This article is written by Jagriti Sanghi, an Advocate practising in the Courts of Hyderabad, Telangana. This article gives insight into the standard of investigation in Indian cases and analyses if it is a state of worry.
The standard of investigation is a state of worry in many cases. The fault investigation leads to incorrect acquittals and justice being denied to the victims. This article explains the process of investigation, lapses that occur during the process, and improvements that can be made to ensure that standard of investigation is no longer a state of worry.
Meaning of investigation
Clause 2(h) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) defines the term ‘Investigation’ as all proceedings under the CrPC for collection of evidence conducted by a police officer. It is different from an inquiry which is conducted by a Magistrate. The investigation in criminal law is the foundation on which the case revolves. A proper investigation is essential to ensure that an accused gets a fair trial. If the procedural safeguards in the investigation are not followed from the time police obtain information about the commission of an offence, then the case can be severely affected at a later stage.
Procedure of investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code
When information in cognizable cases is received by the officer in charge at the police station, he shall reduce it in writing. All such information reduced to writing shall be read over orally to the informant and then signed by him as per Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This information sets the investigation in motion and thus should be recorded with due care and caution. In non-cognizable cases as per Section 155 of CrPC, the information needs to be recorded by the police officer but the investigation can commence only after the order of the Magistrate.
On receipt of information or knowledge regarding the commission of a cognizable offence, the police officer has to take steps to investigate the facts and circumstances of the case and arrest the culprit. In case of an alleged offence of rape/sexual assault, the victim’s statement needs to be recorded at the home of the victim by a female police officer in charge in presence of a family member/relative/supporter of the victim. It is important to note that as per Section 157 of CrPC which prescribes the procedure of investigation, a duty is cast on the investigating officer to send the report on cognizable offence to the concerned Magistrate immediately after the registration of the FIR to ensure transparency and free trial.
Faulty investigation in India which leads to the wrong acquittal
It is alarming that the rate of conviction is less as compared to the increasing crime rate. The investigating system has to be improved to avoid the wrong acquittal.
In the Indian Criminal Justice System, the police have to take notice of the violation of the law and then proceed with the ascertainment of facts including the discovery and identity of the offender. This is called ‘Investigation’. It becomes faulty when the Investigating Officer does not promptly make the investigation and leads to inordinate delay in locating incriminating materials against the accused.
There are many factors that have an impact on the investigation such as delay in filing of charge sheets, improper recording of witness statements, illegal search and seizure, fake encounters, evidence and so on.
The faulty investigation leads to the loss of cases and the collapse of the criminal justice system. The police should be trained to collect proper and correct evidence and not inadmissible evidence.
The investigating officer has to promptly make the investigation to find relevant material in favour of or against the accused. The course of the investigation has to be smooth without any disruptions.
Lapses that occur during the investigation process
- An investigation is an inquiry into the facts of the commission of an offence. It is conducted by police officers as per the procedures and principles established by law. In India, we follow the adversarial system, where evidence plays a very crucial role in the administration of justice. The function of collating evidence is assigned to the police. In most of the criminal cases prosecuted, an improper investigation leads to wrong acquittals.
- The police officer in charge delayed in registering the FIR.
- The crime scene is often disturbed by the general public by the time police officers reach the crime scene which leads to loss of evidence like hair strands, fingerprints, footprints, and other evidence.
- The case diaries in police stations are not maintained diligently due to the dearth of time which affects the outcome of the case.
- Forensic experts are less in number and they send the medical reports after an inordinate delay. As a consequence, charge sheets are submitted after a long delay which affects the case drastically.
- Scientific investigation is not developed which leads to the loss of much crucial evidence. The branches of forensic science include but are not limited to fingerprinting, toxicology, odontology, polygraph (lie detection), blood identification, DNA fingerprinting. The in-depth knowledge of these branches is required for investigating officers to fulfil their responsibilities of collecting evidence to be used by the prosecution.
- Witnesses become hostile and change their statements during the trial. They do not cooperate with the police.
- The accused cannot be a witness against himself as per Article 20(3) of the Constitution. The accused must be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The accused need not give answers to those questions which would tend to prove a criminal charge against him. [Section 161(2) of CrPC]. The police should not harass the accused during the investigation as this fact can affect the prosecution case during the trial.
- There is a lack of human resources to completely focus on the investigation of crimes.
- It is seen that the police officers are not aware of the intricacies of the law of evidence and the case fails before the stringent cross-examination by the defence counsel.
- Most of the cases are also lost because of improper recording of witness statements under Section 161 of CrPC.
- There is a dearth of resources in police stations such as stationery, jeeps, guns, mobile phones, etc.
- There is unwarranted media interference especially in high profile cases which hampers the process of investigation.
Supreme Court Cases related to the investigation process
A few cases where the factors which impact the investigation process were discussed are given as below:
In Director, CBI v. Niyamavedi rep. by its Member K. Nandini, Advocate, , it was laid down that courts should not interfere in the investigation process when it is in progress in a case. The observations/comments of the Court may derail the investigation and should be avoided.
In Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar,  it was held that Section 167(5) of CrPC is to be mandatorily complied with. The provision prescribes that a case which is triable by a Magistrate as a summons case, and the investigation is not completed within 6 months from the date of arrest of accused, the Magistrate will have to make an order stopping a further investigation into the offence. However, if the investigating officer satisfies the Magistrate that the continuation of investigation beyond 6 months is necessary for the interest of justice, then it shall be continued. The Supreme Court observed that since many under-trial prisoners are languishing in jail, in these kinds of cases, Section 167(5) should be strictly complied with. This provision enables the police to not be lethargic during the investigation process and safeguards the interests of the under-trial prisoners who should not suffer in jail more than their maximum punishment for their offence.
In CBI v. R.S. Pai, , it was noted by the Supreme Court that if there is a mistake in not producing all relevant materials at the time of submission of the charge sheet, then additional documents can be allowed to be produced after the charge sheet with the permission of the Court.
In Rotash v. State of Rajasthan,  the truthfulness of FIR was in question as it did not contain all the details in respect of the number of accused at the time of the registration. Another accused was named later which can be allowed only when there is a satisfactory reason for mentioning it in the first instance.
Delay in lodging of the FIR can prove fatal to the case as held by the Apex Court in Dilawar Singh v. State of Delhi, . Delay can leave room for the complainant to make fabrications upon the complaint. As a consequence, courts view the delay with suspicion and examine the evidence adduced with a greater degree of caution and diligence.
In Ramesh Baburao v. State of Maharashtra, , there were issues in the FIR as it was stated to be antedated and did not contain all details as known to the informant. The question was whether the second report lodged can be treated as the first FIR. The Court held that FIR in a murder case has to be filed at the first instance without delay with all the information in respect of the names of all the accused, names of eye-witnesses, weapons used etc.
In Hari Yadav v. State of Bihar, , it was observed by the Apex Court that case diary has to be maintained with due care and caution otherwise it may lead to the wrong acquittal of the accused.
Section 167 deals with procedures when the investigation is not completed within 24 hours of custody of the accused. The Magistrate has the power to detain the accused for a longer period for the investigation to be completed by the officer in charge of the police station. In Dinesh Dalmia v. Central Bureau of Investigation, , it was noted that the object of the aforesaid provision is to ensure that the police are vigilant in investigation and do not unnecessarily delay the process. Sufficient incriminating material has to be collected within a reasonable time. This provision is beneficial for the accused as after the expiry of the stipulated period of custody or detention, the accused is entitled to file for bail on merits.
In Motilal v. State of Rajasthan, , the investigation was remarked to be “Faulty” as the inquest report had the date and time as 11th Nov 1993 at 10:30 and the FIR had the date as 11th Nov at 10:50 AM. The FIR was antedated and the Magistrate received the report only after an unexplained delay of 5 days on 16th Nov.
In Zindar Ali v. State of West Bengal, , the victim was allegedly raped by the accused Zindar Ali. The victim woman went to the police station to file the complaint, however, the police officer in charge refused to lodge the FIR and advised the victim to settle the matter. Later, the Chief Judicial Magistrate ordered the police to register the case. Despite the order, the police took 5 months to commence the investigation. This delay by the police officer was extremely fatal as the quality of medical evidence has deteriorated after 6 months of the incident. This investigation process was highly criticized by the court.
Improvements that can be made in the state of investigation process
- The timely lodging of FIR will improve the rate of conviction.
- Negating the gravity of offences or false implications should be strictly penalized.
- Inordinate delay in visiting the crime scene should be avoided. The reconstruction of the crime scene should be done immediately after the registration of FIR.
- Genuine and regular entries should be made in General Diaries maintained during the investigation under Section 172 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
- Scientific experts should be increased in the clues team for a better and faster investigation process.
- Intensive and practical training needs to be regularly imparted on police personnel in respect of procedures and law.
- Improving the infrastructure and updating the technology in the police stations is the need of the hour.
- Section 164 of CrPC deals with the procedure of recording confessions and statements. Confession must lead to some discovery of material to make it admissible in court.
- Separating other duties of police from the investigation will reduce the burden of too many tasks on a limited number of police officers.
- The media’s interference should be restricted since it has the potential to hamper the investigation.
- The statements of witnesses should be recorded through audio-visual means and should be submitted to court immediately to minimize manipulations and alterations.
- Video graphing can prove to be useful in proving that there was no use of threat/coercion to record the statements.
- Police accountability has to be made stricter and any lapse on their part should not be excused.
- A legal officer should be appointed to assist the police during the investigation process. It can help the police officers to know the intricacies of the law of evidence.
- Witnesses can be given a travel allowance which will act as an incentive to come forward and prove evidence.
- Salaries of the police personnel should be increased as per their burden of work.
- The investigating officer should be present throughout the trial to give necessary inputs to the judge as and when required.
The investigation includes finding the guilty, gathering evidence, identifying witnesses, and ascertaining if the crime has happened. It is crucial that this entire process is not interfered with and is conducted with proper means and assistance. Otherwise, justice will be denied at the hands of our legal system to many victims.
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