No carte blanche on police bid to frisk, says home minister

The search may be made only to the extent permissible by existing rules and regulations

RBP: The home ministry has instructed the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) that it cannot have a blanket frisking strategy, the home minister, Damcho Dorji, said at the last Meet the Press session.

In February, the police announced that they would frisk all youth found in groups of two or more after 10pm, in an effort to reduce youth crime, especially violent crime.

“I made it very clear to the police that it can’t be a blanket rule but as per the existing law,” Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said. “If there is reasonable suspicion, to suspect that a certain person is or may likely commit criminal offence, or is in possession of an illegal item, such as a dangerous weapon, then they’ve all rights to search and seize if they find one,” he added.

Section 166 of the civil and criminal procedure code (CCPC), allows the police to stop and frisk a person moving about at odd hours in a public place upon reasonable suspicion of involvement in a criminal offence.

“As per the law, it’s allowed, it’s permitted, but within certain limits,” lyonpo Damcho Dorji said. “But it’s the way you do it. If you do it as per the procedures prescribed in the law, then I don’t think there’ll be any violations,” he added.

However, he also pointed out that police were stopping and frisking for the safety of the general public, and that the public should appreciate such a move.

On whether the home ministry has made a decision on the RBP’s proposal for a ban on the sale of knives to youth aged under 18, the home minister said that restrictions would be imposed.

“We have to make a very hard decision when it comes to the sale of knives to the public,” he said. “We therefore have to impose some restrictions which may come very close to jeopardising your certain rights,” he added. “But we’ll ensure that any restrictions we impose are as per the existing laws and we’ll ensure that no fundamental rights are violated.”

On the time restriction or curfew also proposed by the RBP, the home minister said that restrictions on loitering at odd hours is already covered by the CCPC and the penal code.

However, the police had sought the ministry’s approval for enforcing a time restriction, stating that it did not have the power to make such a decision earlier this year.

In an earlier interview, lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that the definition of odd hours would have to be interpreted reasonably by the police.

The RBP chose not to comment, as there was no official directive from the home ministry on the proposals, according to its media liaison officer.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

 

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