Who is police? What are powers & duties of police?


Police is the first body whom we approach in case any crime or wrong is done against us. Police is the one who registers First Information Report and police officers are responsible for the maintenance of public order and peace. There are many Acts like The Police Act, 1861, The Delhi Special Police Administration Act, 1946, The Model Police Act, etc which make provisions for the administration and functions of police force. But people are not aware of the duties and powers upto which the police can exercise their functions.

So who is Police? What are the powers and role of Police in our country? What provisions of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 talks about powers and responsibilities of Police force?

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Who is Police?

Police is the function of that branch of the administrative machinery of government which is charged with the preservation of public order and tranquility, the promotion of the public health, safety, and morals, and the prevention, detection, and punishment of crimes.[i]

The police Act, 1861 is an important statute which highlights the functions and powers of police officers. The preamble to this Act states, “it is expedient to reorganize the police and to make it a more efficient instrument for the prevention and detection of crime”.

Therefore, another definition of ‘Police’ can be construed from the preamble which is Police is an instrument whose objective is the prevention and detection of crime.

Police Acts

Following are some Acts which lay down provisions for the administration, powers and duties of police officers:

  • The Police Act, 1861- It is the main statute and it talks about overall administration of police statewise. According to the Section 2 of the Act, the number of officers or men employed in police shall be decided by the respective state government from time to time and will be enrolled formally. The entire working of police force in the state is in the hands of Director- General of Police whereas as per Section 4 of the Act, the administration throughout the district is in the hands of District Superintendent of Police under the directions of District Magistrate.
  • The Police Act, 1888- The objective of this Act according to Section 2 is “the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, create a special police district embracing parts of two or more States, and extend to every part of the said district the powers and jurisdiction of members of a police force belonging to a State specified in the notification.”
  • The Police Act 1949- This Act has made the provisions for administration of police force in Union Territories. According to Section 5 of the Act, superintendence of police throughout general police district is exercised by Central Government. All the provisions of The Police Act, 1861 are applicable for the administration of Police in UTs.
  • The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946- This Act has played a pivotal role in the functions of the police officers. It provides for a special police force in Delhi and this body can also integrate or aid the police of other states with the concurrence of respective State Governments.
  • The Model Police Act, 2006- This Act lays down the constitution, appointment, powers, role, responsibilities of police officers.

Duties and responsibilities of Police

Section 57 of Model Police Act, 2006, lays down role, functions and duties of the police. Following are the important provisions of the said Section. Section 57 states as follows,

“The role and functions of the police shall broadly be:

  • to uphold and enforce the law impartially, and to protect life, liberty, property, human rights, and dignity of the members of the public;
  • to promote and preserve public order;
  • to protect internal security, to prevent and control terrorist activities, breaches of communal harmony, militant activities and other situations affecting Internal Security;
  • to protect public properties including roads, railways, bridges, vital installations and establishments etc. against acts of vandalism, violence or any kind of attack;
  • to prevent crimes, and reduce the opportunities for the commission of crimes through their own preventive action and measures as well as by aiding and cooperating with other relevant agencies in implementing due measures for prevention of crimes;
  • to accurately register all complaints brought to them by a complainant or his representative, in person or received by post, e-mail or other means, and take prompt follow-up action thereon, after duly acknowledging the receipt of the complaint;
  • to register and investigate all cognizable offences coming to their notice through such complaints or otherwise, duly supplying a copy of the First Information Report to the complainant, and where appropriate, to apprehend the offenders, and extend requisite assistance in the prosecution of offenders;
  • to create and maintain a feeling of security in the community, and as far as possible prevent conflicts and promote amity;
  • to provide, as first responders, all possible help to people in situations arising out of natural or man-made disasters, and to provide active assistance to other agencies in relief and rehabilitation measures; to aid individual, who are in danger of physical harm to their person or property , and to provide necessary help and afford relief to people in distress situations;
  • to facilitate orderly movement of people and vehicles, and to control and regulate traffic on roads and highways;
  • to collect intelligence relating to matters affecting public peace, and all kind of crimes including social offences, communalism, extremism, terrorism and other matters relating to national security, and disseminate the same to all concerned agencies, besides acting, as appropriate on it themselves.
  • to take charge, as a police officer on duty, of all unclaimed property and take action for their safe custody and disposal in accordance with the procedure prescribed.”

