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Challenges Confronting Public Prosecutors in India

The role of a public prosecutor is to act as a representative of the government, whether of the state or central government, in criminal matters. An officer of the court who assists in the administration of justice is the public prosecutor. The fact that assisting the court in establishing relevant facts is the primary responsibility of the public prosecutor is evident. The public prosecutor must be impartial, fair and truthful. He should follow instructions of the judge.

He should not believe in the conviction of the accused person by hook or crook. Any public prosecution must be guided by the principles of equality, justice and morality. During court proceedings, public prosecutors are responsible for defending the government's interests by summoning witnesses, presenting evidence, and making legal arguments to prove the defendant's guilt. Additionally, they engage in plea negotiations with defence lawyers and provide recommendations for sentencing.

It is also the duty of prosecutors to protect the rights of crime victims and witnesses, ensure due process, and uphold the principles of fairness, honesty, and integrity within the criminal justice system. He should ensure that innocent accused persons arrested by the police in false and fabricated cases are not convicted but acquitted honourably.

Problems afflicting public prosecutors

The appointment of public prosecutors is a critical aspect of the legal system, and any problem in this process can have significant consequences for the administration of justice.

The followings are some common concerns and issues related to the appointment and duties of Public Prosecutors in India:
  • Lack of transparency: In some cases, the appointment of prosecutors may lack transparency and the selection criteria may not be clear. This can lead to suspicions of patronage, nepotism or political influencing of the selection process.
  • Political Interference: The appointment of prosecutors may be influenced by political considerations, resulting in the selection of individuals with political affiliations or connections to the ruling party, rather than those chosen solely on the basis of merit and legal expertise.
  • Inadequate Qualifications: In certain instances, individuals lacking adequate qualifications or experience in criminal law may be appointed as prosecutors, leading to substandard legal representation and mishandling of cases.
  • Under representation: The under representation of certain marginalized groups, such as women or minorities, among prosecutors can have an adverse impact on the diversity and inclusiveness of the legal system.
  • Conflict of Interest: Public prosecutors must be free from conflicts of interest that could compromise their impartiality. However, there have been instances where prosecutors have had personal or professional ties to the accused or their legal teams.
  • Lack of Accountability: In some jurisdictions, there may be a dearth of mechanisms to hold prosecutors accountable for misconduct, negligence, or ethical violations, resulting in insufficient consequences for prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Political pressure: Public prosecutors may sometimes face pressure from political authorities to handle cases in a certain way, which can impair their ability to carry out their duties independently and impartially.
  • Limited Tenure: Short tenures for public prosecutors can lead to instability in the prosecution process. Frequent changes in personnel can disrupt ongoing cases and reduce institutional memory.
  • Inadequate Remuneration: In some regions, public prosecutors may be underpaid relative to the complexity and importance of their work. This can affect the quality and motivation of those in the role.

Problems faced by Public Prosecutors:

Lack of coordination with Police
When queried regarding coordination issues between the Prosecution and Police departments, the majority of public prosecutors unequivocally acknowledged the existence of problems. They expounded that the police are tasked with the registration and investigation of crimes, but frequently fall short in their duties. This may be due to a lack of knowledge, resulting in the failure to gather pertinent information and evidence from the crime scene, or in some instances, a deliberate dereliction of duty.

Consequently, the link between the crime and the offender is often severed, rendering it arduous to establish the case in court and frequently culminating in the acquittal of the perpetrator. Furthermore, in some police officers there is proclivity to withhold crucial information from the prosecutor, thereby weakening the prosecution's argument. It has been observed that those in charge of investigations often possess a limited understanding of the law, which should be a fundamental prerequisite for their role.

Lack of coordination with prisons department
The public prosecutors mentioned that they don't have much interaction with the prisons department. However, they pointed out that the prison officials often fail to bring the accused or the prisoner to court on the scheduled hearing date, citing various excuses. This delays the legal proceedings, causing the litigation to drag on. To ensure the prompt delivery of justice, it's crucial for prison officials to ensure that the accused or undertrial is brought to court on time for their hearings. This highlights the need for a strong and effective coordination between these two important components of the Criminal Justice Administration in India.

Shortage of staff strength
Several problems impact the prosecution process, including a dearth of public prosecutors in the courts. The judiciary and the police have also observed the inadequacy of staff within the criminal justice structure, emphasizing the pressing need to augment the prosecution department's strength. The increase in technology-related infractions has compounded the urgency for more public prosecutors.

