefore the accused has a right to remain silent for which he cannot be forced to act otherwise.[v] The English and American Principle of “Right to Remain Silent” has been made a part of the Constitution under Article 20 (3), which protects persons against self-incrimination which is similar to that of the former principle. 

To substantiate upon the law laid down under Article 20(3), one may refer the case of M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra[vi], wherein the Hon’ble Apex court held that, for a person whose name is in the FIR and an investigation is professed against him, he has, as his fundamental right, the right to remain silent, for which he may not be forced, by any means, to self-incriminate the charges simpliciter.

  • Being a basic human right, every person has the Right to a Fair Investigation which is again, under the Indian Constitution, is a Fundamental Right. This right extends to individuals subjected to interrogation not only in Police Custody but also in Jail.

Substantiating on this point, we have the case of Babubhai v. State of Gujarat[vii], wherein the Apex Court held that a fair investigation is not only a fundamental Human Right but is also, a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 20 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. It also establishes that Speedy investigation and Speedy Trial are both mutual, inter-connected, and inter-dependent, and therefore to delay the investigation process is nothing but the infringement of the Fundamental Right of a concerned individual. 

  • A person subjected to interrogation need not compulsorily be taken in police custody. A normal questioning, if possible, could also be made. Interrogation in custody is only when the authority has a subjective satisfaction with relation to the commission of the offense by the concerned person. The contrary would defeat the individual’s basic Right to Life.[viii]
  • Under no circumstance can a person be subjected to inhumane punishments or torture during the interrogation. Indian Parliament has since long been debating to abolish the treatment of 3rd Degree torture, but nothing substantial has been made to date. Our Constitutional rights and the basic human rights simply denounce torture during interrogation because it robs away a person’s right of humanness.[ix] 
  • Our Constitution under Article 20 mentions the provisions for rights of a person during and after his/her arrest. These rights come into force once the person is taken into police custody and the same provisions also apply in cases of interrogation during arrests. A person in the Police Custody has all the rights to receive an acknowledgment for the grounds of his arrest so as to make a representation against the same. Under Article 22 the detaining authority is obliged to submit the person a copy of the FIR clearly establishing the grounds of arrest and allow him to consult a lawyer and make a representation, all of this being the proper procedure established by the Indian Criminal Law.[x]

Impediments in the way of an ideal system and the way forward

The basic objective of the Police is to provide security to the denizens and considering this it requires great efficiency, honesty, and professionalism. Considering the present scenario, it cannot be denied that our police forces in several instances have failed to stand on the aforementioned attributes. Corruption has maligned the mentality of the majority of police officials and considering many instances from the past their duty has lost is vigour. Police are arbitrarily using its power which defeats the basic human rights and even undermines the Constitutional values of our nation. The need for police reform is urgent and a major overhaul is an urgency.

Considering global reforms, specifically from that of Australia, France, and Germany, the legislators need to make reforms in the contemporary machinery, starting with the establishment of an institution that could monitor its working and administrative undertakings.[xi] Accountability of this institution must be strengthened and improved, starting with the grass-root level, i.e., from days of the training school. New offices, like that of Ombudsman, should be established to have a check on the police operations, and in cases where any defiance is seen proper action must be taken. Most importantly performance the Police Authority with individual behaviour should constantly be monitored.[xii] It is through these ways a change could be brought about and it is only then the Police Interrogation techniques could go hand in hand with constitutional and basic human rights.


[i] Fred E. Inbau, “Police Interrogation: A Practical Necessity”, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 89, No. 4, 1999, pp. 1403–1412,  JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1144188, ( last accessed 29 May, 2020, 07:02 PM).

[ii] The Black’s Law Dictionary, (8th Ed. 1999).

[iii] Supra Note 1.

[iv] Richard A. Leo, “Professionalizing Police Interrogation”, Police Interrogation and American Justice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts; London, England, 2008, pp. 78–118,  JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0ht7.7, (last accessed 29 May 2020, 07:05 PM).

[v] D.K Basu vState of West Bengal, (1997) 1 SCC 416.

[vi] M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, 1954 AIR 300.

[vii] Babubhai v. State of Gujarat, 1991 AIR 2173.

[viii] B.C. Pressbooks, “Interviewing, Questioning and Interrogation”, https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/criminalinvestigation/chapter/chapter-9-interviewing-questioning-and-interrogation/, (last accessed 29 May 2020, 07:05 PM).

[ix] Supra Note 5.

[x] Joginder Kumar vs State Of U.P, 1994 AIR 1349.

[xi] Supra Note 4.

[xii] Supra Note 4

Pratyush Pandey from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: