Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Does the law allow police to frisk and harass us on the streets?

I’ve written here a small account of an experience I had at a police checkpoint tonight, followed by what I could gather my rights are, with reference to the laws which are meant to govern our country.

I was out for a ride tonight with Naatte’, just after midnight. We were waved down, as is usual after the February 7 coup, at a police checkpoint, this time in front of Traders Hotel.

Like the law-abiding citizens we are, we stopped and got off the motorbike. Naatte’ showed the police officer his license, the sticker proving he’d paid his annual fee, answered all queries until the officer asked for his phone number. I was getting very frustrated by this point. Here we were, with all the papers in order, and yet the officer kept asking for more information.

Next to us, there were two young men who had been stopped right after us. The driver confessed to never having even applied for a driver’s licence, while the passenger, who kept showing a sprained wrist as an excuse, claimed his license was back home. It’s interesting to note that these men were referring to the officers on first-name basis, and vice versa. They were asked to go on, with a half-hearted, “This is a one time chance. Just go to the hospital to show that wrist and no further,’ being murmured by one officer as the happy duo sped away, allowed by the law-keepers to continue breaking the law.

Back to the officer questioning us. Naatte’ informed him that he felt it unnecessary, by law, to provide his cell phone number and that he was unwilling to do so. Three or four policemen felt the need to settle this matter, insisting that the number be given. I asked them for justification, and one of them replied that it was because we were out on the streets at this late hour. I asked again if there was a curfew effective in this island, and why they needed additional information when everything was in order. After a few more words to and fro, they let us go without having gotten the number.

This made me look up the relevant laws and here’s what I came across. You might find this useful were you asked for information like phone numbers, email addresses, etc, or if you were subjected to frisking, as the police are known to do of late.

I state a disclaimer here that I am neither a lawyer nor a legal expert, but a curious soul who likes to learn about the laws I have to abide by as an unfortunate citizen of this coup-ridden state. If I have made an error, I would appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction.

Before I start, let me share Article 7 (a) ii. of the Police Act:

Now let’s begin with the issue of being randomly stopped on streets and getting frisked.

Article 47 (a) of our constitution states “No person shall be subject to search or seizure unless there is reasonable cause.” There, that alone should suffice. If you are a simple person who’s given the police no cause for alarm or suspicion, they are required, by law, to NOT touch you.

If that isn’t enough, here’s a supporting clause from the Police Act (Article 8 (b))

It says here ‘to search the accused person’. Therefore, I think it makes perfect sense to ask from the police officers exactly what offense you are being accused of having committed before letting them frisk you.

As per the Police Act and the constitution, police officers cannot go around frisking every man or woman they’d like to get their hands on, unless this person has been accused of a crime and they have reasonable cause to conduct a search.

Now to take a look at what the law has to say about the issue of police asking for everything practically from your license to the size of your waist.

Article 48 of the law governing land transport says:

That’s it. The traffic police can ask for your licence and papers concerning the registration of the vehicle you are driving. Not everything from your marriage certificate to a reference letter from your last employer :/

To support this, here is Article 9 of the Police Act:

According to this article, police officers have the authority to ask for identification from persons on the premises or vicinity where an unlawful act takes place, and even in such cases presentation of the National Identity Card, or any other official document with identification is considered sufficient.

And you people riding around on motorbikes, you’re not even in or near a crime scene most of the time. Therefore, logic says that the presentation of your licence card, vehicle registration and if need be, your id card must be enough.

If you are still not quite sure, Article 74 (a) of the Police Act says “Any order or part of an order that is contrary to this Act or ensuing regulations shall be void, or void to the extent of the inconsistency”. Part (b) of this article goes on to say that it is an offense for officers to make void orders.

Not to mention this article from our constitution:

Therefore, unless there are other regulations we are unaware of, you are not required by law to provide personal details other than those stated on your Identity Card.

Hope this is somehow useful ;)

If you want to read the full Acts or constitution, the links to the dhivehi documents are below:
Police Act
Land Transport Act
2008 Constitution


  1. Would be handy to keep these laminated and attached with ID/Licence Cards :)

  2. cool. im glad u couldnt sleep last night.

  3. also;

    fuluhunnaa behey 101 suvaalaai jawaab: http://www.mvdemocracynetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Police-101.pdf

    hayyaru kruevey meehunnaai bandhu kurevey meehunge haqquthah: http://www.hrcm.org.mv/dhivehi/NPM/RightsAtTheTimeofArrest.pdf

    asaasee haqquthakaai minivann kann: http://www.mvdemocracynetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/asaasee-haqqu-thakaai-minivankan1.pdf

  4. Complimenti per il post!! felice giornata...ciao