Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

Supreme Court cautions on ‘history sheets’: All you need to know about the practice


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Judiciary;

Mains level: Judicial interventions;

Why in the News?

On May 7, a Bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and K V Viswanathan warned against the presence of “unfair, prejudicial, and atrocious mindsets” that perpetuate and validate caste prejudices.

  • It also directed all states and union territories to ensure that the ‘history sheets‘ maintained by their police forces are free from ‘caste biases’.
  • The Bench was adjudicating a petition filed by AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan, contesting a history sheet initiated against him and a proposal to designate him as a ‘bad character’ by registering his name in the surveillance register at Delhi’s Jamia Nagar police station.

Did you know about the ‘History sheets’?

  • The term “history sheet” first appeared in the Punjab Police Rules of 1934. 
  • These rules authorized the opening of a history sheet against individuals reasonably believed to be habitually addicted to crime or aiding and abetting criminal activities, regardless of whether they have been convicted.

How was the process of ‘history sheeting’ initiated?

  • The process of opening a history sheet is governed by police rules specific to each state, such as it is applicable in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, and Chandigarh.
  • The initiation typically begins when the Station House Officer (SHO), who is the head of the police station, takes notice of an individual proven guilty in multiple cases or found to be consistently engaged in criminal activities.
  • Details included in the history sheet (Acc. Punjab Police Rules, 1934):
    • A history sheet must contain a detailed description of the individual, paying special attention to any peculiarities of appearance that can aid in identification.
    • It mentions the relations and connections of the individual. This provides clues regarding persons with whom the criminal is likely to associate.
    • It holds the details about any property owned by the criminal, as well as their mode of earning a livelihood, should be included.

About Amanatullah Khan’s plea in the Supreme Court:

  • On May 13, 2022, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Jamia Nagar had submitted a dossier to the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) proposing to open a history sheet and label him as a “Bad Character” in police records.
  • The proposal was accompanied by a list of 18 pending cases against Khan, including offenses such as intimidation, threatening, and riots. Khan claimed that he had been discharged, acquitted, or had the FIRs quashed in 14 of these cases.
  • Legal Battles: 
    • In January 2023, the Delhi HC dismissed Khan’s plea against the opening of the history sheet and the “Bad Character” tag, stating that the Delhi Police had followed due procedure and complied with the Punjab Police Rules, 1934.
    • Khan’s appeal to the SC was rejected, but the SC directed the police to ensure that details of his minor children and wife were not reflected in the history sheet.
    • Khan’s plea focused on protecting the dignity, self-respect, and privacy of his innocent family members, including minor relatives, from being compromised by inclusion in the history sheet.
  • Revisiting Police Procedures: The Delhi Police submitted that they would revisit the format for history sheets to ensure that the details of innocent family members are not compromised.
    • A Standing Order issued by the Delhi Police Commissioner on March 21, 2024, stated that details of minor relatives should not be included in the history sheet.


Constitutional and Legal Provisions for accused person in India:

  • Article 20: This right protects against arbitrary and excessive punishment of an accused person, whether a citizen, a foreigner, or a legal person like a company or a corporation, etc.
  • Article 21: This right declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. This right is available to both citizens and non-citizens.
  • Section 50(1) of the CrPC: As per this section, every arrested person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect during detention.
    • This section ensures that individuals, including the accused, are not subjected to any form of physical or mental abuse while in custody, upholding the basic human rights of the accused.

Way Forward:

  • Review and Revise Police Procedures: States and Union Territories should conduct a comprehensive review of their police procedures related to maintaining history sheets to ensure they are free from caste biases.
  • Training and Sensitization: Police personnel should undergo regular training and sensitization programs to raise awareness about caste biases and the importance of impartiality in law enforcement.

Mains PYQ: 

Q The jurisdiction of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) regarding lodging an FIR and conducting probe within a particular State is being questioned by various States. However, the power of the States to withhold consent to the CBI is not absolute. Explain with special reference to the federal character of India.

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