BY: Sidharth Luthra
Address delays by providing state-of-the-art infrastructure and technical-legal support for investigative agencies.
One of the root causes of the slow dispensation of justice is the lack of speed in investigations. Investigations that have to be concluded in months go on for years. Trials that must proceed on a daily basis take weeks or months. I will not venture to deal with all cases — my focus is on a specific area, namely, anti-corruption laws.
The mandate under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act is that investigations should be expeditious. Our Supreme Court has declared and accepted this principle, and in 1999, in Satya Narayan Sharma, held that there is no basis to stay corruption trials. The CrPC requires investigations to be concluded in 60 or 90 days, depending on the nature of the punishment for the offence.
While state police investigations tend to get concluded within the stipulated time, those by specialised agencies tend to take longer. The immediate benefit is that an accused would get default bail — a classic example of how delays benefit the accused.
To the citizen, this would seem incongruous, since specialised agencies have the advantage of being excluded from law and order duties — their focus is only on investigation.
An obvious explanation for these delayed investigations is that, whereas traditional crimes have fewer witnesses, highly technical crimes, such as financial fraud, entail gathering and analysing large volumes of documentation; only then is the complaint or chargesheet filed.
It is, therefore, time to revisit the working of specialised investigating agencies and provide for adequate infrastructure, specialised training methods, and technical and legal support to ensure that investigations are fast and effective.
The first need is training. With the changing economic scenario, there is a world of difference in the nature of financial transactions. A traditionally trained police officer may not have exposure to the complex nature of intra- or inter-state transactions.
In the Special Reference No 1 of 2012 (Presidential Reference), the Supreme Court has held that auction is not the exclusive method to effect the transfer or alienation of natural resources. That being so, a police officer testing such transactions for criminality will have to understand economic policies and test allegations of abuse of authority against norms that should exist.
The other issue that needs to be considered is scientific and technical expertise. This has to be seen at two levels. When highly technical policy matters or commercial decisions or transactions come before an investigator, he will need adequate technical support, be it through auditors, lawyers, scientists, to appreciate the nature of the transaction and whether there continued…