Cal HC | Can a “witness” in course of investigation be compelled to give voice samples? — 3 questions referred to larger Bench

Calcutta High Court: Rajasekhar Mantha, J., has referred to three important questions, which in the Court’s opinion are required to be settled by an appropriate larger bench.

In the instant case, the Investigating Officer (“IO”) had prayed for a voice sample of the petitioner to enable FSL experts to compare the same with certain evidence that was already in custody of the IO. The Magistrate has allowed the IO’s prayer and directed the petitioner to provide a voice sample before the FSL expert. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner filed the instant revision.

Notably, the petitioner was not named as accused in the FIR and the investigation was still on.

The petitioner argued that as the law presently stands, a witness cannot be compelled to give a voice sample. Per contra, the State relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Ritesh Sinha v. State of U.P., (2019) 8 SCC 1, to contend that if an accused can be compelled to give voice sample, as held in the said case, then a witness who is not an accused, at an investigation, can be definitely asked to give voice sample.

Considering the submissions of the parties, the High Court was of the view that the following questions require to be settled by an appropriate larger Bench:

“(a) Whether Section 311-A read with Section 53 and 53-A CrPC along with Section 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, empowers a Magistrate to compel a witness in course of investigation into an FIR, to give voice sample in the aid of such investigation?”

(b)Can the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in the Ritesh Sinha v. State of U.P. be applied also to witnesses in course of investigation?

(c)Whether a witness even in course of an investigation can be compelled to give evidence, that could subsequently emerge as a ground for including him as an accused in the final investigation report?”

The High Court directed the matter to be placed before the Chief Justice for reference to an appropriate Bench.

In the meantime, however, the petitioner was ordered to give voice samples to the IO in the presence of the FSL expert. It was directed that the said sample shall be kept sealed and unopened, and the parties shall abide by the result of the reference proposed. [Mukul Roy v. State of W.B., 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 4341, decided on 12-12-2019]

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