Overhaul police investigation machinery

The Delhi High Court has rightly admitted the police appeal in the Jessica Lall murder case. Ironically, the villain of the piece in this case is the police investigation process envisaged in the Criminal Procedure Code, particularly Section 161, which empowers the police to record statements of witnesses, whether genuine or otherwise, whether actually got recorded by the witnesses, depending upon what turn the police wants to give to the investigation in a criminal case.

Countless rulings of the High Court and the Supreme Court state that such statements are not “substantive evidence” against the accused and that these can be used only for “the purposes of the contradiction” of the “on oath” depositions of prosecution witnesses during the trial. Yet, it is the these very unsigned police statements that, being part of the challan, are relied upon by the trial courts while framing charges against the accused.

Whether in the course of writ petitions for quashing of FIR or the charges framed, higher courts heavily bank upon such police statements to the exclusion of other facts with a simplistic and escapist view that till rebutted during trial, these statements are crucial and so treated as prima facie substantive evidence against the petitioner-accused.

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If it wants to help the accused, the police chooses pliable witnesses in connivance with the accused so that they are declared hostile for not supporting the prosecution version. And if the police wants to fix an innocent person, it chooses either stock witnesses or those known to be hostile to the accused. Rarely does the police records genuine statements of witnesses who, under Section 161, are “acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case.”

SANJEEV KUMARI, Senior Advocate, HP High Court, Shimla


The whole episode is a blot on the justice delivery system. It has shaken the faith of the common man in the judiciary. The print and the electronic media must be complimented for educating the public on the case. The public outrage is the result of this media coverage. We also owe much to the Delhi High Court for having accepted the Delhi Police appeal.

The trial court judge (now elevated to the Delhi High Court) might have followed the letter of the law but has violated its spirit. The time has come to enact a legislation where the witnesses must be given full protection from the elements against whom they depose. This case must be seen as an example of how the police subverts truth, why justice does not reach the needy and how weak our society has become.

ARVIND DHUMAL, Advocate, Jalandhar


In the Jessica Lall case, the investigating agency has failed to put the required evidence before the court on which alone can the court punish the accused. The prosecution’s failure to prove the guilt of the accused persons has resulted in their acquittal.

The acquittals are not a proof of the failure of the legal system. Every legal system works on some set norms. The trial court, in this case, has not committed any mistake because the prosecution had failed to present the required evidences against the accused. In the absence of evidences, no judge can convict a person. The Indian legal system believes that “it is good to acquit a hundred persons instead of convicting an innocent person.”

The acquittal of the accused persons in Jessica’s case is one of failure of the investigating agency, i.e. the police, and not of the judicial system.

GURINDER SINGH, Dept of Laws, Punjabi University, Patiala


Jessica’s courageous and bold refusal to serve liquor after working hours at the bar is her great sacrifice. Deplorably, the woman owner of the bar has not defended her in the court or on the spot when she was shot dead.

The guilty needs to be exposed and punished so that Jessica’s sacrifice to uphold the dignity of women does not go waste.

Women’s organisations too should pursue the case to its logical conclusion to prove that they too have the fundamental right to live like men. For the women, it is now or never.

BALJIT KAUR, Jalandhar


The acquittal of all the accused in the Jessica murder case has again raised a question mark on the working of the law enforcement agencies and courts in the country. The judgement has shown that the law of the land is not meant for the rich and the influential in society. Where is the rule of law in this country?


Double standards in Punjab

Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla’s statement that unauthorised colonies will be regularised exposes the double standards of the Amarinder Singh government. What happened to its campaign against corruption? It is encouraging the land mafia and giving legal sanction to encroachers and law breakers.

The land mafia is so strong in Punjab that it influences the state’s urban development policies. Governance has suffered because of progressive deterioration in the style of functioning of the government. Illegal colonies and buildings do not come overnight; it takes months for these activities to fructify, that too, with the connivance of bureaucrats and politicians. Sadly, the Municipal Corporation has failed to stop these illegal activities for years. It has legitimised these illegal constructions for reasons best known to it. What a pity!

Dr VITULL K. GUPTA, Bathinda


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