Context: Supreme Court in case of Rajesh and Another v. State of Madhya Pradesh acquitted three persons who were alleged to have been involved in the murder and related offence on the ground of illegalities in investigation.
Argument by Court for Their Acquittal
The Court argued that a person could not be said to be in police custody till he was formally arrested, as he did not figure as an accused person in the First Information Report (FIR) and was not accused of any offence till his arrest.
The Court emphasising on seeking compliance under Section 100(4) and Section 100(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) called out many irregularities in the investigation.
When a person is arrested by police for charges of committing a heinous crime or on suspicion, he is detained in police custody.
When a person is kept in custody by a magistrate, it is called judicial custody. Unlike police custody, here a person is kept in jail on the orders of the magistrate for a certain temporary period.
Challenges with Investigation in India
- Budgetary Constraints: Dismal budget allocation by the state government affects many areas such as lack of skills, insufficient training, appropriate or insufficiency of equipment, and logistic support affecting their operational capacity.
- Dual responsibility of Maintaining order and investigation are two different responsibilities of the police officers, which in turn lead to suboptimal investigation.
- Excessive workload due to inadequacy of manpower and long working hours even on holidays and the absence of a shift system.
- Forensic Science: Lack of technology and research in forensic results in the faulty fingerprint, footprints etc. at the scene of crime compromising the investigation.
- Lack of Public Cooperation: Many times, eyewitnesses are reluctant to give statements to the police officers decreasing efficiency of investigation.
- Political Interference: Investigations, particularly in cases where high-profile people are involved, get compromised due to direct or indirect political interference.
- Transfer of police officers by the government during an investigation delays the investigation as new officers need to understand the case from the scratch.
- During investigation, the media while disseminating news sometimes help the culprit in compromising evidence and can also help the criminals in executing plans e.g., 26/11 Mumbai attack.
- Witnesses may be influenced, coerced, unduly remunerated by the culprit or others and may turn hostile halting the investigation.
- Lack of coordination with other sub-system of the Criminal Justice System in crime prevention, control, and search for truth.
- Uneven compliance with the recommendation of committees or court directives e.g., 17 states have taken steps to separate law and order and investigation wings.
Malimath Committees Recommendation
- Establish an independent complaints authority to investigate complaints against police officers so that the process is fair and unbiased.
- Set up a National Police Commission to oversee the functioning of the police and to ensure that they are working effectively and efficiently.
- Improve the forensic capabilities and training of the police to help them collect and analyse evidence.
- Introduce a witness protection program to ensure their safety, and their identities should be kept confidential to prevent retaliation.
- Increase the use of technology in the justice system and allow the prosecution to rely on electronic evidence to prove its case.
- Recommended that the investigation wing should be separate from that of the law-and-order wing.
Law Commission’s Recommendation Under Report 239
- Networking of all police stations to establish a link with all the courts.
- Digital videography to be installed at police stations. At the time of receiving an FIR/complaint, videography should be made compulsory.
- Each Police Station should be provided with secure interrogation rooms, with simultaneous audio-visual recording facilities.
- At least, all District Headquarters should be provided with mobile forensic vans which should accompany the homicide teams to the place of occurrence.