Without permission, cops check citizens’ mobiles for drug leads

Bengaluru City Governance Safety Tech Top Story

Complaints of Bengaluru police reading citizens’ personal conversations on their phones have surfaced on the Web. Citizens are wary of invasion of their privacy, but still give in due to a fear of being taken into custody.

“We were walking around looking for apartments in Kasturi Nagar when two cops approached and asked us to show our phones. When we refused, they yelled at us, and told us to open WhatsApp and started reading the chats of me and my friend. When we asked why, they told us it was because of drugs. He even asked me for my CTC,” said Gaurav Sharma, 25, who works for an IT company. “It is my privacy, but we surrendered because we were scared,” he added.

Kulkarni, 26, informed The Observer: “This happened last Friday. I work in Indiranagar and live in Bannerghatta. I got an Ola to go back home late at night, and the cops stopped us at a checkpoint. The policeman looked at me and asked me to step out of the vehicle. He then went through my wallet and my bag.  I was scared what if he places something in my bag.” 

“He asked me about my CTC, and then asked to check my phone. I had two options – either stand up and go to jail or leave peacefully. So I opened my phone and he typed the keywords ‘maal’ and ‘score’ and proceeded to go through my photos,” Kulkarni added.

When Kulkarni retaliated by saying it was unfair and he was disappointed by the conduct of the policeman, the cop asked him to leave.

Reports of such incidents in Hyderabad have been published by the Hindustan Times and The News Minute. However they have remained under the radar in Bengaluru.

Gururaj Biradar, a traffic constable, said: “We are allowed to check phones if we have a doubt or a suspicion on a person.”

The Observer contacted DCP Santhosh Babu to get clarity on the subject. Contradicting the constable’s statement, he said: “It is not allowed. But if we suspect a person, we can take them to the police station and get a warrant.”

“Only if a person is caught red-handed at the scene of a crime, then the policemen have the permission to seize the mobile, and it will be submitted to the court. If you are not involved in a direct crime, we cannot check. It is your privacy,” Babu added.

Advocate Shiva Kumar Biradar, who has practised for more than nine years, said: “Police cannot check your phone without your approval. It is an invasion of privacy under Article 21 of the constitution. They can first issue a notice to check the phone, but cannot force you to hand over your phone.You can sue the police in a court of law for this.”

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, the police have the power to conduct searches only when they are investigating an offence.



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