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Impediments to Police Investigation

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.

Police 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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].
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


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