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 “Public Prosecutor is for the Public, not for Police”

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An effective criminal justice system is the hallmark of Good Governance. The civic society always expects a justice system that could properly protect the life and property against crime and criminality. No doubt, after burning the midnight oil for many years our law makers could gift us a criminal justice system that could effectively prevent and control of crime and maintain public order and peace. Our criminal justice system envisions and ensures protection of the rights of victims. The system prosecutes persons in conflict with law and make sure that those adjudged guilty of committing crimes are suitably punished and also rehabilitated as per law.

We follow the Adversarial method in our Criminal Justice System which is inherited from the British scheme of legal sense.  The three key components of the Indian Criminal Justice System are Police, Judiciary and Correctional Institutions. Of all these three the Judiciary has a vital since the Court is where justice is delivered.  The public prosecutors have a responsible role as Officer of the Court in assisting the Bench to deliver justice to the aggrieved.  In the Babu vs. State of Kerala (August 11, 2010) the Supreme Court has rightly observed that Public Prosecutors are ministers of justice who are duty bound to assist the judge in the administration of justice. This observation of the Apex Court explains without ambiguity the significance of a Public Prosecutor in our criminal justice system.  Advocate M Salahudeen, a senior lawyer serving as a Public Prosecutor for government of Kerala spoke to our Editor Suresh Unnithan at length on the efficacy of Indian Criminal Justice System. The interview is in three parts.

Being a lawyer of nearly three decades standing and a public prosecutor for the past five years how you evaluate the role of a public prosecutor in the Indian Criminal Justice system.

The Public Prosecutor represents the state. The very word public denotes the people of the state; hence it is the duty and responsibility of the public prosecutor to ensure delivery of justice to the public. We need to understand that the Judiciary is the last hope of the public. Now coming to the functioning part;   for trial proceedings that culminates in the delivery of justice the public prosecutor primarily depends on the records and evidence at hand. The trial court will have the investigation report submitted by the concerned agency and that would be the prime ammunition for the prosecutor to precede the legal battle.

How critical is the role of the prosecutor in comparison with the investigating agency in delivering justice?

Let me elaborate a bit on the roles of both the Investigating agency and the Public Prosecutor.  The Investigating Officer and the Public Prosecutor are two arms of the criminal justice system. The role of the investigating agency, that could be the local police or any national probe agency like CBI or NIA, is to gather evidence and submit the report to the court.  Degree of success in a criminal case trial largely depends on the quality of the investigation report.  Based on the report the prosecutor adduces evidence before the Bench. The prosecutor presents facts of evidential value before the court and the decision is that of the learned Court.

How important is the report of the Investigation Officer in conviction of a criminal case?

Let me make it clear, an accused cannot be and will not be convicted just on the basis of the investigation report.  Deposition of witnesses is vital in deciding a case.  The vital information, facts and evidence the prosecutor elicits during the trial of the witness is critical in deciding the case. As I said above the court may not treat the investigation report sacrosanct. There are umpteen instances of biased or prejudiced investigation reports furnished in the courts. So the onus is on the public prosecutor to bring out the truth through examining the witness and evidence.

However, I reiterate the investigation report is essentially important for delivery of justice to the victim. A loosely drafted or prejudiced investigation report can jeopardize the case and lead to denial of justice. There are instances of hard core criminals dodging the justice system, thanks to poor and prejudiced investigation reports.  The investigating officers, whether from the state police or from central agencies, need to strictly adhere to the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in their investigation process.  A proper and just investigation will always help the to deliver justice to the victim.

(To be continued)

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