The Calcutta High Court has issued a slew of directions to be followed by the authorities during investigation or trial in cases involving murder or rape of minor children or other " vulnerable victims ".
The Bench comprising Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj directed:
"(a) In cases involving grave offences like murder and/or rape of minor children or other vulnerable victims, statement of vital witnesses must be recorded under section 164 Cr.P.C.;
(b) Forensic examination of seized articles including DNA examination, if necessary, which may provide vital link evidence to establish the guilt be mandatorily conducted;
(c) Adequate protection be extended to witnesses to ensure that they are not won over and do not resile from their previous statements during trial by implementing effective Witness Protection Programmes in that regard;
(d) Public Prosecutors of the district must regularly review the manner in which the Public Prosecutor in Charge of sensitive cases are conducting the trial on a periodic basis and reports be filed in that regard to the Directorate of Prosecution, Legal Remembrancer and the Principal Secretary, Home Department for their appraisal and guidance."
The Court was hearing an Appeal filed by one Ms. Reksona Bibi, who, along with her two minor sons, had been found guilty of rape and murder of a four year old girl. She had now submitted that the prosecution had failed to establish the case against them beyond reasonable doubt.
During the hearing, the Court noted "with deep anguish" that even though one of the prime witnesses had refused to support the prosecution case, he had not been declared hostile and cross-examined. The remaining witnesses, it opined, do not help the prosecution to connect the Appellant with the crime.
It then went on to express anguish over the "casual and callous manner" in which the prosecution and investigation in the case had been conducted. It noted that it was compelled to acquit the accused, observing, "No doubt that suspicion, howsoever strong, cannot take the place of proof and, therefore, in the face of such flimsy and weak evidence, I have no alternative but to acquit the appellant on the anvil of the benefit of doubt."
The Court, thereafter, issued the directions, "in order to pre-empt future recurrences of similar nature... in the matter of conducting of investigation and/or trial in cases involving murder and/or rape of minor children or other vulnerable victims".