Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a case wherein the Trial Court passed remarks such as “negligent” and “insensitive” against the petitioner and other police officers and blamed them for the delay in filing of FSL Report of voice samples, a Single Judge Bench of *Swarana Kanta Sharma, J. held that there was no material or occasion before the Trial Court to hold the petitioner guilty for the delay in preparation of FSL Report by repeatedly terming him as “negligent” and “insensitive”. The Court further opined that passing such comments might impair a person’s confidence, work, and reputation.


In the present case, a FIR was registered under Sections 22 and 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 wherein five accused persons were arrested and chargesheet under Section 173(2) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 was filed and a supplementary report was also filed to bring on record the Forensic Science Laboratory (“FSL”) Report, which confirmed the seized contraband to be ‘Tramadol’. Moreover, voice samples of the accused persons were also taken and sent to FSL for examination. The Trial Court directed the petitioner to make efforts to obtain the FSL Report of voice samples and the petitioner in compliance with this direction of the Trial Court issued a letter requesting the Director of FSL to prepare the FSL Report on priority basis.

On 4-10-2022, a status report was filed, and the facts were placed before the Trial Court and on 13-10-2022, the Trial Court made remarks against the petitioner and the Investigating Officer (IO), SHO and ACP concerned, by using terms “negligent” and “insensitive”. On 23-11-2022, the Trial Court was informed that the FSL Report was still not ready. The Trial Court again passed remarks against the petitioner, wherein it was again mentioned that the IO, SHO and DCP were “negligent persons”. On 7-12-2022, the Trial Court again passed certain remarks against the petitioner and other police officers blaming them for the delay in filing of FSL Report and turned down the request for exemption from personal appearance of the petitioner and ordered issuance of bailable warrants against the petitioner. The petitioner, therefore, sought indulgence of this Court for setting aside the impugned orders to the extent of remarks passed and the bailable warrants issued against him.

Analysis, Law, and Decision

The Court referred to Section 6, Chapter 1, Part H (“The Judgment”) of the Delhi High Court Rules for “Practice in the Trial of Criminal Cases” which pertained to “criticism on the conduct of Police and other officers and warned against such an action by the Courts” and the Court relied on A.M. Mathur v. Pramod Kumar Gupta, (1990) 2 SCC 533, wherein the Supreme Court held that “judicial restraint and discipline were as necessary to the orderly administration of justice as they were to the effectiveness of the army. The duty of restraint, this humility of function should be constant theme of our judges”. The Court further relied on Rakesh Chand v. State, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 14193, wherein this Court had expressed its views regarding restraint to be observed by the judges while passing comments on the conduct of officers/authorities and held that “while dealing with the task of administering justice, a Judge, no doubt had to be acting judicially and giving expression to his views, but he ought to be circumspect while commenting on the conduct of some. The line of discretion was not to be overstepped. The calm and sangfroid of a Judge should be reflected in every judgment, every order; every part of any judgment or order”.

The Court noted that the present case pertained to the year 2019, however, charges against the five accused persons had not been framed till date and the impugned orders revealed that the dissatisfaction of the Trial Court was premised on the failure of prosecution to file the FSL Report of voice samples for which the IO, SHO, ACP, and DCP were termed as “negligent and insensitive persons” and the petitioner was directed to personally appear on the next date of hearing and on his non-appearance on the said date, bailable warrants were issued against him.

The Court opined that while the Trial Court went on to make observations against the petitioner and stated that even the Commissioner of Police, Delhi could not ensure filing of the report at an early date, it was overlooked by the Trial Court that the Director of FSL was neither under the control of Commissioner of Police nor the present petitioner or any other police officer. The Court further opined that “it was difficult to believe that the Trial Court had no knowledge of the fact that it was not in the hands of Investigating Officer or the petitioner to have fixed any date for taking the voice samples or to decide the time taken for preparation of the report of the voice samples. FSL, being an independent body, prepared reports according to its own rules and regulations and the petitioner as the DCP of a particular district/zone of Delhi could only write a request letter to the Director of FSL requesting for preparation of report expeditiously”.

The Court opined that “despite being apprised of the fact that request letters and special messengers had been sent to FSL by the petitioner, still the Trial Court considered it as negligence on petitioner’s behalf that the Director of FSL was not preparing or forwarding the report to the police. The Trial Court could have perused the orders of its own Court, passed by predecessor Judge, to get a fair idea as to what best could have been done to get the FSL of voice samples prepared on a priority basis”.

The Court held that there was no material or occasion before the Trial Court to hold the petitioner guilty for the delay in preparation of FSL Reports by repeatedly terming him as “negligent” and “insensitive”.

The Court further relied on Ajit Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2022 SCC OnLine Del 3945, wherein this Court while dealing with a similar case, had issued directions for exercise of judicial restraint, and observed that “judicial officers should refrain from passing denigrating remarks against police officials”. The Court opined that “whenever the judicial officers were inclined to use harsh language against the investigating authorities and police officers on their professional capabilities and devotion towards their duty, more control and caution must be exercised, since passing such comments might impair a person’s confidence, in addition to having a negative impact on their work and reputation. The loss of reputation suffered by an officer might not get restored even if the remarks were expunged by a higher court. Therefore, a thin wall that existed between the adjudicatory liberty to point out the flaws in an investigation or on part of authorities and the obligation to exhibit judicial restraint must be kept in mind and perspective”.

Therefore, this Court allowed the petition and held that the remarks passed against the petitioner were hereby expunged/deleted from the impugned orders and the bailable warrants issued against the petitioner were cancelled/set aside. The Court further directed the Registrar General of this Court to forward a copy of this judgment to all the District and Sessions Judges of Delhi who should ensure the circulation of this judgment among all the Judicial Officers in their Courts for sensitization of Judicial Officers on this issue.

[Sanjay Kumar Sain v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2023 SCC OnLine Del 1260, decided on 1-3-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

For the Petitioner: Senior Advocate Vikas Pahwa;

Advocate Prabhav Ralli;

Advocate Arun Kanwa;

For the Respondent: ASC Rupali Bandhopadhya;

Advocate Akshay Kumar;

Advocate Abhijeet Kumar.

*Judgment authored by: Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma.

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