Monday, July 18, 2011

Destruction of Evidence...or Justice?

New Delhi, Jul 17:Evidence is one of the most important requirement to send a criminal behind bars and achieve justice, but if the same is eliminated by the its "securer" then the act becomes nothing less than "evidence of abetment".

The world is observing International Day for Criminal Justice today which aims at ending of impunity for the gravest crimes known to humankind.

The situation of law and order in India sometimes seems a little dicey having examples enough to negate the definition of an ideal police officer who has the prime responsibility to provide safety and security to citizens. Be it Jessica Lal murder case or Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case, suspicion has been raised often on police officials for their involvement in destruction of evidence.

"Police are investigators of crime and it is their duty to lead the system till the culprit is punished. Barring a few instances, they do best of their ability to link all the evidences to prove the guilty in the case. If they do, they do it for obvious reasons like pressure from seniors, political pressure, an some ulterior motive or sometimes out of bribery.

There is no straitjacket formula for it," an Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on condition of anonymity said.

In Priyadarshini Mattoo rape-cum-murder case, when a 25-year-old law student was raped and murdered by Santosh Kumar, son of a Police Inspector-General, the Additional Sessions Judge, while delivering the judgement after 11 years, came down heavily on the role of police while delivering the judgement, almost after 11 years. He said the police attempted to assist the accused during the investigation and trial by creating false evidence and false defense for him.

In a similar case/instance, it took more than seven years to punish Manu Sharma and his friends for killing innocent Jessica not only because of the witness turning hostile but also due to playing with the evidence. After a probe and disclosure by the case's investigating officer, it was suggested that certain police officials conspired with CFSL ballistic expert Roop Singh to replace one of the empty cartridges including the one that killed Jessica.

"Destruction of evidence is a crime, irrespective of who does it and for what purpose. When done by police or investigating agencies, it poses a serious threat to the sanctity of our Criminal Justice Administration System. Though practised as a routine, it comes to public knowledge only in few cases which are investigated and highlighted in media or involve 'influential' people," Anant Kumar Asthana, Panel Lawyer, Delhi Legal Services Authority, said.

There are legal and procedural safeguards in place to reduce the scope of tampering with evidence by investigating agency (agencies), but given the corrupt, unprofessional and Non-independent character of Indian Police System, these safeguards and rules are routinely flouted. This directly influences the result of criminal trial.

Justice becomes the casualty and people who have already suffered due to a crime face another tragedy.

Former president A P J Abdul Kalam said while delivering the valedictory address of the 150th year celebrations of Chennai Metropolitan Police in Chennai, "...The police force should be friendly, corruption-free, responsible, and tolerant to ambiguity and pressure, caring for the people with a sense of compassion and empathy...." It becomes unfortunate when sometimes policemen are found indulging in dubious and unlawful activities.

However, we cannot blame the whole affiliation based on a few incidents we have on record. "What is important is the trend and the proportion in which it is being detected.

You will find such a group of people in our society who do not abide by the norms entrusted to them; similar is the case here. You cannot accuse the entire fraternity on finding wrongdoing by a few people. It is a case of exception rather than a rule," Former Police Commissioner Radhe Shyam Gupta said.

Legal experts feel that strengthening internal intelligence, ensuring persecution of those found involved, improving the public-police ratio, introducing administrative reforms in policing system, taking police out from the control of government and bringing it under Judiciary, and thus, letting police have its autonomy , can help in eliminating this practice.

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