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This article is written by Pranav Sethi, from SVKM NMIMS, School of law, Navi Mumbai. This article analyzes Recognizing Magistrates’ responsibility in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the citizen.

Introduction

Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities.”

-John F. Kennedy

India’s Constitution is the highest legal authority in the nation. It is the duty of India’s judicial system to view and defend it. It also serves as a guardian or defender of the people’s fundamental rights. It has the authority to determine the constitutionality of all rules. It has the authority to strike down any law or part of a law that it considers to be unconstitutional or in violation of the basic structure doctrine or the people’s fundamental rights. When it comes to dealing with cases, magistrates control considerable power, and they have a considerable duty to use that power in a truly reasonable and just manner. They keep the destiny of their fellow humans in their hands. They determine if a person is guilty or innocent of criminal behavior and, therefore, should be punished. If they make wrong judgments either innocent people will struggle unjustifiably, or guilty people will avoid punishment unjustly.

All criminal proceedings must be determined by magistrates in a fair, reasonable, and impartial manner. After thoroughly considering all of the evidence submitted to him or her, a judge must first determine whether or not the convicted person is guilty.

If the magistrate considers the convicted person guilty, he or she must then carefully determine the necessary punishment imposed. Magistrates must behave with utmost impartiality as adjudicators. They must maintain an open mind and avoid doing something that might give the impression that their approach is biassed or political.

Responsibilities of magistrates 

The concept of an effective judiciary has its roots in the division of powers doctrine, which states that the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary are three distinct branches of government that, in particular, form a system of reciprocal checks and balances designed to prevent misuse of authority to the disadvantage sections of a democratic society. This independence ensures that the Judiciary as a whole, as well as specific judges determining specific cases, must be able to carry out their legal duties without being affected by the Government, the Parliament, or any other incompetent sources.

Only an independent judiciary can provide fair justice on the merits of the law, upholding the individual’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. For this important duty to be completed effectively, the public must have complete confidence in the Judiciary’s ability to carry out its duties objectively and impartially. When public trust in the judiciary starts to erode, neither the institution nor individual judges will be able to adequately perform this vital role, or at the very least will not be seen to do so.

As an outcome, the principle of judicial independence was established to protect human beings from abuses of authority, not for the benefit of the judges themselves. As a result, judges cannot behave arbitrarily by deciding cases based on their interests, but rather must respect the rules. In terms of individual security, this means that judges must enforce domestic and international human rights legislation wherever possible. Strong, independent, and unbiased attorneys are also required in a legal system based on respect for the rule of law to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes against human beings, even if the crimes were committed by persons acting in an official capacity.

There is a significant risk that a culture of impunity will take hold unless judges and prosecutors play their respective key positions in not upholding justice in society to the fullest extent possible. If people have difficulty getting justice, they may feel forced to take the law into their own hands, leading to further degradation in the administration of justice and, potentially, new incidents of abuse.

How can magistrates provide justice promptly

The relevance of Magistrates to the federal trial courts’ day-to-day operations cannot be underestimated. Many federal lawsuits settle early in the legal process, and fewer civil and criminal cases go to trial these days. While District Judges handle serious criminal cases, in minor and civil cases, the litigants and their attorneys will frequently meet and speak with the Magistrate — and, in some cases, only the Magistrate — as their case is litigated throughout the federal trial court.

Magistrate also perform mediations, settle evidence disputes, and evaluate several motions; assess when criminal suspects will be held or released on parole; select lawyers for certain defendants (and, in the misdemeanour sense, hold trials and convict defendants; and make decisions regarding writs of habeas corpus. When all parties to a civil case agree, Magistrate Judges hear the whole case and make decisions on all motions and preside over a trial.

A successful judge must possess the following qualities:

  • Dedicated to the pursuit of justice; attentive, orderly, and structured in his or her work approach; 
  • Honest and fully unbiased when hearing cases; graceful and orderly in appearance;
  • Patient and respectful, but able to demand respect and retain effective hold over the courtroom proceedings;
  • Logical and capable of using common sense in figuring out an argument and arriving at a judgment; 
  • Able to make up his or her mind and reach decisions; and sensitive and considerate when listening to facts.