Social Responsibilities of the police as mentioned under Section 58 of Model Police Act, 2006 are as follows.

“Every police officer shall:

  • behave with the members of the public with due courtesy and decorum, particularly so in dealing with senior citizens, women, and children;
  • guide and assist members of the public, particularly senior citizens, women, children, the poor and indigent and the physically or mentally challenged individuals, who are found in helpless condition on the streets or other public places or otherwise need help and protection;
  • provide all requisite assistance to victims of crime and of road accidents, and in particular ensure that they are given prompt medical aid, irrespective of medico-legal formalities, and facilitate their compensation and other legal claims;
  • ensure that in all situations, especially during conflict between communities, classes, castes and political groups, the conduct of the police is always governed by the principles of impartiality and human rights norms, with special attention to protection of weaker sections including minorities;
  • prevent harassment of women and children in public places and public transport, including stalking, making objectionable gestures, signs, remarks or harassment caused in any way;
  • render all requisite assistance to the members of the public, particularly women, children, and the poor and indigent persons, against criminal exploitation by any person or organised group; and
  • arrange for legally permissible sustenance and shelter to every person in custody and making known to all such persons provisions of legal aid schemes available from the Government and also inform the authorities concerned in this regard.”

Powers of Police

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 confers important powers on police officers. Power to investigate, search and arrest are some of the powers.

  • Registering FIR- Police has power to lodge FIR. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says that police has to record the information related to any cognizable offence.
  • Power to investigate and procedure of investigation- Section 156 gives the power to police officer to investigate any cognizable offence without the order of a Magistrate and the proceedings of the police cannot be called in question on the ground that this section does not empower police officer to investigate.

For investigation as mentioned under Section 156 of the Code, the police has to send a report to the Magistrate first and then start the investigation. The police officer on completion of investigation has to send the police report as per Section 173(2). The police report should contain the following:

  • names of the parties; nature of information;
  • names of persons who appear to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case;
  • whether any offence appears to have been committed and, if so, by whom;
  • whether the accused has been arrested; whether he has been released on his bond and, if so, whether with or without sureties;
  • whether he has been forwarded in custody under section 170.

Investigation in non- cognizable offences can be carried out by police after an order has been passed by the Magistrate.

  • Power to inquire and report on suicide- Section 174 of the Code empowers police to inquire and report the cases of suicide, or when has been killed by another person, by an animal, machinery, accident or has died under circumstances raising reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence.
  • Power to require attendance of witnesses- According to Section 160(1) of the Code, police can order the witnesses (except the ones mentioned in the proviso to Section 160(1)) to present before himself or any other person provided the order is in writing, the person is acquainted with the facts of case and person is within the limits of police station.
  • Power of preventive arrest- Section 151 of the Code empowers police to arrest a person without the orders of Magistrate if it appears to the police that the person is planning to commit any cognizable offence. In Medha Patkar v. State[ii], the landowners of MP and some other people gathered on road and were shouting slogans and their demands. Police arrested those people along with women and children under Section 151. It was held that there was no danger that the gathering will commit a cognizable offence so arresting them was not in accordance with the provisions of Section 151 of the Code and violated their Fundamental Right enshrined under Article 21.

 Human Right violations

Police deals with number of people, accused and innocent both and use of force by police to a certain extent is necessary to perform their duties but in this process the human rights and Fundamental Rights of the citizens should not be violated.  Universal Declaration of Human Rights has given several important human rights to the people such as Article 3 states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and personal security.” Further, Article 5 says that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Also, many Fundamental Rights like Article 19 and 21 give freedom and right to life to everyone. Police is criticised for treating the prison inmates or people under custody very often. Human rights are violated in many forms such as illegal detention or arrest, use of force which sometimes lead to death, false implications, etc.

