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Conducting Investigations Abroad

In cases where information or formal investigations abroad are required, cooperation with INTERPOL becomes essential. These situations often occur when suspects have fled the country, crimes span international borders, or witnesses and evidence are located in another nation. Such collaboration is crucial for gathering evidence, especially when accused individuals have left the country or when crimes involve international elements.

At times, Indian police officers are dispatched abroad to execute Letters of Request (LRs), gather information, or follow leads in complex investigations. These visits have to follow formal procedures due to the case's significance and complexity. However, as foreign nations don't grant Indian officers police powers, the visited country's consent is crucial to avoid sovereignty issues. The visit should begin only after obtaining permission. Officers should stay in touch with the Indian Mission upon arrival, or inform the accredited Mission for India if none exists in that country.

Overseas Investigation under Section 166-A of CrPC, 1973
  1. Section 166-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 lays out the procedure for sending a 'Letter of Request' (Letter Rogatory) to conduct investigations, gather evidence, and collect material objects/documents. This is done under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Arrangements, or Reciprocity. International conventions can also facilitate such requests if no treaty or MoU exists.
  2. Investigating agencies need prior consent from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, the Central Authority, to request a Letter Rogatory.
  3. Before applying to the Competent Court, a self-contained proposal for a Letter Rogatory should be sent to the Under Secretary (Legal), Internal Security Division, MHA. For State Police, it goes through the respective State's Home Department; for DSPE (CBI), it goes directly to MHA.
  4. The need to conduct an overseas investigation should be carefully assessed, considering relevant treaties, MoUs, arrangements, conventions, and legal requirements of the requested country. The proposal should specify the applicable provisions. In the absence of formal agreements, a Letter Rogatory can be based on reciprocity.
  5. Some countries might require specific language or format for a Letter Rogatory. Compliance with these requirements is important, and assistance from IPCC, CBI, New Delhi, can be sought if necessary.

Letters Rogatory (LR) or Letter of Request
"Letters Rogatory" are formal requests sent by a court in one country to a court in another country for assistance in a criminal investigation or prosecution. In India, Section 166A and Section 105K of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), Section 57 and Section 61 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), Section 12 of the Fugitive Economic Offences Act, 2018 (FEOA), etc., establishes the procedure for sending a "letter of request" through the competent court at the request of the investigating officer.

When formal investigations require international cooperation, a Letter Rogatory (Letter of Request) is prepared, detailing the needed assistance. It's sent to India's competent court for approval, which requires prior consent from the Central Authority (usually the Ministry of Home Affairs). Once approved, the Letter Rogatory is issued and transmitted to the foreign country's authorities.

Foreign authorities receive and execute the Letter Rotatory's instructions, like collecting evidence or interviewing witnesses. The obtained information is then shared back with India, aiding ongoing investigations or legal proceedings.

Throughout this process, legal and diplomatic coordination is crucial to ensure compliance with international law and treaties. The collected evidence is integrated into Indian investigations, contributing to building strong cases.

It's important to adapt the procedure based on the nature of the investigation, bilateral agreements, and international conventions. Legal experts, diplomats, and specialized agencies may be involved in managing the complexities of international investigations.

Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Request
A request for Mutual Legal Assistance in the Indian context is a formal request made by a central authority of India i.e., the Ministry of Home Affairs to a central authority of another country at the request of an investigating officer or agency under any bilateral treaty/agreement, multilateral treaty/agreement or international convention.

Service of Summons, Notices and Judicial Processes
In India, various legal provisions such as Section 105 and Chapter VIIA of CrPC, Section 59 and Section 61 of PMLA, Section 10 of FEOA, etc., govern the service of summons, notices, and judicial processes. These documents are initially sent by the competent court to the IS-II Division, MHA. Subsequently, the MHA forwards them to the relevant foreign country, either directly or through Indian diplomatic channels, for proper service on the intended person by the foreign country's Competent Authorities.

Central Authority of India
The MHA is responsible for receiving and transmitting requests for assistance, either directly or through diplomatic channels. Requests should be addressed to the Under Secretary (Legal), Internal Security-II Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, with email contact at [email protected].

The Internal Security-II Division of MHA manages records and data for mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests and letters of request (LRs), with support from the Assistant Director of the International Police Cooperation Cell (IPCC) within the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The IPCC's contact details are: Assistant Director, IPCC, CBI HQ, 5-B CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, with email contact at [email protected].

Informal Requests
For informal information or guidance, Assistance may be sought through INTERPOL channels for getting informal information or leads. The Investigating Agency is required to take up the matter with Assistant Director, NCB, Central Bureau of Investigation, 5-B, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Marg, New Delhi-110003.

Types of Requests
India seeks and provides various forms of assistance, including:
  1. Identifying and locating individuals and objects.
  2. Gathering evidence and obtaining statements.
  3. Enabling the availability of individuals in custody or others as witnesses.
  4. Serving judicial documents.
  5. Conducting searches and seizures.
  6. Providing information, documents, records, and evidence.
  7. Taking measures related to proceeds and instrumentalities of crime.
  8. Facilitating restitution of embezzled public funds.
  9. Transferring property and lending exhibits.
  10. Protecting and preserving computer data.
  11. Any other assistance not prohibited by the law of the respective countries.

Form of Request
Requests for assistance must be in writing, but in urgent cases, they can be made orally, via email, fax, electronic media, or through INTERPOL. However, such urgent requests must be confirmed in writing by the Investigating Agency or relevant State Government/Union Territory within 5 days. The confirmation should include all relevant documents and be sent to IS-II Division, Ministry of Home Affairs.

Content of Request
The request for assistance should provide the following information:
  1. Names of requesting office, Competent Authority, or Agency involved in the investigation or proceedings, or seeking assistance for crime prevention;
  2. Nature of the investigation, prosecution, or proceedings;
  3. Summary of facts;
  4. Relevant laws;
  5. Contact details for inquiries;
  6. Purpose and type of assistance sought;
  7. Connection between the criminal matter and assistance requested;
  8. Information about the person or property under investigation;
  9. Any criminal history of the accused;
  10. Required level of confidentiality and reasons;
  11. Time limit for execution;
  12. Additional necessary details;
  13. Mandatory assurances;
  14. Specific assurances for certain countries, if needed;
  15. Costs related to the request's execution, if applicable.

When possible, the request may also include:
  1. Identity, nationality, and location of the person under investigation;
  2. Specific procedures or requirements in the requested country and reasons for them.

Language of Request
When seeking assistance from another country, the request and related documents must be in English. If needed, they should also be translated into the language required by the requested country. Any translations must be certified by the translator and authenticated by the investigating agency involved. This ensures accurate communication and compliance with the requested country's language requirements.

After the execution of a request for mutual legal assistance, the Investigating Agency or State Government/UT notifies the Central Authority (IS-II Division, MHA) about the execution and any identified shortcomings. If new information arises after the execution report is received, and further details are required from the concerned country, a supplementary request can be submitted. The process for making a supplementary request follows the same procedure as sending any initial request for assistance.


Written By: Md. Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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