Common Cause and Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), launched India’s first Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR 2018) at the India Habitat Centre on May 9.Read More+
Transparency Through Technology
POLICE MODERNISATION IS THE KEY
Technology Can Bring Transparency
Independence of the police is as essential as the independence of judiciary. I acknowledge that it is difficult for the police to work in the absence of a connection with the government but there is an urgent need to ensure non-interference in the working of the investigating officer from his superiors and external forces in the context of criminal trials. Under Section 173 (of Criminal Procedure Code), the opinion of the officer is supreme and hence he needs to be insulated from such influences and pressures.
The rights or wrongs of his actions during investigation will be decided by the judiciary. Unfortunately, what is happening presently is that the officer's views are frequently diluted on account of pressures - both external and internal. Criminal justice is a civilised alternative to fighting on the streets, in the absence of which people would not hesitate to settle their scores on their own at the slightest of provocations, leading to anarchy. But today there is an impression that has been given to a set of people by the political leadership that one is entitled to kill for the protection of certain ideas. If such behavior is encouraged, whether directly or indirectly, the commission of crimes on the streets would rise and criminal justice would cease to be a civilised alternative. It is the job of the government to ensure that there is peace and people have faith in the criminal justice system.
I can assure that improved technology is the way to ensure independence of the investigating officer. It is the answer to removal of external interference. I have witnessed the working of the criminal justice system from within during my visit to the United States in 1986. All the police stations in US had a technology by which all telephonic conversations of the police would be automatically recorded. The telephones would also be connected with the police cars in the field. The operator who received the call was supposed to keep conversing with the person who had made the complaint in order to understand the gravity of the crime. The pilot cars (or the beat vehicles) would simultaneously listen in on the conversation to know the details. The beat car which was nearest would then start moving in the direction of the scene of the crime.
Why is such technology absent in India? I wonder if it is due to the fear of illegal conversations being recorded. This by itself reflects the need for such a system to enable the police to function independently and it would free them from accusations of bias. Hence, in my opinion, mandatory recording of all telephone conversations should be the first important step towards change.
The second step is to make innovations in the police stations which can bring about a transformation in the criminal justice delivery system. The state police should setup a mobile-forensic van for each police station, which will ensure timely gathering of scientific evidence. This will reduce external interference and attempts to tinker with the opinion of the investigating officer as there will be irrefutable evidence. Having mobile forensic vans will also ensure that investigations and evidence gathering will not be botched up, as had happened in the Aarushi murder case. Introduction of such mobile vans will also lower the dependence on oral witnesses which often run on frail human memory, lower capacity for facial recognition and failure to recall names among other weaknesses, due to which the rate of conviction remains low. Hence, in order to improve the rate of conviction, investigations have to be impeccable. About 80 per cent of the cases fall by the wayside because the judges are not willing to accept the statements under Section 161.1
My third suggestion is that every police station be equipped with an interrogation room having infallible technology - two cameras, one close-up and one wide-angled, where all the three walls of the room can be seen, with no windows and no gun-wielding policemen. There is a need to begin the procedure of recording the witness's statement before charge-sheeting, and substituting these with the hand-written statements of the investigating officer under Section 161, which are often unsigned and not accepted in a court of law.
I can assure that if the above steps are taken, the conviction rates in the country may rise upto 90 per cent. It is my wish to launch a parliamentary forum for police reforms and urge the governments to heed attention, because it reflects poorly on any government when the conviction rates are as low as six per cent. I conclude by emphasising that corruption, piracy and adulteration can be controlled to a great extent if all the seizures by police were made on camera.
*K.T.S. Tulsi is M.P., Rajya Sabha and Advocate, Supreme Court
From left to right: Former attorney general of India Soli Sorabjee speaking during the IPF-Common Cause meet at India International Centre, while former law minister Shanti Bhushan looks at him; A mupi outside the venue at Multi-Purpose Hall (IIC); Audiences at the programme 1Section 161 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
161. Examination of witnesses by police: