CASE TITLE: Bhanwar Singh @ Karamvir vs. State of U.P. 2023 LiveLaw (AB) 288
DECIDED ON: 24.08.2023
CORAM: Hon’ble Ajay Bhanot,J.
In a significant observation, the Allahabad High Court has said that the failure of the state police to serve the summons and execute coercive processes issued by the court is affecting the fundamental rights of the accused and their right to obtain bail in a timely manner.
It is noteworthy that sections such as 61, 62, 70, 72, 74, 78, etc., of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) impose an obligation on law enforcement authorities to promptly deliver summons and carry out other enforcement actions like bailable and non-bailable warrants issued by courts.
Justice Ajay Bhanot’s bench highlighted that an “independent and effective” internal accountability mechanism within the police force is urgently required to ensure the timely delivery of summons and execution of enforcement measures.
The bench additionally underscored that the substantial problem of absent witnesses and the inadequacy of the police’s response to enforce summonses and enforcement measures expose a structural weakness that jeopardizes the integrity of the justice system.
“The incapability of the police to serve summonses and implement enforcement measures within the stipulated timeframe, as mandated by the learned trial courts, is a systemic issue and a significant obstruction in the criminal justice process. This deficiency in police performance leads to witness absence in court and results in prolonged trial delays, eroding public trust in the justice dispensation system,” the bench commented, emphasizing that police authorities cannot overlook internal deficiencies and senior officials cannot evade responsibility.
In light of this, the Court suggested that appointing focal officers at various levels to ensure witness appearance could be an effective solution to address the crisis. However, the Court pointed out that this approach would be effective only if the designated officers were in leadership positions within the police hierarchy at respective levels.
Furthermore, the Court recommended that such focal officers should be authorized to coordinate with police forces at different tiers, whether at the district, zone, state, or inter-state level.
Notably, the Court also proposed that the statutory duty imposed on police authorities to compel witness attendance as per court orders should be integrated into the responsibilities of the designated focal officers, who would be held accountable accordingly.
The performance of these officials should be evaluated based on these criteria and corrections should be made by the department when deviations occur, the Court remarked.
These significant observations were made by the Court while granting bail to an accused individual, as the Court noted the recurring failure of the police to serve summonses and execute enforcement measures, which, in turn, impacts the rights of accused individuals seeking bail.
The Court also examined status reports submitted by trial courts (in the context of the bail matter), revealing that trial delays were attributed to the police’s failure to deliver summonses and execute enforcement measures in a timely manner to ensure witness attendance on scheduled trial dates.
Highlighting the interconnectedness of the constitutional liberty under Article 21 and the statutory right to bail for undertrial prisoners, the Court emphasized that the prolonged detention of accused individuals due to trial delays violates their fundamental liberties, especially when the delay is not caused by the accused.
CASE ANALYSIS AND DECISION
The Court noted that while legal provisions exist to address instances where police officers fail to serve summonses or carry out enforcement actions, pursuing such actions through statutory means results in unnecessary legal disputes and consumes valuable judicial resources.
In this context, the Court emphasized that the courts’ authority to initiate criminal or contempt proceedings against errant police officials for their failures needs to be complemented by “effective internal protocols that assign responsibility and establish accountability within the police force.”
The Court further pointed out that the state must introduce and consider the formulation of regulations that establish a robust accountability framework within the police department for this purpose. Highlighting that the state has previously been advised to take necessary action in this matter, the Court urged the authorities to meticulously examine these aspects and expedite the implementation of these measures.
“The failure of the police authorities and the negligence of the State Government in acknowledging their legal obligations and constitutional duties will result in a miscarriage of justice. Lengthy incarcerations of prisoners occur because the police authorities do not ensure the timely appearance of witnesses, thereby disregarding orders issued by trial courts. This failure of justice is particularly severe for many detainees who come from marginalized segments of society and are hindered by poverty and lack of legal awareness,” the Court observed while directing the distribution of its order to the Director General of Police (DGP), Government of Uttar Pradesh, and the Director of the Judicial Training and Research Institute (JTRI) in Lucknow.
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Written by- Mansi Malpani