- Monika Godara
In recent times, the videos of Hyderabad Police have been surfacing on social media platforms in which they have been stopping the motorcyclists and checking their WhatsApp messages for the words like ganja, drugs etc. In a bizarre initiative of Hyderabad Police to crack down on ganja users and peddlers around the city, Hyderabad cops along with the excise officials randomly stopped and checked mobile phones of commuters in area of Dhoolpet. The area has been reportedly infamous for sale of drugs and narcotics.
The policemen were apparently checking the WhatsApp groups and other social media accounts through which individuals might have a link for drugs and ganja supplies. In the said process, the policemen were clearly seen violating the orders and guidelines of the Supreme Court on right to privacy of an individual and even got trolled on Twitter for their overzealous search.
The Telangana Police’s crackdown on drug peddling has come under the spotlight after videos came up on different social media platforms, of the cops inspecting people, checking their mobile phones and even detaining a number of them for suspicion of anti-social activities. People have been largely criticizing Hyderabad Police for their actions and even severely trolling them on social media. Activists have been alleging the act of police as illegal and that is violates the right of privacy of the individuals. They call it unconstitutional and say that it targets common and illiterate people.
Sharing a similar video on social media platform, Twitter, human rights activist SQ Masood asked whether it was permissible under any Indian law to stop and check the mobile phones, chats and pockets of the commuters. He added that was apparently a case of harassment of common people. He also tagged the DGP of Telangana Police Commissioner of Hyderabad city in his tweet.
The current crackdown by Hyderabad police was started after Chief Minister of Telangana, K Chandrasekhar Rao, on 19th of October directed the Telangana Police and the prohibition and excise department to team up and work together to make the state free of ganja and other drugs.
Gajarao Bhupal, the deputy commissioner of police for Hyderabad’s South Zone, clarified on the rage over the issue that there has been no violation of privacy of any individual and said that how it could be an intrusion into one’s personal life if one has voluntarily given his phone for checking. He added that there was nothing abnormal in the videos to raise an issue about, that have gone viral online. He said that there is nothing like that the policemen are scanning through WhatsApp chats for the keywords and no detailed instructions have been issued to them for checking anyone’s mobile phones at the checkpoints.
According to him, when police ask people for the registration certificates and other documents of their vehicles, people were showing the e-documents on their mobile phones. He asked, “Has anyone whose phone was checked complained? Has there been any instance of misbehaviour or manhandling on part of the police? Is anyone threatened or intimidated here? What appears to be in these videos is people showing their vehicle documents on phone.” He also confirmed to the statement that joint checkpoints have been in place for the last 10 days.
In joint operations of the Hyderabad Police Department and the Prohibition and Excise Department carried out between October 24 and 26, 36 FIRs and 9 petty cases have been registered while apprehending 50 individuals were found in the possession of ganja. Continuous raids have been conducted in suspected dens of ganja peddling. The Hyderabad Police had arrested 3 persons with 1litre of hash oil on 21st of October, and three others on 28th of October 28 with 405 Nitravet and Alpracard tablets.
In addition to it, an interstate ganja peddler was also held during this crackdown with about 40 kg ganja. This is in continuance of a special drive against banned Gutka products at pan shops across Hyderabad’s Old City on 23rd of October when the police caught 76 persons and seized Gutka of worth Rs 2 lakh. Similarly, Cyberabad police booked 17 persons in connection with 10 cases of ganja peddling on October 27. The previous day, they had arrested 13 persons in 8 different cases. On October 24 and 25, 10 offenders were arrested in 7 cases related to ganja peddling. Rachakonda police have also been conducting raids against ganja users and sellers. The citizens have been warned for use of Ganja and other drugs. They have also been directed to inform the police in such case on number 100 or through police WhatsApp numbers. The police is also detaining habitual ganja smugglers under the Preventive Detention (PD) Act.
The checking of mobile phones and going through personal chats not only amounts to harassment but also is the violation of right to privacy. The Hyderabad Police has no justification to stop commuters at checkpoints and read their WhatsApp messages. It apparently violates the orders of the Supreme Court. It clearly is an incident that is unconstitutional and infringement of fundamental right of an individual.
1. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/hyderabad-cops-criticised-for-checkingmobile-phones-as-part-of-crackdown-on-narcotics-101635420049868.html visited on 29th of October, 2021 at 2.18 pm
2. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/hyderabad/checking-motorists-chatstelangana-crackdown-drug-peddling-draws-criticism-7595650/ visited on 29th of October, 2021at 2.41 pm
3. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/hyderabad-cops-breach-privacycheck-commuters-mobiles/articleshow/87354741.cms visited on 29th of October, 2021 at 4.07 pm
4. https://zeenews.india.com/india/hyderabad-police-faces-flak-for-checking-mobilephones-of-commuters-during-anti-narcotics-drive-2406395.html visited on 29th of October, 2021 at 4.36 pm