Madras HC | 1000 culprits can escape, but, one innocent person should not be punished: HC states in perfunctory investigation of a brutal murder

Madras High Court: B. Pugalendhi, J., while addressing a petition, observed that,

“An impartial investigation is the basic requirement for any investigation. A fair investigation is also a part of constitutional right guaranteed under Articles 20 & 21 of the Constitution of India.”

“Majority of people are now hailing the police encounters and majority of people are now opting for other modes of redresses, like Kangaroo Courts, etc.”

Respondent had filed a final report against the Appellant for the offence under Sections 341, 302 and 394 r/w 397 of Penal Code, 1860.

Trial Court did not find the appellant guilty for the offence under Section 394 r/w 397 IPC but found him guilty for the offence under Section 341 and 304 (ii) IPC.

Property Dispute

Deceased Senthil had a property dispute with the family of one Ponnusamy.

Ponnusamy’s brothers Udayar and Jeyaraman; and one Sabarimalai surrounded the deceased was stabbed.

Mohideen Basha, Counsel for the appellant and Robinson, Government Advocate [Crl Side].

Decision

Bench noted certain lapses in the investigation of the present case.

High Court called the CD file to find out the manner in which the investigation was conducted.

Further, the Court stated that the investigation agency acted in a casual manner, so as to bury the truth and the real accused, who committed the brutal murder on a poor man escape from the clutches of law.

Hence, the appeal was allowed and the conviction and sentence imposed on the appellant were set aside.

Supreme Court’s decision in Popular Muthiah v. State, (2006) 7 SCC 296, was also cited.

The investigation must be unbiased, honest, just and in accordance with the law. The purpose of the investigation is to bring out the truth of the case before the Court of law.

In the present matter, it has been obliterated and the investigation has proceeded in a causal manner as to the whims and fancies of the investigation agency.

Court added that,

“1000 culprits can escape, but, one innocent person should not be punished.”

The available materials, in this case, expose the perfunctory and designed investigation and therefore, this Court is left with no other option except to interfere with the judgment of conviction passed by the trial Court.

A Crime is a public wrong, which involves the public rights of the community as a whole and also harmful to the society in general.

Criminal Justice System

It was also stated that the responsibility of the investigation agency in the criminal justice system plays a major role and they are, in fact, the kingpins in the criminal investigation system.

We are taking pride that the Tamil Nadu State Police is one of the best investigation agencies in the World and it is because of the exemplary service rendered by our police officers.

We cannot allow this reputation of the agency to be eroded by some irresponsible officers.

— Madras High Court

Further, the High Court also observed that the Tamil Nadu Police Reforms Act was enacted in the year 2013, yet it has not been implemented in letter and spirit.

Investigation

An investigation is not a mechanical work, which can be conducted in a casual manner, it requires expertise, knowledge and technical skills to collect the materials, which could unearth the truth.

Concluding the decision, Court stated that the accused can be declared innocents and can be set at liberty, either on the merits of the case or on the lapses committed by the Department. If it is on the lapses committed by the Department, steps should be taken on the side of the Department to avoid the same.

An innocent person does not deserve to suffer the turmoil of long drawn litigation, spanning over a decade or more.

Court placed certain queries for the State and DGP to give their response which are as follows:

i) How the investigation officers are equipped with the knowledge and expertise in conducting a criminal investigation and how it is ensured by the superior officials?

ii) Whether any disciplinary proceedings have been initiated as against the officials, who are responsible for acquittal because of their perfunctory investigation?

iii) How the superior officers, namely, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Additional Superintendent of Police, Superintendent of Police, Deputy Inspector General of Police and Inspector General of Police are monitoring the investigation?

iv) In the case of lapses in the investigation, whether the investigation officer alone is responsible or the higher officials, who are expected to monitor the investigation, are also responsible?

v) The steps taken by the Government in fully implementing the decision of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh v. Union of India, (2006) 8 SCC 1 and the Tamil Nadu Police Reforms Act, 2013, in letter and spirit, in all the police stations.

vi) The steps taken by the Government in implementing the decision of the Supreme Court in State of Gujarat v. Kishanbhai, (2014) 5 SCC 108.

vii) The steps taken by the Government and the Department, to implement the amendments made to Sections 161, 164 and 275 CrPC?

viii) The steps taken by the Government and the Department, to implement the amendments to Sections 161, 164 and 275 CrPC, pursuant to the direction of the Division Bench of this Court in Satheesh Kumar’s case (supra).

ix) Whether the Circulars issued by the Director-General of Police then and there are strictly complied with? In the event of non-compliance, whether any disciplinary proceedings are contemplated against them and if so, the details thereof.

x) Whether the circulars issued by the Director-General of Police are readily available in all the police stations, in the form of a manual and whether they are available in the common platform, such as websites, so that, it can be accessed by the general public?

xi) The existing mechanism to enhance the quality of investigation among the investigation officers and the ways and means to enhance the same as to the present-day scientific advancements.

xii) The possibility of issuing a checklist including the steps to be carried out by the investigation officers, step by step, depending upon the nature of crime and the applicability and training using advanced scientific techniques, like fixing the accused using call details and tower location, etc., and how such collected details be marked/produced before the Court.

xiii) Why not compensation of Rs 10,00,000 be awarded to the victim in this case, who suffered because of the perfunctory investigation, which could be recovered from the investigation officers, namely, PW 12, Thiru N. Muthukumar; and PW 14, Thiru Poun and the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sivagangai concerned?

xiv) The Secretary to Government, Home, Excise and Prohibition Department; and the Director-General of Police, Chennai, shall give their comments/proposal as to the present case and the further course of action, if any, in view of the fact that ten years have lapsed since the commission of offence.

xv) Ways and means to address the issue raised & to effectively overcome the same.

xvi) Any other suggestions to avoid the acquittals due to such perfunctory investigations, in future, so as to regain the losing glory of the Department.

The present matter listed for 22-09-2020. [Balamurugan v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2165, decided on 08-09-2020]

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