Jurisdictional competence

The autonomous decision-making power of the Judiciary also involves “jurisdiction over all matters of a constitutional existence and ultimate competence to determine whether a matter presented for its review is within its jurisdiction as established by law,” according to Principle 3 of the Basic Principles. This rule of judicial sovereignty in determining legitimacy is well known at even the domestic and foreign levels and can be identified, for example, in Article 36(6) of the Rule of the International Court of Justice, and Article 32(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The role of magistrates to ensure fair court proceedings and give reasoned decisions

Fair court trials, whether criminal or civil, require the discretion of a judge. As specified in the Basic Principles:

Stage I: Soon after the registration of FIR

  • When information about the commission of a cognizable offense is received, the criminal justice system is started in the process. Section 157 requires that a document to this effect be sent to the area magistrate as soon as possible, so that he may investigate the matter. This precaution is intended to discourage police overreach, embellishments, false convictions, and non-investigation at a critical level. A summary of the FIR (also known as an “occurrence report”) must be delivered to the magistrate’s office as early as possible, and any delay, if not clarified properly, will damage the prosecution’s case at proceedings. A copy of the FIR, along with an endorsement, is sent through a courier in the most extreme situations.
  • According to Delhi High Court rules, the magistrate must label the print of the FIR with the date, time, and location of receipt. When a magistrate receives a report from a police officer indicating that he is not conducting an examination he may direct an inquiry anyway, or if he feels it is necessary, he may go to the scene and conduct an initial investigation himself. The latter method, on the other hand, is rarely taken, owing to the increasing caseload. However, the Magistrate should not hesitate to use this power to get to the root of a problem if it is required.

Stage II: Cases where the arrest is effected by the Investigating Officer

  • Personal liberty is a basic right protected by Article 21 of the constitution, and detention can often be used to threaten a person’s civil liberties. Any conviction must be formed for valid cause, and the procedure of detention must be non-arbitrary, just, and fair. The justification for the detention, as reported by the police officer, was investigated by the magistrate. Following an analysis of the reasons for the arrest, the next step is to decide if the conditions are appropriate for the accused’s detention, bail, or discharge. A person’s arrest may have significant implications on both a constitutional and a social level. It could affect citizens’ liberty and rights.
  • The magistrate can allow arrest under Section 167 of the CrPc after reviewing whether the detention was done in compliance with the law and whether or not an individual’s civil liberties were granted to him. The magistrate cannot order detention if the arrest is not made in compliance with Section 41 of the CrPc. In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. the State of Bihar, the Judge held that a magistrate must record his or her fulfillment before authorizing confinement; in other words, the magistrate must mention his or her approval on the order. It cannot be found on the police’s ipse dixit. If the judge determines that the police officer’s detention was unjustified.
  • When granting police supervised release, the magistrate must ensure and record the urgent need for police custody. The need to discover the weapon of crime, the arrests of co-accused as a result of the disclosures and the investigation of a larger conspiracy are all important considerations. However, merely checking the evidence provided by the accused would not warrant police arrest. Furthermore, remand cannot be used exclusively to prepare a “pointing-out” memo, which must be guaranteed by the magistrate.
  • There is one more important matter in which a judge can comply, and that is confession. Any event in which the suspect is said to have confessed in front of the police. The magistrate must prohibit him from confessing in front of the judge. This will put the police officer on alert and allow them to search out more reasonable choices. Until giving the police custody, the magistrate is also required by Section 167 of the CrPc to submit a copy of the order for police custody to the chief judicial magistrate/chief metropolitan magistrate of the area.

Stage III: Magisterial interventions while deciding applications for recording the statement(s) u/s 164 of the Cr. P.C

  • The record of the argument is a vital aspect of the examination. The recording of a witness’ evidence in an inquiry until a magistrate is allowed under Section 164 of the CrPc. Section 164 also allows the magistrate to monitor the testimony of all evidence and statements, and the evidence of witnesses is reported under pledge. The declaration reported under section 164 of the CrPc may be used for verifiable evidence of the witness testimony at court, according to Section 157 of the Evidence Act.
  • In the case of a test recognition event, the magistrate will verify that the suspect is brought before him with his face concealed and that the witness is not given any details about his or her identity. Before the test recognition parade will take place, the accused must give his consent after consulting with his counsel. The magistrate must also confirm that the suspect’s image is not revealed to the complainant before the test identification parade, as this may affect the test information parade’s outcome. The magistrate should ensure that the rule is followed when collecting a handwriting/signature specimen or performing narco-analyzing for an investigation. The accused must be represented and give their informed consent.

Stage IV: Monitoring of investigation

In the case of Sakiri Vasu v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court held that Section 156 of the Crpc allows a magistrate to review police officers while they are carrying out their duties. If the magistrate isn’t satisfied with the inquiry, he can order a re-investigation and initiate the implementation. The court also held that the magistrate’s authority to request another inquiry is an autonomous power that does not impact the examination officer’s powers under Section 156. In the case of State of Bihar v. A.C. Saldana, the magistrate was given the authority to order the inquiry to be reopened after the police had submitted their final report.

