The Karnataka High Court has issued general directions for speedy conclusion of investigations in criminal matters.
A single judge bench of Justice S Sunil Dutt Yadav in its interim order said, "There is a requirement to pass directions for speedy conclusion of investigation, that may be applicable to the matters in general."
The bench also remarked that Investigation Officers are to be abreast with latest developments in use of technology in commission of crimes. It observed, "They are not conversant with the manner of commission of crimes, especially with respect to crimes relating to money laundering and in specific use of crypto currency and digital money in commission of crimes. International ramification of offenses which are cross border offenses usually found in money laundering cases has a serious impact on investigation."
It added, "Due to lack of coordination between various agencies and Governments of different Countries, investigation is protracted facilitating destruction of evidence and erasing of money trail."
Further it said, "Lack of monitoring by judicial magistrates by exercising power under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. Direct and indirect Interference in investigation where accused may belong to the Party in power. This may result in prolonging of investigation depending on the party in power or even misuse of investigation to settle scores by party in power."
The bench also cited the 239th Report of the Law Commission of India submitted to the Apex Court in the case of Virender Kumar Ohri v. Union of India & Others W.P (C) No.341/2004, wherein the causes for delay in investigation in prevention of corruption involving cases against high Government Officials has been pointed out.
The bench also relied on the apex court court decision in the case of Mahender Chawla and others v. Union of India and Others reported in (2019) 14 SCC 615, which discussed protection of vulnerable witnesses. The directions issued by the High Court in W.P.No.10240/2020 (Suo-motu PIL), dated 01.12.2020, keeping in mind the vulnerability of the witnesses in the cases before the Special Court. It urged the state government to take steps for the implementation of the Witness Protection Scheme.
The court issued the following guidelines-
For speedy Investigation:
i) Offenses may be categorized into (a) petty offenses (b) serious offenses and (c) heinous offenses. As regards petty offenses, the time limit of 60 days could be fixed for completion of investigation which could be extended by the Special Judge/Magistrate upon request made, assigning reasons for extension of time for investigation to be completed.
As regards serious and heinous offenses, a time limit of 90 days could be stipulated with provision to extend such a time period upon request by the Special Judge / Magistrate upon reasons being made out. Such an intervention may be necessary in light of the approach of the Apex Court in the case of Abdul Rehman Antulay and Others v. R S Nayak and Another reported in (1992) 1 SCC 225 where Guidelines were laid down for speedy trial of criminal proceedings.
The court also noted the concerns underlying the Right to speedy trial from the point of view of the accused. Accordingly it said, "The period of remand and pre-conviction detention should be as short as possible. In other words, the accused should not be subjected to unnecessary or unduly long incarceration prior to his conviction;
The other directions are :
ii) In the event the investigation is not completed within the time prescribed and the superior officer is of the opinion that there are no justifiable reasons for completion of the investigation, power can be exercised under Section 36 of Cr.P.C. by the Superior Officer.
iii) The Magistrate / Special Judge can invoke power under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C. to ensure investigation is expeditious and pass appropriate directions where the investigation appears to be procrastinated to the prejudice of the complainant and would have the effect of derailing the investigation. The Magistrate can upon application filed or otherwise seek a report from the concerned authority as regards delay in investigation.
(iv) Where grievance relates to non-registration of first information report and application under 156(3) has been filed, same may be disposed of within a period preferably not exceeding thirty days as relief sought for itself is relating to non-registration of FIR.
(v) The Magistrate at the stage of extension of remand under Section 167 of Cr.P.C. could enquire regarding stage of Investigation.
vi) Many a time the prosecutor is required to take a call on need for examination of multiple witnesses. Once any one witness is examined on a particular aspect and if the evidence is clear and not shaky, the summoning of additional witnesses is to be avoided, as summoning multiple witnesses to speak on the same aspect results in prolonging trial and gives room to the defense to exploit contradictions amongst witnesses speaking on the same aspect.
vii) Setting up a separate investigation wing with dedicated personnel in police stations with necessary training imparted so as to inculcate professionalism in investigation.
viii) Personnel involved may be subjected to training relating to modus operandi in commission of crime, strategies of unearthing crimes and their detection, and steps to be taken to familiarize them with necessary knowledge relating to technology involved in commission of cyber crimes, money laundering and corruption offenses.
ix) In the event of failure to complete investigation in an expeditious manner provisions under Section 20(C) and 20(D) of the Karnataka Police Act(for misconduct) can be invoked and a complaint could be made to the State and District Police Complaint Authority. In fact, delay in completing investigation can be a ground to invoke Section 20(C) in terms of the Explanation to Section 20(C)(7). This would ensure accountability of the investigating officers.
x) The delay in investigation and consequent delay in trial, places the complainant as well as the witnesses in a vulnerable position and the protection mechanism requires to be evolved.
xi) Necessary efforts for bifurcation of law and order, and crime investigation as regards personnel needs to be implemented.
xii) In order to overcome fear and reluctance on the part of the public to be arraigned as witnesses, steps must be taken to implement the Witness Protection Scheme.
xiii) Necessary mechanism needs to be designed to implement the mandate of Order No.1550, 1550 (2), 1551 (2) and (3) of the Karnataka Police Manual.
xiv) The Authorities concerned may consider having provisions for the purpose of speedy and effective investigation by framing Regulations in lines of Police Regulations Bengal, 1943
xv) In cases involving influential public personalities, resort to Section 164 Cr.P.C., should be made more frequently.
xvi) While investigation of offenses under the provisions of Cr.P.C. is the exclusive domain of the police, the Judicial Magistrate should have a role to play to counter the moves of persons in influential positions to subvert the effective process of investigation. Accordingly, the I.O. shall bring to the notice of Magistrate the bottlenecks, if any, that are coming in the way of speedy investigation including the attempts being made by the accused to hinder the investigation. The Magistrate shall, apart from taking such steps as are permissible under law, for example, issuing summons for the production of documents in the custody of suspect/accused/or a third party, may also send a report to the District Judge for appropriate action on the administrative side to eliminate delays.
Case Title: SUJIT S/O MADIWALAPPA MULGUND v. THE SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE
Case No: WP 15144/2021
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 174
Date of Order: 17th May 2022