Following are some guidelines laid down under the Constitution and various cases for the rights of prison inmates and people in custody:

  • Right to remain silent- Right to remain silent a is right of the persons in custody. Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India also protects persons to witness against them in the court.
  • Right to fair investigation- This right can be interpreted from the Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution. In Babubhai v. State of Gujarat & Ors., it was laid down that right to fair investigation forms the part of Articles 20 and 21.
  • Handcuffing- Handcuffing is not a necessity in case of arrest. In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[iii], it was held that handcuffing is unreasonable and inhumane and it is acceptable only in some exceptional circumstances.
  • Arrest- In cases of arrest, Article 22 provides that the person who is to be arrested has a right to know the reasons of his/ her arrest. 

Government of India Code of conduct for police[iv]

Code of conduct for police in the country which was adopted at the Conference of the Inspectors General of Police in 1960, is as follows:

1. The police must bear faithful allegiance to the Constitution of India and respect and uphold the rights of the citizens as guaranteed by it.

2. The police should not question the propriety of necessity of any law duly enacted. They should enforce the law firmly and impartially without fear or favour, malice or vindictiveness.

3. The police should recognize and respect the limitations of their powers and functions. They should not usurp or even seem to usurp the functions of the judiciary and sit in judgement on cases to avenge individuals and punish the guilty.

4. In securing the observance of law or in maintaining order, the police should as far as practicable, use the methods of persuasion, advice and warning. When the application of force becomes inevitable, only the irreducible minimum of force required in the circumstances should be used.

5. The prime duty of the police is to prevent crime and disorder and the police must recognize that the test of their efficiency is the absence of both and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

6. The police must recognize that they are members of the public, with the oply difference that in the interest of the society and on its behalf they are employed to give full time attention to duties which are normally incumbent on every citizen to perform.

7. The police should realize that the efficient performance of their duties will be dependent on the extent of ready cooperation that they receive from the public. This, in turn, will depend on their ability to secure public approval of their conduct and actions and to earn and retain public respect and confidence.

8. The police should always keep the welfare of the people in mind and be sympathetic and considerate towards them. They should always be ready to offer individual service and friendship and render necessary assistance to all without regard to their wealth and/or social standing.

9. The police should always place duty before self, should maintain calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule and should be ready to sacrifice their lives in protecting those of others.

10. The police should always be courteous and well mannered; they should be dependable and impartial; they should possess dignity and courage; and should cultivate character and the trust of the people.

11. Integrity of the highest order is the fundamental basis of the prestige of the police. Recognizing this, the police must keep their private lives scrupulously clean, develop self-restraint and be truthful and honest in thought and deed, in both personal and official life, so that the public may regard them as exemplary citizens.

12. The police should recognize that their full to the potential to the State. It is best ensured only by maintaining a high standard of discipline, faithful performance of duties in accordance with law and implicit obedience to the lawful directions of commanding ranks and absolute loyalty to the force and by keeping themselves in the state of constant training and preparedness.

13. As members of a secular, democratic state the police should strive continually to rise above personal prejudices and promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious,. linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women and disadvantaged segments of the society.

Police is an important instrument who is responsible for maintaining peace and order in the country. A country is able to live peacefully, without insecurities if the police performs its functions and duties efficiently and effectively. Police Act 1861 and Model Police Act, 2006 specifies the administration, role, duties and powers of Police Department. Further, The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 empowers police officers to conduct investigation, make arrest including preventive arrest, requires attendance of witnesses, etc.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[i] The Law Dictionary, What is Police, https://thelawdictionary.org/police/ (Last visited: August 29, 2019; 5.03 PM)

[ii] 2007 (4) MPHT 219

[iii] 1980  S.C.R. (3) 855

[iv]  Shodhganga, Code of Conduct for the Police, https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/126635/16/16_annexure%202.pdf (Last visited: August 31, 2019; 8.06 PM)

Ritika Sharma
I am Ritika Sharma, pursuing B.com LLB (Hons.) from University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. My fields of interest are Law and psychology. I love to research and write articles and poems on social issues. I have a penchant for reading novels of different genres. When I am not reading or writing, I am probably sketching and watching movies. I like exploring and knowing the facts of mysterious places and incidents as well.