Stage V: Further investigation, post-filing of police report u/s 173 of the Cr.P.C

  • The court is not obligated to acknowledge the finding reached after the police investigation. The Supreme Court of Maharashtra held in the case of Gangadhar Janardan Mhatre v. the State of Maharashtra that when a police investigation concludes that there is no evidence against the suspect, the complainant is allowed to note and an equal voice before the court when the document is being considered.
  • The choice of directing a further inquiry by a magistrate is accessible under Section 173 of the CrPc, but this provision does not specify the grounds on which the magistrate may employ this force. In the case of Kashmeri Devi v. Delhi Administration, the Supreme Court held that when a magistrate believes police behaviour is not impartial or provides a cover to the perpetrators, an additional inquiry may be conducted.

Krishna Lal Chawla vs. the State Of U.P.

The bench of judges comprising

The Supreme Court in the case of vexatious complaint was heard by the Division Bench of Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice R. Subhash Reddy, JJ. While raising concerns about these procedures, the Bench emphasized the importance of thoroughly investigating such allegations at the outset.

Facts of the case

The parties had been at odds since 2006, according to the facts and details. According to the respondent’s narrative, The Appellants came to the respondent’s home, beat him and his wife with iron rods, and threatened to kill them. The appellants issued repeated counter-allegations against the respondent. The respondent submitted a Non-Cognizable Report (NCR) No. 158 of 2012 on May 8, 2012, and the Appellant responded with NCR No. 160 of 2012. Almost 5 years after the incident that occurred, the appellant filed an application with the Magistrate under Section 155(2) of the CrPC, seeking approval for the police to investigate NCR No. 160 of 2012.

The Respondent, dissatisfied with the allegations made and charge sheet filed against him, filed a new private complaint against the Appellant under Section 200 of the CrPC Complaint Case No. 2943 of 2018 in respect of the same incident that occurred on 05-08-2012, for which compensation had already been paid by the appellant, but the allegations of fraud, injury to a bull, forging of documents, and other allegations were made.

Court judgment and decision

The Bench referred to the case of Upkar Singh v. Ved Prakash (2004) in criticizing the rehashing of the same incident in the private complaint, provided that the appellant had already been convicted for the crime, which had no bearing on the present case.

Wherein the court asserted, ‘it had been held that any further complaint by the same complainant or others against the same accused, after the registration of a case, is prohibited under the Code because an investigation in this regard would have already started and further complaint against the same accused will amount to an improvement on the facts mentioned in the original complaint, hence will be prohibited under Section 162 of the Code.’

The same concept will hold if a person provides details about a non-cognizable offense and then files a private lawsuit against the same accuser for the same violation.

“The complainant cannot subject the accused to a double whammy of investigation by the police and inquiry before the Magistrate.”

Noting that appellant no. 1 was 76 years old at the time of the incident, appellant no. 2 was recovering from epileptic fits, and appellant no. 4 was of unsound mind, the Bench concluded that there was no validity in dragging them into criminal proceedings relating to a minor crime initiated 6 years after the alleged incident.

The Lower judiciary’s function in reducing court process abuse

While expressing concern, the Bench said:

This is a case that should not have been allowed to reach as far as this Court”.

The Indian justice system is beset by backlogs, and a major contributor to this backlog is a large amount of frivolous litigation. According to the Bench:

Curtailing such vexatious litigation is, thus, a crucial step towards a more effective justice system – a step that cannot be taken without the active involvement of the lower judiciary.

Finally, the Magistrates, according to the Bench, are the first line of security for both the criminal justice system’s reputation and the threatened and depressed litigant. A litigant seeking frivolous and vexatious litigation does not assert an unlimited right to use court time and public funds to accomplish his goals.

As a result, the Bench, exercising its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, quashed all proceedings between the parties arising out of the alleged incident.

Conclusion

Magistrates and magistrates’ courts play an important part in the administration of law. They are at the center of providing regional, citizen accountability and are in charge of a large number of judicial proceedings in India. The court stated that the criminal justice platform’s path, once put into motion, is almost dependent entirely on the Magistrate’s judicial application of mind. It went on to say that the power to issue a summons order is extremely important and that the Magistrate must only let criminal law run its course after ensuring that there is a legitimate case to be made. Finally, citizens’ civil rights should be secured, and anyone involved with the process should act with noble motives and maintain the constitution’s integrity.

References


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