Lucknow: The Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday issued a notification for the formation of the Uttar Pradesh Special Security Force (UPSSF), which will have the power to conduct searches and arrest people without any warrant. The move has every chance of being misused against opponents and dissenters.
According to the notification, an officer can detain a person and search his/her property if they have a reason to believe that a crime has been committed. The UP government also said that courts will not take note of the actions of officers and other employees of the force without its permission.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had on June 26 announced the formation of the force, which the state cabinet passed.
WHAT IS UPSSF?
The UPSSF is a new security force and will be tasked to protect courts, airports, administrative buildings, metros, banks, among other government offices. The government plans to launch it within the next three months.
The decision comes close on the heels of the Allahabad High Court expressing its concern over security in civil courts.
Briefing reporters, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said: “The state government has given orders for the constitution of a special security force. A roadmap in this regard has been sought from the UP DGP.”
Considered as the pet project chief minister Adityanath, raising the UPSSF will cost Rs 1,747.06 crore to the public exchequer. In the first phase, five battalions of the force will be constituted with 1,913 personnel. The total strength of the force will be 9,919 personnel.
“This is a dream project of the UP chief minister. The basis of this force is an order of the High Court, which had ordered that there should be a specialised force for civil courts. In all, there will be 9,919 personnel in the force,” Awasthi said.
The headquarters of the proposed UPSSF will be in Lucknow and an ADG-level officer will head the force. The state government will spend Rs 1,747.06 crore on the constitution of five battalions. The force is being constituted on the lines of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
WHY The NEED for UPSSF?
The Allahabad High Court On December 18, 2019, had pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government over a shootout in a Bijnor courtroom.
Three assailants had on December 17, 2019, opened fire in the court of the Bijnor chief judicial magistrate, killing a murder accused and injuring three others — two policemen and a court employee.
The Muzaffarnagar court had witnessed a similar incident in 2015 when an armed man entered the courtroom masquerading as a lawyer and shot dead Vicky Tyagi, an alleged gangster.
The Chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Bar Council, Darvesh Kumari Yadav, 36, was shot dead by a colleague in her chamber on the civil court premises in Agra on June 13, 2019.
The Allahabad High Court then directed the constitution of a special force. A two-judge HC bench had commented that the most incompetent police personnel were being posted at the courts, adding that it would seek deployment of central forces if the state government was not up to the task.
This opportunity seems to have been grabbed quickly by the Adityanath government. Critics, however, are wary about its misuse.
WHAT EXPERTS THINK
Some former UP police officers said the government should first ensure that the law is not misused.
Former IPS officer and dalit activist SR Darapuri said: “The need for the setting up a new force for the security of government offices, religious sites, industries etc was felt for a long time by the police department…As far as the power to search and arrest without a warrant is concerned, there are already several forces which have similar powers”.
When asked about the role of UPSSF, Darapuri said: "If someone commits any crime, UPSSF cannot prosecute him/her for the crime rather will have to hand over them to the local police station."
Vibhuti Narain Rai, retired director general of police of Uttar Pradesh said that UPSSF would only be a 'watch and ward force' like there are security forces like Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at airports, railway stations, hospitals, metro stations etc.
On the apprehensions of misuse raised by civil society, especially dalits and Muslims, Rai said: "The reputation of the state government is bad and the way UP police is being misused, it is obvious that people will be frightened, but these new security forces won't have anything to do with what UP police is doing with the common citizen,” alleging that UP police was already suppressing the voice of the vulnerable sections and there
no need for another security force.
"The UPSSF won't work for a long time as it will be very expensive. In Uttar Pradesh, where a hospital, metro station, religious places easily get a security guard for Rs 10,000 per month, this will charge more than Rs 50,000. No public or semi-government outfit can afford this expensive security guard," VN Rai told NewsClick.
Meanwhile, the minority cell of Uttar Pradesh Congress has expressed serious apprehensions about the law. Saying that “irrespective of what is being said on paper, the law will be used to target the minority community”, head of the cell Shahnawaz Alam said, “We have sought legal advice on the issue. We will see if the law can be challenged in court.”