Closing the gaps in criminal justice 

News: Recently, the Supreme Court observed certain deficiencies and inadequacies which occur during the course of criminal trials. Therefore, the court has issued certain guidelines in this regard. Further, the essential notification and the necessary changes has been issued by the Guwahati High Court in January 2022.  

What directions have been given by the Supreme Court? 

Preparing a site sketch: Traditionally, as per The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the investigating officer prepares a site sketch that shows details of the crime scene and collects evidence. As per new guidelines, I.O. is required to prepare a scaled site plan of site sketch. It is mandated to be prepared by a police draftsman 

As per the guidelines, the police are required to develop its own cadre of draftsmen. They will prepare a scaled site plan. 

A printed format of the human body must be accompanied with every medico-legal certificate and post-mortem report. It shall contain all the reverses and injuries from both sides of the body. 

An inquest report must be produced. Its purpose is to ascertain whether a person has died an unnatural death. If so, then what is the nature of injuries and the apparent cause of death’. In this case, a criminal case has to be registered and regular investigation has to be taken up immediately without waiting for any formal complaint.  

The post-mortem report is a ‘document’. It is not a piece of substantive evidence by itself.

In case of custodial death, the magistrate or the IO must inform the hospital to arrange for photography and videography for post-mortem examination. The I.O. has been mandated to seize such photographs and video graphs and obtain a certificate for evidence for them under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.  

The government has been directed to develop trained photographers at police stations. It was also mandated in the Shafhi Mohammad vs the State of Himachal Pradesh Case (2018).  

The state governments should appoint advocates, other than public prosecutors. They will advise the investigating officer during investigation (Currently, a public prosecutor advises the I.O). 

In reality, the investigation and prosecution are different facets in the administration of criminal justice. Therefore, the SC has directed to separate the two wings in the criminal procedure. 

Way Forward 

For the time being, investigating officers and medical doctors must be trained in order to implement the Supreme Court’s directives 

The creation of a cadre of draftsmen and photographers should be undertaken at the war scale. 

Chhattisgarh has sanctioned a cadre of law officers to assist the investigating officers. They will work independently of the public prosecutors. They will have no role in the court. Other States should also follow suit.  

The guidelines must be implemented sincerely. They have also been issued earlier. For example, the NHRC and the Supreme Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs State of Maharashtra (2014) have issued similar guidelines for deaths in exchange of fire with the police. In addition, the NHRC issued similar guidelines related to body sketches in an inquest report and a post-mortem report.   

Source: The post is based on an article “Closing the gaps in criminal justice” published in The Hindu on 09th April 2022. 

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