Karnataka High Court: S. Sunil Dutt Yadav, J. enlisted a few causes of delay in investigation, the principal causes of low rate of conviction, consequences of delay in the investigation along with guidelines for speedy investigation.
The petitioner filed a private complaint under Section 200 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) with the prayer to secure the presence of the accused and deal with him in accordance with law. It mainly hits the fact that that though the Special Judge had passed an order on 21-9-2017 referring to the matter in exercise of power under Section 156(3) of CrPC, till date, no final report was filed. In light of the narration of the life of the litigation, clearly, there has been delay in completion of the investigation. It is noticed that there have been delays caused due to lack of coordination between different Departments, viz., the Prosecution and the Income Tax Department (as the diary in possession of the Income Tax Department was not handed over to the Prosecution promptly till direction was issued by the trial Court), report of the FSL as regards handwriting found in the diary was not obtained in time. The accused has also taken several opportunities to submit his response to the notices issued by the Prosecution. The delay in investigation stands out in the present case.
The Court enlisted few causes of delay in investigation, the principal causes of low rate of conviction, and consequences of delay in the investigation. The Court also noted the legislative framework relating to the speedy investigation, i.e., Sections 157, 167, 167 (5), 173 of CrPC and Orders 1550, 1550 (2), 1551 (2), 1551 (3) of Karnataka Police Manual. It also discussed regarding witness protection and supervision of Investigation under Section 156(3) of CrPC in detail through judicial precedents.
Guidelines for speedy Investigation:
i) Offences may be categorized into (a) petty offences (b) serious offences and (c) heinous offences. As regards petty offences, 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 offences, time limit of 90 days could be stipulated with provision to extend such time period upon request by the Special Judge / Magistrate upon reasons being made out.
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 CrPC by the Superior Officer.
iii) The Magistrate / Special Judge can invoke power under Section 156(3) of CrPC 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 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 off within a period preferably not exceeding thirty days as relief sought for it is relating to non-registration of FIR.
(v) The Magistrate at the stage of extension of remand under Section 167 of CrPC 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 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 offences.
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 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 need to be implemented.
xii) In order to overcome fear and reluctance on the part of 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 CrPC should be made more frequently.
xvi) While investigation of offences under the provisions of CrPC is the exclusive domain of the police, the Judicial Magistrate should have 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.
(xvii) The State is required to take steps for the implementation of the Witness Protection Scheme in terms of the observations of the Supreme Court in the case of Mahender Chawla v. Union of India, (2019) 14 SCC 615, as well as the direction in the order dated 01.12.2020 passed in W.P.No.10240/2020 which is a suo motu writ petition pending before this court. Further, the Judicial Officers are also required to take note of the mandate of the directions of the order dated 01.12.2020.
The Court directed the Investigation Agency to look into the observations as may be applicable and asked The Registrar General, High Court of Karnataka, Bengaluru to send a copy of this order to i) The Director-General & Inspector General of Police, Karnataka. ii) The Secretary, Home Department and iii) The Director, Prosecution Department. List these matters in due course. [Sujit v. Superintendant of Police, 2022 SCC OnLine Kar 912, decided on 17-05-2022]