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Judicial Record Missing For Over 20 Yrs- Jharkhand High Court Reprimands Concerned Officials, Forms 1 Member Committee To Probe

Sparsh Upadhyay
22 Jan 2021 11:52 AM GMT
Judicial Record Missing For Over 20 Yrs- Jharkhand High Court Reprimands Concerned Officials, Forms 1 Member Committee To Probe
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Coming down heavily on Judicial Officers and the State Administration, the Jharkhand High Court recently expressed its displeasure over the fact that record of a case went missing and even after a lapse of 20 years the record was not reconstructed by concerned officials. The Bench of Justice Anand Sen was hearing the plea of an alleged notorious criminal Surendra Bengali, who...

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Coming down heavily on Judicial Officers and the State Administration, the Jharkhand High Court recently expressed its displeasure over the fact that record of a case went missing and even after a lapse of 20 years the record was not reconstructed by concerned officials.

The Bench of Justice Anand Sen was hearing the plea of an alleged notorious criminal Surendra Bengali, who submitted before the Court that an FIR was lodged against him in the year 1987 with the Doranda police station, a charge sheet was also filed in the case, but the trial in the matter was yet to start.

Background

The petitioner, Bengali, has several criminal cases registered against him. He is wanted in several criminal cases and he has also been convicted in several cases.

In a report submitted by Principal Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi (pursuant to HC's November 2020 order) it was mentioned that the case records of Doranda P.S. Case No 77 of 1987 (another criminal case registered against Bengali) had gone missing from the court below.

Bengali's counsel stated before the Court that the records are missing since 1999 and after the petitioner was remanded, his case was committed to the Court of Session and thereafter, the case record is not traceable. This petitioner is on bail, which was granted by the Session's Court.

In the year 2014, Bengali filed the instant criminal writ application before the HC, praying therein to direct the court below to dispose of the trial of Doranda P.S. Case No 77 of 1987, as in spite of he being remanded in the aforesaid case and cognizance taken, the court could not proceed, as the record is not traceable.

In this backdrop, the High Court called for a report from Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi, however, despite several reminders, the report asked for was not forwarded.

It was only on 26.07.2016, a report was submitted by the Principal Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi and in the said report it was mentioned that after commitment of the case on 21st August 1999, the record of the aforesaid case went missing.

Despite several attempts being made, the case record could not be reconstructed and so finally in November 2020, the High Court directed the Principal Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi to submit a report describing about the present status of the case records.

The report, inter alia, submitted that they are trying to reconstruct the record but are still unable to do the same.

Court's observations

The Court noted that till date, the Committee for searching the missing records did not report about the missing record of Doranda P.S. Case No 77 of 1987.

The Court remarked,

"This is the seriousness shown by the concerned officials in relation to this grave issue. The judicial record of an accused who has number of cases registered against him and is also convicted in number of cases and is on bail in this particular case, goes missing and for the last 20 years nothing serious has been done either to get the record constructed or to take appropriate action against the persons/officials for whose laches the record got lost."

The Coyrt fuerher said,

"This sort of attitude is absolutely deprecated and cannot be conceived of. In the report, submitted by the Principal Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi since nothing has been mentioned about lodging of the FIR or initiating of proceedings, this Court is bound to believe that no FIR has been lodged nor any proceeding has been initiated against the custodian of the records."

Importantly, the Court remarked,

"Missing of a judicial record is a very serious issue which demands utmost attention and action. Here the same has been handled in a very light manner casually by all concernedThis matter cannot be taken lightly or casually as this is very disturbing. The entire issue needs to be inquired into in a proper and in a professional manner, which till date has not been done either by the Judicial Officers or by the State Administration."

Regarding the Committee for searching missing records, the Court said.

"What is that Committee was doing. Is that Committee functional solely on pen and paper? If a Committee is not functioning and performing, the Committee must be scrapped", noted the Court.

Lastly, the Court formed a one-man Fact-Finding Committee headed by Sri G. K. Roy, Retd. Principal District & Sessions Judge to make an inquiry into the matter after taking statements of all concerned in respect of missing case records of Doranda P.S. Case No 77 of 1987.

He has been further directed to highlight the following aspects: -

  • As to how the case record of Doranda P.S. Case No 77 of 1987 went missing and why till date even after lapse of 20 years the record has not yet been reconstructed.
  • The Committee will also report on the aspect for whose fault and as to why it took such a long time and that too only on the direction of this Court after filing of this criminal writ application things started moving that too, in a snail's pace (even a snail pace is faster).
  • All the persons, who are involved in the process and are at fault, will be highlighted in the report of the One-Man Fact-Finding Committee.
  • The Committee will also inform as to why in spite of the order of this Court, the carbon copy of the case diary was not handed over to the court below and who are the person responsible.
  • The Committee will also inform as to why FIR was not registered and why the departmental proceeding was not initiated against the persons for whose laches the case records of Doranda P.S. Case No 77 of 1987 went missing.

The Committee has been asked to submit report in sealed cover within 45 days and the matter was adjourned for 2 months.

The Principal Judicial Commissioner, Ranchi has been directed to immediately get a FIR lodged and report to this Court immediately.

Case title - Surender Singh Rautella @ Surender Singh Bangali @ Surender Bangali v. State of Jharkhand & Ors. [W.P. (Cr.) No. 314 of 2014]

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