A police official who reports crime can also probe it: apex court

April 6th, 2009 - 8:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has held that a police official who first reports the commission of a crime to his police station and becomes complainant in the case, is not legally barred from probing it.
The apex court also ruled that the authenticity of an investigation into a criminal offence cannot be doubted merely because it was probed by a police official who first reported it to his police station for lodging of the complaint.

“So far as the desirability of the complainant (police official) undertaking investigation is concerned, there is no legal bar,” said a bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, in a ruling delivered March 31 but released later.

“Merely because the complainant conducted the investigation, that would not be sufficient to cast doubt on the prosecution version to hold that the same makes the prosecution version vulnerable,” the bench added.

The bench gave this ruling, setting aside a Karnataka lower court’s observation that “the investigating officer should not have proceeded with the investigation as he was the complainant and on that ground alone the prosecution version had been tainted.”

Explaining the significance of the case, lawyers said, many a time a police officer who first witnesses an offence also reports it to his police station for registering the criminal case, and is often also asked to probe the matter.

But during the trial of such cases in lower courts, the defence counsel often question the veracity of the probe on the ground that the same police officer lodged the complaint and probed the matter. They succeed in raising doubts about the fairness of the probe, explained lawyers.

The apex court gave this ruling in a case of alleged dowry death in Karnataka. The lower court had acquitted the accused persons on various grounds, including that the same police officer who reported the matter the case also investigated it.

The trial court’s verdict acquitting the accused, however, was set aside by the high court, which convicted the accused.

Though the Supreme Court finally upheld the trial court’s ruling and acquitted the accused on various grounds, it struck down the trial court’s observation on the reporting police official’s power to conduct the investigation in it.

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