Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:  The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Navin Sinha and KM Joseph, JJ has clarified that  all pending criminal prosecutions, trials and appeals prior to the law laid down in Mohan Lal vs. State of Punjab, (2018) SCC Online SC 974 shall continue to be governed by the individual facts of the case, as the said judgment cannot be allowed to become a spring board by an accused   for   being   catapulted   to   acquittal,   irrespective   of   all   other considerations pursuant to an investigation and prosecution when the law in that regard was nebulous.

In the said judgment, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, R. Banumathi and Navin Sinha, JJ was dealing with the question as to whether in a criminal prosecution, it will be in consonance with the principles of justice, fair play and a fair investigation, if the informant and the investigating officer were to be the same person. It had held that:

“To leave the matter for being determined on the individual facts of a case, may not only lead to a possible abuse of powers, but more importantly will leave the police, the accused, the lawyer and the courts in a state of uncertainty and confusion which has to be avoided. It is therefore held that a fair investigation, which is but the very foundation of fair trial, necessarily postulates that the informant and the investigator must not be the same person. Justice must not only be done, but must appear to be done also. Any possibility of bias or a predetermined conclusion has to be excluded. This requirement is all the more imperative in laws carrying a reverse burden of proof.”

When the present matter came before the Court, it noticed the facts of the present case were different from that in the Mohan Lal case. In the present case, it was argued that the conviction must vitiate as the informant is also the investigating officer. Strong reliance was placed on the Mohan Lal verdict. The Court, however, noticed that the facts in Mohan Lal case were indeed extremely telling in so far as the defaults on part of the prosecution was concerned. In the said case, the paramount consideration being to interpret the law so that it operates fairly, the facts of that case did not show any need to visualise what all exceptions must be carved out and provided for.

In relation to the case at hand, the Court said that the facts in the present case were equally telling with regard to the accused. It added:

“There is a history of previous convictions of the appellant also. We cannot be oblivious of the fact that while the law stood nebulous, charge sheets have been submitted, trials in progress or concluded, and appeals pending all of which will necessarily be impacted.”

Stating that criminal jurisprudence mandates balancing the rights of the accused and the prosecution, the bench said:

“Individual rights of the accused are undoubtedly important. But equally important is the societal interest for bringing the offender to book and for the system to send the right message to all in the society — be it the law­abiding citizen or the potential offender. ‘Human rights’ are not only of the accused but, extent apart, also of the victim, the symbolic member of the society as the potential victim and the society as a whole.”

[Varinder Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 170, decided on 11.02.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: The Bench of  Vipul M. Pancholi, J., allowed the application made for granting an anticipatory bail on the grounds that the applicant was a lady, she was a doctor having two minor children and had cooperated with the investigating officer. 

The facts of the case are that the applicant was booked for the offenses punishable under Sections 419, 420, 423, 465, 467, 468, 470, 471, 474, 477-A, 120-B of the Indian Penal Code for which this application was filed under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for grant of anticipatory bail. The counsel for applicant argued that the nature of allegations were such for which custodial interrogation at that stage was not necessary. Additional Public Prosecutor appearing on behalf of the respondent – State opposed grant of anticipatory bail by emphasizing on the gravity of the offence.

The Court allowed the application on the ground that the applicant was a lady; she was a Doctor having two minor children and had cooperated with the investigating officer thus granting her anticipatory bail. [Varsha Madhukar Wagh v. State of Gujarat, 2019 SCC OnLine Guj 127, decided on 22-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Bench of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J. allowed this petition seeking a direction to the official respondents for reinvestigation because of shoddy, incomplete and unreasoned investigation conducted in a perfunctory manner.

The facts of the case are that the father, brother of the petitioner and the petitioner himself were criminally abused, beaten up and restrained by the accused persons. An FIR was lodged but the police refused to take any actions against the accused persons. It was stated that the Challan in the aforesaid FIR was produced before the Court of Learned Munsiff only under Sections 341/323/34 RPC and only against a few of the respondents and left over the serious offences and rest of the accused persons. The petitioners further contended that the criminal case under the FIR whose challan was presented in the Court of Munsiff required a reinvestigation as the medical record which had been annexed with the petition was not considered by the Investigating Officer during the investigation.

The Court allowed the petition and ordered for further investigation. [Mohd. Arif v. State of J&K, 2018 SCC OnLine J&K 1046, decided on  24-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Bench of Arindam Lodh, J. allowed a petition for quashing of criminal proceedings pending against the petitioner.

The petitioner was arrested with other co-accused in connection with a crime under Sections 364-A, 302 and 201 IPC along with Section 27 of Arms Act. The petitioner through his counsel D. Bhattacharya, Advocate submitted that after investigation, the chargesheet submitted by the Investigating officer did not show his name. Further, that the IO specifically observed that there was no evidence against the petitioner. However, after taking cognizance of the case, the Judicial Magistrate (First class), Sonamura issued an arrest warrant against all the accused including the petitioner. Aggrieved thereby, the present petition was filed.

After carefully perusing the record, the High Court expressed serious dissatisfaction to the conduct of JMFC who did not think it necessary to go through the chargesheet itself. This, according to the court, is unexpected from a Judicial Officer. The JMFC was cautioned that any such mistake in future would draw appropriate action. It was observed, “It is the solemn duty of the court to protect the life and liberty of a citizen and none should be harassed unnecessarily”. The Court was satisfied that the petitioner was discharged by the IO and therefore it allowed the petition by quashing the proceedings pending against the petitioner. [Priyalal Debbarma v. State of Tripura, 2018 SCC OnLine Tri 261, Order dated 05-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of S.P Garg, J held that the sole testimony of the investigating officer cannot be grounds for convicting the accused under the NDPS Act in the absence of other evidence.

In this case, an intelligence officer, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence received a secret information on phone about two persons of certain descriptions who would arrive at a certain bus stop on Wazirabad road at about 9:00 p.m. carrying contraband. The said call was allegedly made at around 5:00 p.m. This information was recorded in writing and placed before senior officers and the complainant was directed to take necessary steps which resulted in the arrest of two persons matching the description given by the anonymous caller with around 6 kg of heroine in their possession. The DRI claims that during the arrest, two public persons joined the raiding team at about 8:30 p.m.

The Court found many discrepancies in the investigation and arrest. The Court questioned the absence of the two public persons during cross-examination. Moreover, the anonymous tip was recorded in a loose sheet of paper. Moreover, the DRI was unable to make a case as to where the accused persons had come from, where they were headed, who they were bringing the contraband for where they got the contraband from. In light of the above-mentioned circumstances surrounding the case, the Court allowed the appeal setting aside the sentence. [Mohammad Burhan v. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 10060, decided on 24.08.2017]