Author: Radhika Soni NMIMS School of Law, Mumbai
Facts of the case
The case of Khatri v. State of Bihar took place between 1979 and 1980 in Bhagalpur district of Bihar. In this case, the worst custodial torture happened with 33 trial prisoners which was done by the Bihar police. By throwing acid into the eyes of prisoners who were awaiting trial in Bihar, police officers took their eyes and blinded them. The case went viral across the whole nation and there were various human right activists who condemned all this activity as a clear breach of the Constitution and fundamental human rights. It was claimed that jury members failed to pay attention on the incident and refuse to understand the legal procedure. They also neglected the injuries, either by accident or on purpose. Eventually, some of the prisoners were granted bail, whereas the others were kept in their dreadful conditions without being remanded. It was also discovered that District and Sessions court Judges didn’t check upon the supposed Bhagalpur jail for even more than a year. Blinded inmates were then transferred to New Delhi’s Rajendra Prashad Ophthalmic Institute where their treatment was going on. However, as per Institute officials, their eyesight got so severely affected that no surgical and medical procedure will ever be able to recover it.
Multiple writ petitions have been filed before India’s Supreme Court. The Court resolved to address every one of the petitions jointly before a single judge bench. One of the petitions was filed under Article 32 of the Indian constitution where the petitioners asserted that, they were tortured by the police officers. The petitioners claimed that, they were not behaving within their personal capacity but as a police officer. This leads to the violation of their fundamental right according to Article 21 of the Indian constitution which granted right to life to every citizen. The Court requested many papers, comprising C.I.D. documents which was acknowledged by Shri L.V. Singh, D.I.G., C.I.D. (Anti Dacoity) on December 9, 1980 and other dates, in response to the petitioners’ request. The state objected that the petitioners have no right to perceive and utilize such submission of papers by claiming that they have been exempted from such discovery according to sections 162 to 172 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973.
Summary of issues
The issues of the case are as follows:
Whether an inquiry conducted by a superior officer according to a directive provided to him from the state government under section 3 of the Indian police act, 1861, qualifies as an inquiry under chapter 12th of criminal procedure code, in order to attract the implementation of section 172 of criminal procedure code, 1972 to a record kept by him throughout the inquiry.
Whether such record which resulted from the investigation done by officer, constitutes a case diary according to the scope of “section 172 of criminal procedure code, 1972.”
The learned counsel Mr. K.G. Bhagat, who is presenting on the behalf of state, contended that except for specific purposes, the suspects in a prosecution isn’t really supposed to view the report which is mentioned in case diary. The counsel also contended that, it is hard to imagine that perhaps the parliament would have ever meant that the petitioner or a third party must be expected to demand the report in order to look on it or view the report related to investigation in some court hearing. Also, in order to maintain the secret of the investigation, the report in case diary shouldn’t be disclosed. Further, the learned counsel also contended that, the state neither legally nor constitutionally be responsible for the act done by the police officers as it was outside the scope of their authority and hence, it shouldn’t be said that, there is violation of fundamental right by the state.
On the other hand, the learned advocate Mrs. Hingorani presenting on the behalf of petitioners who contended that, prisoners’ fundamental rights were violated according to article 21 of Indian constitution when police officers weren’t performing in their private capacity but as a police officer when they were badly torturing the prisoners and made them blind.
The case diary submitted by Shri L.V. Singh who were assigned by the state to conduct investigation under section 3 of Indian evidence Act. In this reference, the court held that, the findings of his inquiry are not barred from just being viewed in evidence under sections 172 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Even though, if it contains any views expressed upon him or to his colleagues during the inquiry, they really are alternatively appropriate under the provision of section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act. Further, the court also held that, investigation on whether the police has made the petitioners blinded or not, the court will rely on the report produced by the high-ranking officer who have done his task in accordance with the state government’s directions and all the relevant reports are equally applicable and taken into the account of writ petition. It was also held that, whatever the first police officer would say during an inquiry can be taken as evidentiary in a writ petition according to Article 32 of the Indian constitution and it is meaningful according to the Indian evidence act.
The court also mentioned that, all these documents would be required by the Central bureau of investigation according to section 6 of special police establishment Act, and all the copies of the investigation would be distributed to both the learned advocate.
Relying on the case of “State of Bihar V. JAC Saldhanha,” where it is stated that, the state government does have the authority to conduct an inquiry or a follow-up inquiry.
Also, in the case of “United states V. Nixon,” the supreme court of United state made the decision that, it is indeed essential to establish all necessary details which is thorough in details in the independent judiciary.
It can be clearly inferred from the above facts that the police officers didn’t act in accordance with the rule of law. Police officers are considered to be those individuals who protects people against any unlawful thing happening to them, but the case here is totally opposite. It is true that police officers have been given powers to control any misconduct but they cannot misuse their power. The above facts stated that, prisoners were tortured and got blinded due to acid attack to them and judiciary doesn’t worry about how does such misconduct took place. Although, they both are considered to be the rulers of the country but, but Indian constitution doesn’t give them power to take matters into their hands.
To protect such situation happening again, all actual information should be made accessible to the Law in order for the judiciary process so that it could operate normally and to evaluate the case in a reasonable and certain manner. However, in exceptional circumstances, in order to safeguard more weighty and persuasive conflicting interests, the law could provide that a specific shred of information, maybe appropriate, shall not be responsible to be obtained or called in evidence. Sections 122, 123, 124, 126, and 129 of the Indian Evidence Act, as well as sections 162 and 172 of the Criminal Procedure Code, contain such exceptions. However, as they are considered to be an exceptional case to the valid demand for the receipt of all relevant information in the administration of justice, they must be exclusively understood rather than broadly interpreted.
However, it can be seen from the above analysis that, court hasn’t provided decision on the investigation under chapter 12th of code of criminal procedure which was the main issue of the case and relevance is given only to the applicability of evidence.
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