By AKHTER RASOOL DAR
From acid attacks to bride burning to sodomy, Kashmir is witnessing crimes that were unknown a few decades ago. A couple of days ago a religious preacher from Pulwama district was charged by the police for sodomy. Added to this apathy is the defective and defunct police investigatory machinery. Kashmir is among the six Indian states where the criminal conviction rate hovers at around 10 per cent. Because of defunct investigation, deviants enjoy benefits of acquittal.
The state government invests a handsome amount of its recourses on the investigation processes for the sole purpose of prevention of incidence of crime. But if the state’s investigatory machinery fails to secure a bare minimum of convictions, after spending a lot of money and resources from the state’s exchequer, such expenditures are waste. Isn’t it a crime to waste public money without any useful purpose being served? The present investigatory system promotes miscarriage of justice.
One of the cardinal objectives of any criminal justice system is to protect society from crimes by bringing offenders to justice and preventing offences by virtue of the sanction of the criminal law. In the absence of knowledge of law and inaction from the members of investigating machinery, it cannot be argued that the present criminal justice system in Kashmir offers good number of criminal convictions even in appropriate cases. Arguably, more than 90 percent of criminal cases end in acquittals. Every acquittal means that the objective of the criminal justice system is defeated and the system is found to be responsible for promoting and propagating miscarriage of justice in society.
The Jammu & Kashmir code of criminal procedure, Samvat, 1989 (1933 AD) empowers the state police to undertake the investigative processes. An officer-in-charge of a police station is empowered by section 156 of the code to investigate any cognisable offence which occurs within the limits of his jurisdiction. The step-by-step procedure governing investigation has been laid down by the Jammu & Kashmir police rules, 1960, consisting of more than 850 rules, and both have to be read for understanding the law relating to “police investigation”.
The defunct investigatory machinery prevailing in the state makes it impossible for the prosecution branch to command expected number of convictions from appropriate criminal cases. Following are the other factors responsible for the acquittals in appropriate criminal cases:
Delay in registering the FIR
Delay in inspecting the scene of crime
Defective and unprofessional inspection
Delay in sending preliminary reports to appropriate authorities
Hasty and ill-compiled preliminary reports, and
Heavy workload of police officials
In Kashmir the legal framework dealing with the criminal investigation is comprehensively enough, for the purpose of speedy, effective and professional investigation. What is lacking is not the legislative sanctions rather the official activism. Ignorance of law on the part of investigating staff affects the quality of investigation. A constable who has been promoted to the post of sub inspector cannot be expected to know the whole legal spectrum regulating the investigation. The need is to incorporate the long pending recommendation of segregation between investigation and law and order. Section 87 of the draft Jammu & Kashmir Police Bill-2013, attempts to incorporate that change within the system but unfortunately, the Bill has been pending post its publication.
Until the bill becomes an Act, the need is to incorporate certain requirement based measures. A new post within the current police system, dealing exclusively with investigation tasks and designated as an investigating officer is needed. Thus, by creating a distinct and specialised post of IO, the segregation will be automatic and effective.
If the police are not trained, professional, and serious in conducting investigation of crime, the sufferer is always the criminal justice system. The beneficiary in all such defective investigations is indubitably the accused in the crime.
—The author is an advocate at the Delhi High Court. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org