Duties of Investigating Officers, Superior Police Officers Power of The Courts to Transfer Investigations to Other Agencies

  • Duties of Investigating Officer : Investigation of the Crime is a solemn duty imposed by law on the police officers. The duty of the investigating officer is not merely to bolster up a prosecution case with such evidence as may enable the Courts to record convictions but to bring out the real unvarnished truth. It is not the duty of the investigating officer to adopt ‘fastening the noose’ approach by manipulations and resort to sharp practices. In this regard Justice Brandiase in Olmstead Vs. US observed:

    “Crime is a contagious. If the Government becomes a law beaker, it breads contempt for law… To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means – to declare that the government may commit crime in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal – would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this Court must resolutely set its foot.”

    In the same judgment Justice Holmes observed: “We have to choose, and for my part I think it a less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.”

    In the light of these observations, I may point out that Courts have insisted on the observance of certain principles – a code of investigation ethics – to be observed by the investigating officers. Observance of these rules is essential to protect life and liberty of the people and create public confidence in the criminal investigatory process. These duties are discussed under separate heads.

    • A complainant police officer should not investigate the same case : The principle that no man can be judge in his own case, is applicable to police investigations too. Where the investigation is conducted by an officer who himself stands in the capacity of a complainant or aggrieved person, such investigation is against any norms of fair play. Where the bribe was offered to the police officer who himself investigated the case, it was observed by the Supreme Court that it was an infirmity in the investigation which is bound to reflect on the credibility of the prosecution. Therefore, when a police officer stands in the capacity of a complainant, he should not investigate the case and the investigation should be conducted by a different police officer.
    • Investigating Officer should not make use of stock witnesses: Investigating officer should not make use of the services of professional or stock witnesses. Such a practice is bound to contaminate the investigatory process causing a potent danger to the life and liberty of the citizens. Therefore, where the police pressed into service the same person in innumerable cases as their perpetual stooge in order to secure conviction, this practice was deprecated by the Supreme Court and it was observed that it systematically pollutes the judicial process and is consequent threat to human rights of innocent persons.
    • Duty of Investigating Officer to record statements of witnesses without delay : The legislative intent in mandating the investigating officer to record promptly the statements of persons acquainted with the facts of the case is to check ‘paddying system’ on the part of police and to check any manipulation on the part of witnesses which they may choose to make while deposing at the trial. It is presumed that spontaneity ensures the truth of details of incident and participants therein and delay generally occasions manipulations and colouring. Therefore, the investigating officers are required to record statements of persons acquainted with the facts promptly and failure to do so is a serious matter. Therefore, it is prudent for an investigator to give precedent to the examination of witnesses who are easily available at scene of crime in natural order of priority. Delay in recording statements may not by itself amount to be a serious infirmity but may assume such a character if there are concomitant circumstances to suggest that investigating officer was deliberately marking time with a view to decide about the shape to be given to the case and the eye-witnesses to be introduced. Delayed recording of statements by the investigating officer of the material witnesses render their evidence unreliable. In Jarnail Singh Vs. State of Rajasthan unjustified and unexplained delay of four days in recording the statements was held to renders the evidence of witnesses unreliable. However, the investigating officer is at liberty to examine the witness on more than one occasion as and when need may arise to elucidate new facts discovered by him.
    • Duty of Investigating Officer to take into possession even documents produced by accused : It is the duty of the investigating officer to take into possession any document which has bearing on the case even if the same has been produced by the accused. The reason for such a necessity is that such document may have effect on the culpability or innocence of the accused. Where, for example, a permit for carrying grams was produced by the accused some days after investigating officer intercepted his cart which had bearing on the bonafide intention of the accused that transportation of grams was within time and lawful, it was held that police should have taken the same into possession through a panchnama or memos. In cases where the investigating officer comes across any suggestion or material throwing any doubt regarding the mental condition of the accused, it is his duty to place such material before the Court.
  • Duties of Superior Police Officers : It is the duty of superior officers of police to ensure that the law is observed not only in letters but in spirit. At the level of police station, officer in charge of police station is the immediate head and it is his duty to supervise the investigation of every case. It is equally the duty of superior police officers to see that investigating officers observe the provisions of law scrupulously and do not exceed their powers and whenever any breach is observed, take necessary action in the matter.

    It is the duty of superior police officers to see that investigation is conducted only by the police officers empowered under a specific law to investigate such cases. As in cases under Suppression of Immoral Traffic in women and Girls Act a special police officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police is empowered to investigate a case, investigation conducted by a police officer of the rank of Sub-Inspector was held to be justified. In case of investigation against a police officer himself, under the U.P. Police Regulation, it is to be conducted by a police officer superior in rank than the officer against whom investigation is being conducted. Investigation against police officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent by a police officer of the rank of Inspector was held to be illegal.

  • Powers of Courts to transfer investigation to other police agencies : It is the duty of the police to investigate the case with utmost impartiality and fairness, both to the accused as well as to the aggrieved person. If the police adopts an impartial attitude it will further the cause of justice. If police adopts partial attitude and in conducting investigation the malaice is apparently reflected, Courts have been empowered to transfer the investigation to other police agencies. For example, where a person died in police custody due to beating given by investigating officer on which a case under S. 302 IPC was registered but without waiting for the post-mortem report police converted the case to Section 304 IPC within hours of registration of case and further converted to Section 323/34 IPC, the investigation was held to be tainted with partiality and the order of the Magistrate in transferring the investigation to CBI was held to be justified. However, such order can be passed by the Courts only during the pendency of investigation and no general order can be passed in anticipation of a future event.

References :

  • Jamuna Vs. State of Bihar, 1974 Cr. L. J. 890 (Pat.).
  • (1928) 277 US 438
  • Bhagwan Singh Vs. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1976 SC 985.
  • Prem Chand Vs. Union of India, 1981 Cri. L. J. 5 (SC).
  • Krishan Lal Vs. State, 1971 Cri. L. J. 1610 (Del.).
  • G.P. Patel Vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1971 SC 135.
  • Ibid.
  • Balakrushna Vs. State of Orissa, AIR 1971 SC 804.
  • 1972 Cri. L. J.824 (Raj.).
  • Asan Tharavil Baby Vs. State of Kerala, 1981 Cri. L. J. 1165.
  • Supra  note 3.
  • Kullapan Vs. State of Kerala, 1986 Cri. L. J. 71
  • Delhi Administration Vs. Ram Singh, AIR 1962 SC 63.
  • Sunder Singh Vs. State of U.P., 1987 Cri. L. J. 1188 (ALL).
  • Kashmeri Devi Vs. Delhi Administration AIR 1988 SC 1323.
  • Ishwar Singh Vs. Commissioner of Police, 1982 Cri. L. J. 924 (Del.).