With the conceptualization of the idea of democracy, maintenance of law and
order have always been one of the most intrinsic functions of the
government. In any jurisdiction, there are three cardinal players,
namely, Police, Prosecution, and the Judiciary who are mandated with the
endeavour of ensuring peace and imparting justice. Out of all, internal
security of a state is very much a prerogative of the police and is most
crucial for upholding the rule of law[i].Police plays a major byzantine
role of law enforcement, one seldom apparent to the general public.
In India, the entire criminal justice system revolves around the criminal
laws enacted by the Parliament and State Legislatures. Various laws enacted
in place, specifically, Indian Penal Code, 1860; Criminal Procedure Code,
1973; Indian Evidence Act, 1872; and The Police Act, 1861 regulate the
system. The powers and duties of a police officer making an investigation
are enunciated in the Sections 157-173[ii] of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973. These investigations involve determining whether a crime
has been committed, and if so, what type of crime, who has committed it and
whether there is any evidence to charge the perpetrators.
is a State subject under Seventh Schedule[iii] to the Constitution
of India, hence, it is the primary responsibility of the State governments
to provide adequate resources to the police officials to prevent, detect,
register, and investigate crime and help the judicial organ to render
justice. However, superintendence and control of the police have always
been a debatable issue in our country as they come under the domain of
political executives who have the capacity of interfering in the independent
functioning of the system.
The hon'ble Supreme Court while delivering a judgment in a leading case H.N.
Rishbud vs State of Delhi
[iv] elaborately described the procedure of making
an investigation. Yet, the system is still lagging behind in terms of
efficiency and is creating a loophole in delivering justice to the society
at large. Improper investigations by the police officials helps in giving
the accused, the benefit of reasonable doubt[v] and leads to the failure of
the prosecution case, which ultimately leads to denial of justice to the
victims of the crime. Police system, being the first line of defence in the
country is expected to be efficient, potent and sound. But what is happening
in today's scenario is contradictory to the expectations. Various myriad
deficiencies are found in the existing police system.
Challenges to Police Investigation
Political intrusion:The landmark judgment Prakash Singh & Ors. Vs U.O.I
& Ors.[vi] provides a holistic approach wherein the Supreme Court gave
directions to the State Governments to constitute a State Security
Commission (SSC) to ensure that there is no undue influence by the
governments in the police investigations. However, there is scanty adherence
to the said direction and politics is spreading its roots in the
under-developed and flawed police system of the country. It is leading to
politicization of police force and the pending investigations against the
high rank officials and VIPs never see the light of the day. Police
priorities are frequently altered based on the will of political executives.
Unbefitting Budget: The constraints in the allocation of
budget affects the efficiency and the effectiveness of the police
investigations. Sometimes, there is also an issue of under-utilization
of the funds. In the year 2015-16, states utilized only Rs 1,330 crores out of Rs 9,203 crores
that was made available to them for modernization.[vii] Due to inefficiency
of funds, police officers bear the cost of investigations from their own
pockets which are later reimbursed from the public in the form of Bhatta'.
This Bhatta system, unfortunately, leads to sowing of the seed of corruption
in a department that is meant to keep a check on the vile.
Ineptness and Obsolete weaponry: A major grey area that often
leads to flawed investigations is the lack of skills possessed by the
police officials. A prodigious number of personnel is not equipped with
the knowledge of the digital world and this results in ramping up of
cyber-crimes as investigations either go down the lane or go unnoticed.
Similarly, when it comes to weaponry, it is often obsolete and
unserviceable. The CAG report [viii] attributes this antiquated ness of the
weapons to the slow acquisition processes followed by the government in
procurement of the weapons.
Media involvement:Media is the most powerful tool for
bringing the actions taken by the officials in the light and in shaping
the public's views. Nevertheless, this can turn into a bane if not
handled meticulously. Because of improper handling, public is provided
with the uncommon access to the sensitive information and this
sometimes, makes it easy for the accused to escape or to plan his events
as per the ongoing investigation. This is a major roadblock in the way
of a successful investigation.
Transfer of Police officers during investigation: At times,
the police officials are at the behest of the political commanders who
do not go well with the system of checks-and-balances. The police
officers are often transferred with a malice intent leaving behind the
ongoing investigation, especially in the election years[ix]. This causes undue delay in the
completion of the investigation as the newly appointed officer takes time in
getting in sync with the briefs of the case.
Witness turning Hostile: Hostile witnesses are the ones that
either fail to testify or backtrack on their original statements. This
leads to exoneration of the accused on false reasoning. As it is said,
“Even god does not know how human mind works”, human cannot predict
another human either. This hostility of the witness results in hampering
the investigations already conducted and makes it troublesome for the
judges to impart justice[x].
Lack of Public Co-operation: In certain investigations,
police and public liaison[xi] is required to make it successful. However, because of low faith
and confidence of the public in the current police system, this has become
quite a task. From ancient history, the relationship has been strained and
remained unpleasant till date. . The eye-witnesses of a crime scene are
usually reluctant to give statements to the police officers with a fear of
getting implicated on false accusations.
Custodial Interrogation:Custodial interrogation facilitates
the confrontation between the accused and the investigating officer and
provides certain leads to the officer for keeping up with the
investigation. However, there is a limited opportunity for repeated
interrogation and hence, it becomes troublesome for the officers to
verify the veracity of the statements made by the accused.
This proves to be a stumbling block and
makes it difficult to join the dots and complete the investigation.
Way Forward- A Panacea to the challenges
In order to curb the menace created by improper and incomplete
investigation, the police system need certain reforms to be implemented
soon, efficiently and effectively.
- Provision of an adequate budget by redefining government's existing
policies and programs.
- Creation of separate cadres for looking into the investigations,
apart from public order and maintenance of peace.
- Boosting confidence in the public by creating awareness regarding
the system and leading interaction in a trustworthy manner.
- Separation of politics from the system for the establishment of an
independent environment and for achieving political neutrality.
- Co-operation by media by not disclosing sensitive and progressive
information about the investigation to the general public.
- Improvement in Information Technology infrastructure for tackling
the cases in a simple and easy manner.
- Setting up of an independent complaint authority to inquire into the
cases of police misconduct.
- Providing travelling allownance to investigation team and witnesses
which might act as an incentive to work sincerely and give evidence.
Police investigation can be improved by making each investigation a team
effort. As the main task of the officers is to search for the truth while
doing investigations, this task should remain unfettered from the loopholes
and should provide a helping hand to the justice system of the country. To
accomplish this will require that police themselves engage in a continuous
process of re-evaluation of law enforcement policies and practices to ensure
that they are both effective and responsive to the requirements of a
democratic society. Also, it need judiciary to aid the system by making the
reforms a pointed –action program.