In fact, some judicial officers have proposed having an equal number of public prosecutors in the courts to ensure a balanced ratio with judicial officers. This shortage of staff has practical consequences, such as judges having to wait for prosecutors during case proceedings because the prosecutors might be occupied with other cases in different courts.

To achieve the goal of expeditious trials and swift justice, it is essential to enhance the staff strength within the prosecution wing. This will enable better cooperation between the prosecution and other agencies in the criminal justice system, contributing to the timely delivery of justice.

Poor working atmosphere and job satisfaction:
The officials in the prosecution department are facing a heavy workload, which is not a healthy situation. This excessive burden can lead to chaos and, importantly, reduces their job satisfaction. Prosecutors have to manage multiple responsibilities � attending court proceedings and assisting the police in preparing legal documents like 'challans' for various cases.

Some prosecutors mention that they rarely have time to take breaks, relax, or even have lunch during the day. They are constantly occupied with their duties in court and providing legal guidance to the police during investigations. This constant rush leaves them with a lack of job satisfaction and a challenging work environment where they have little time for themselves. They often find themselves running from one court to another to fulfil their duties.

There is a pressing need for significant improvements in the infrastructure available to public prosecutors, along with better access to technology. This would greatly assist in conducting thorough investigations and presenting cases effectively in court. Specifically, the knowledge of advanced technical devices for serious offenses, such as bioengineering tools like narco-analysis tests and lie detectors, cyber crime and crypto currency crime should be made available to prosecutors. Currently, some tests require permission from the court, leading to delays in investigations.

The infrastructure within the prosecution department should undergo a modernization process, and staff should receive training to keep up with evolving technology. Well-prepared prosecution personnel are paramount to successfully handling evolving forms of crime and criminals. To achieve this, the organization of consistent training programs is essential. In light of modern technology's impact, it is crucial for prosecutors to be adequately equipped with the pertinent knowledge and tools, especially regarding cybercrime. To further bolster prosecution teams, technology experts assigned to courts could prove propitious.

The increasing use of advanced technology by criminals is a concerning issue, and both the prosecution and the police need to be well-equipped and informed to effectively present cases in court. Furthermore, the prosecution department is currently lacking in transportation facilities, having to rely on other departments for such needs. It is imperative that the infrastructure of the prosecution wing undergoes significant improvements and is no longer treated as a neglected component of the criminal justice system.

Miscellaneous other challenges:
Scholars and experts generally share the view that Indian prosecutors reportedly face various challenges, although they do not necessarily agree on the precise nature of these issues. It is necessary to acknowledge the diverse concerns raised by individuals regarding prosecutors, including the extent of their power, the exercise of discretion.

Instances of unethical behaviour, remaining silent in some selective cases and becoming vocal in other 'suitable' cases during bail hearing and trial, a tough-on-crime approach, lack of accountability, secret pact with defence lawyers and sometimes with the accused persons, absence from crucial court hearings, loyalty to political leaders, non-study of the case in hand, non-cooperation with investigating officers, lack of good communication skills resulting in poor presentation of case.

Political interference in their appointments, their resistance to change, absence of supervision over them, irregular and insufficient remuneration, inadequate training and experience, non-production of case diaries timely in courts with the help of investigating officers, not giving enough time to the investigating officers to prepare and produce the case diary in court, not presenting his case with full vigour in court, insufficient number of public prosecutors relative to the caseload, lack of coordination with police, prisons and the judiciary, job insecurity, dependence of job on political whims, absence of proper office with necessary accessories and assistants, and ambiguity surrounding their responsibilities.

Public prosecutors serve as a pivotal officer of the court, deeply involved in the essential task of administering justice. Their primary role revolves around aiding the court in its pursuit of factual truth within a case. The significance of a fair, equitable, and ethically sound legal system cannot be overstated, as a public prosecutor is obligated to uphold the tenets of impartiality, fairness, and honesty, for safeguarding the sanctity of this process.

Their conduct is governed by the instructions of the presiding judges, and they are required to refrain from employing unethical methods to secure the conviction of the defendant. Rather, the foundation of any public prosecution rests on the principles of fairness, justice, and moral rectitude. Though there are a large number of public prosecutors who perform their duties with sincerity, integrity and dedication, some problems and shortcomings persist with the remaining public prosecutors and need to be addressed and redressed at the appropriate level.

The possibility of a separate Public Prosecution Service may also be explored along the line of other All India and State Services for security of job of public prosecutors with proper accountability.


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

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