Criminal jurisprudence is as much concerned with the prevention of offences, as it is with the trial and punishment of the wrong-doer. Therefore, Chapter XI of the Act contains certain provisions regarding preventive action to be taken by the Police in certain circumstances. S. 149 empowers every Police Officer to interpose for the purpose of preventing the commission of any cognizable offence to the best of his ability. It may be noted that this section provides for prevention of cognizable offences only. Wider powers for the prevention of offences in general are to be found in S. 23 of the Police Act, 1861.
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Moreover, under S. 150, every Police Officer receiving any information of any design to commit any cognizable offence must communicate such information to his superior Police Officer. So also, any Police Officer, knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence, may arrest, without any order from the Magistrate and without a warrant, the person about to commit the offence, if it appears to such Officer that he cannot otherwise prevent the commission of the offence.
However, such a person cannot be detained in custody for more than twenty-four hours from the time of his arrest, unless his further detention is required or authorised under the Code or under any other law. (S. 151)
It has been held that if a person is arrested under this section, and is thereafter detained under any other preventive measure, as for instance, the Defence of India Rules, the order of detention would be illegal. (Prem Lai Sharma,—1966 13 L.J.R. 395)
The authority of a Police Officer under S. 151 is only a limited and exceptional power to prevent the commission of a cognizable offence; the power is, in no sense, analogous to the power of preventive detention. Under this section, a Police Officer has no power to keep a person under arrest in anticipation of a contemplated order of detention.
It has also been held that if a Police Officer arrests a person because he belongs to a particular political party, as for instance the Communist Party, and that party has a programme to commit some offences in general, it would be an abuse of the powers granted by S. 151. (Prahlad Panda,—51 Cr. L.J. 891)
It will be seen that the section envisages the subjective satisfaction of the Police Officer concerned. Therefore, in a habeas corpus petition, it is not open to the High Court to go into the question as to whether the Police Officer was justified in coming to his conclusion. Nevertheless, in appropriate cases, the High Court can go into the question of proper exercise of that discretion. (A.K. Gopalan, —1962 Ker. 215)
Similarly, a Police Officer may, of his own authority interpose to prevent any injury attempted to be committed in his view to any public property, or the removal or injury of any public land-mark or buoy or any other mark used for navigation. The expression public property includes public roads, buildings, lamp-posts, landmarks and milestones.
Similarly, any officer in charge of a Police Station may, without a warrant, enter any place within the limits of that Police Station, for the purpose of inspecting or searching for any weight or measures or weighing instruments if he has reason to believe that such place contains any false weights, measures or weighing instruments. If any such false weights, measures or instruments are found, the Officer may seize the same, and forthwith give information of such seizure to a Magistrate having jurisdiction.