Judicial Custody vs. Police Custody: The Key Differences

If you watch the news, you may often hear two words: custody and arrest. At first glance, these words might seem synonymous, implying the same meaning, but that’s not the case. There is a significant difference between the two.

Before we delve into the differences, I would like to highlight a key point:

A person is arrested if they are guilty of committing a crime or are suspected of it, but custody means protecting someone or temporarily holding them in jail. Whenever a person is arrested, they are placed in custody. Thus, we can say that every arrest involves custody, but not every custody is an arrest.

There are two types of custody:

  1. Judicial custody
  2. Police custody

Judicial Custody

When a person is first arrested by the police due to an FIR filed at the police station and they are charged with a cognizable offense, a cognizable offense is one in which the police can arrest them without a warrant and start an investigation. These are usually serious crimes, such as murder, robbery, and rape. Upon learning of a cognizable offense, the police must take immediate action.

The arrested person is brought before a magistrate within 24 hours. The magistrate decides whether to release the person on bail or send them to judicial custody or police custody.

When a person is placed in custody under the orders of a magistrate, it is called judicial custody. Unlike police custody, here the person is kept in jail for a specific period as ordered by the magistrate, which is temporary. The primary reason behind this is that the responsibility to protect the person or suspect from any kind of abuse or harassment by the public or any section of society now lies with the magistrate.

Police Custody

Now let’s understand police custody:

When a person is arrested by the police on charges of committing a serious crime or based on suspicion, they are placed in police custody. The rule to present the person before a magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest is given under Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. According to this section, when the accused is presented before the magistrate and the magistrate believes that further investigation or interrogation is needed, they can order the person to be sent to police custody for the next 15 days, and in some cases, depending on the seriousness of the matter, it can be extended up to 30 days. The magistrate has the power to send a person to police custody under Section 167.

The Key Differences

Now that we understand the meanings of both, let’s understand the difference:

Police custody is overseen by the officer in charge of the station, while judicial custody falls under the control of the magistrate. During police custody, the police conduct the investigation. In contrast, during judicial custody, the magistrate evaluates the evidence presented in court. An individual is placed in police custody following an arrest based on a First Information Report (FIR) or suspicion. Judicial custody, however, is ordered by the court when the public prosecutor successfully argues that such custody is essential for further investigation. Police custody can last up to 15 days. Judicial custody, on the other hand, can extend to 90 days for non-bailable offenses and 60 days for bailable offenses.


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About the Author: Hemansh Tandon