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Complaints against the police often come in two instances. During the investigation of a crime, allegations against the police investigation officer that he is moving the process in favour of the accused are often made by the complainant. Charges against the official that he or she is creating false evidence to implicate the accused too fly thick and fast.

The Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act have clearly defined the guidelines and the evidences that can be admitted before a court of law during a crime investigation. The court will not accept any investigation or evidence that does not fall within the ambit of Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act.

After identifying the culprit, the police sometimes fabricate evidence during investigation with a view to bring the crime within the boundaries of the legal framework. On some occasions, the submission of actual evidence collected at the scene of the crime turns out to be the grounds for acquittal of the real culprits.

The Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act have clearly defined the guidelines and the evidences that can be admitted before a court of law during a crime investigation. The court will not accept any investigation or evidence that does not fall within the ambit of Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act.

Let’s say, a police official, during patrolling at midnight, notices an old offender roaming in a market street. He wonders what can be the reason for the habitual offender to roam around at the dead of night. The official suspects that the man is up to no good and therefore wants to take the man to the station and charge him for a crime.

When filing the case, he would typically say that that when he was patrolling the market place at midnight, he noticed a man, with his head covered in a towel, trying to open a jewellery shop using an iron rod. The official would further say that the man tried to flee on seeing the police and the iron rod was seized from him. The details are false but the police officer is quite justified in filing such a case since a case against the offender needs to be justified as per law.

When a police official truthfully submits what he noticed at the scene of a crime and what is actually told by witnesses, will the real culprit be punished?

To cite a particular incident, six persons accused in a murder case were once taken to the Mudhukulathur court in a bus. A gang stopped the bus when it was few miles from Mudhukulathur. They hacked to death all the six accused with a clear motive of revenge.  Two others were also hacked by the gang.

The bus driver, conductor and the passengers were among the witnesses for the brutal murder and there were blood stains inside the bus. However, the verdict which was delivered thirty years ago shocked the public to a great extent.

Citing a photograph taken at the scene of the crime, the court acquitted the accused. The photograph showed the route number of the bus as 3 and its route board as going from Mudhukulathur to Paramakudi.  However, the investigation report said that the bus with route number 2 was heading towards Mudhukulathur from Veerasozhiam. How did this happen?

Once the bus reached Mudhukulathur, the route number should have been changed to 3 and the next trip of the bus was to Paramakudi. However, the bus conductor had changed the board a few miles before the bus reached  Mudhukulathur and the murder had occurred after the change of route board.

The villagers around the scene of crime knew the murderers and there were several witnesses for the crime. In spite of all this, the court, in the legal point of view, considered the accused as innocent and set them free. Such judgments only lead to a notion that courts are only trying to look for loopholes in police investigation to acquit culprits who are actually guilty.

Many people felt that if the police had properly explained in their investigation report about the circumstances of the photograph of the board showing the route number as 3, a verdict of acquittal might not have been delivered. Many suspected police acted with ulterior motive.

When a police official truthfully submits what he noticed at the scene of a crime and what is actually told by witnesses, will the real culprit be punished?

There is another case which reinforces the opinion that courts look for loopholes in the investigation despite the police identifying the real culprits.

Two persons, accused in a murder case, were taken by the police from prison to be produced before the Vilathikulam court. When the accused were standing at the court entrance, having a conversation with one of their relatives, who is also an accused out on bail, all the three were attacked by a gang, with a motive of vengeance. All the three persons died and one of them, who was conscious for a while, died after the magistrate recorded his dying declaration.

The case of the three murders at the Vilathikulam court entrance, in front of the police, during the hearing of a case ended in acquittal of all the accused by the Tuticorin Sessions court.

Despite the identities of the accused, who have committed gruesome murders in front of the public in broad daylight, being known to everyone, the law of our land helps to find some defects in the investigation and set those involved in brutal crimes free. How can such a legal procedure protect the public from crimes? Are court trials examination of police competency or a process to punish the guilty?

How most of the crime investigations take place nowadays is a different question. Mostly, the curtains come down on an investigation once the culprits are identified and arrested. All other functions including the preparation of witness statements are entrusted to someone working under the investigating officer. As a consequence, the police investigation comes under fire during the court proceedings.

Having said this, it must also be said that some police officers do conduct investigations intending to favour the accused. A few months ago, the Madras High Court, which went through an enquiry report in a corruption case, dismissed the report outright, while strongly condemning it for trying to depict a day as dark night. Recently, such investigations attempting to cover up the crimes are on the rise.

Senior police officials used to analyse verdicts resulting in acquittal of the accused by the courts, find out the defects in the police inquiry, and advise the concerned investigation official. Such practices have become a matter of the past.

Crime investigation must be given priority to properly maintain law and order in a state. The investigations should take place in such a way that the accused do not feel that they could cut a deal with investigating officers.

(The author is a retired police officer who held several responsibilities in his career including Inspector General (Intelligence))

 


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