Investigation is the first step in finding out the truth of any complaint made to the Police. Some times consciously or unconsciously, some angularities slip in or are slipped in especially when the high profile cases involving powerful people become subject matter of police investigation. The people expect all such cases to end in the conviction. They expect exemplary punishment, especially if the accused is highly connected or holds a high position either in the government or is considered high profile in the society. As per the present laws, any statement made to the police need not be signed. Any confession made to Police Officer has no value in law unless such statement leads to the recovery of items incriminating the accused. Infact telling one thing to the investigating officer and another to the court has become the norm, as nobody is punished for perjury. The only exception has been the Best Bakery Case in nearly 59 years since India attained Independence. Apart from this, all the investigation agencies, whether the Police or CBI or Customs or Directorate of Enforcement are part of the government. They do not enjoy independent status. All political parties pay lip service to the concept of independent, fearless and unbiased investigation. But when they come to power, they do not want to let go their hold on them. Infact the Standing Committee of the Home Ministry when called upon to examine the action against hostile witnesses, turned down the proposal and has never considered any protection programme for the witnesses.
Determination of the truth and getting evidence is of utmost importance. But in the absence of any legal mechanism of witnesses protection programme, it becomes almost impossible to get independent witnesses, and then persuade them to depose in cases which linger on for years together. Investigation of cases is the last priority in the police, as it is tied down with lot of extra bandobast work and fire fighting with day to day agitations and strikes. Investigative excellence is a pain taking process. It symbolises increasing professionalism in the investigating agencies excellence and innovation requires cooperation at all levels. Investigative excellence is neither a programme nor an initiative. It is a set of principles fundamental to ensuring safe homes, safe working places and safe communities for all Indians through the fair, lawful, ethical, most-informed and clever application of the very best investigative and prosecutorial techniques, practices, strategies and training available. Simply put, striving for excellence means professionalised policing by adopting rigorous standards, clear accountability, intelligence-led investigations, more innovative and creative investigative training, practices, strategies and techniques.
The biggest problems facing criminal investigations, whether it is the Best Bakery or JMM bribery case or Priyadarshini Mutto or BMW case, can be listed as under; weak case, mismanagement, investigative tunnel vision, lack of accountability, poor leadership, inconsistencies with legal requirements and not strictly following the legal provisions and lack of respect for the criminal justice system by some investigators.
Weak court preparations also contributed to the failure of these cases. Professionalism starts with the top leadership looking at ways to improve current investigative practices and enforcement strategies. It also involves improving investigation standards with better supervision and more strategic approaches to crime. But the regrettable feature is that top brasses do not have either the time or inclination to look at the investigation of cases with the required seriousness and importance.
Once I asked a state Director General of Police, as to how much time he spent in supervising the investigation. He replied that 95 per cent of his time was spent in transfers, posting and meeting the political leaders, 3 per cent in meeting his own officials and meetings and 2 per cent in attending to the office work. CBI is a different cup of tea, as its full time job is investigation right from the Investigating Officers to the Director. More than that unlike the local police where even Head Constables are assigned cases for investigation, in CBI, the investigation is done only by the Inspectors and DSP´s. As director of the CBI, I had also ordered that each Superintendent of Police will investigate at least two cases every year himself. No chargesheet in any case is filed by the CBI unless the legal officer has vetted it. Quite often, when lacunaes are pointed out, the investigation of the cases is continued till the lapses are made good or deficiencies properly explained or accounted for. It never happens in the local police any where.
Effective training is one aspect of achieving investigative excellence and for professionalising the police. Decluttering the criminal justice system is equally important, as we have more than 26 million cases pending in the country.
The police department is a wing of the whole government. One cannot improve police without improving governance. Nobody is perfect, but it is difficult to have a system where 95 out of 100 are prospering, making money and being in the good books of the powers that be. The other 5 honest ask: ?Why should we live like this?´ Gradually they also join them. That is how it happens and the system of investigation falls into decay.
Political neutrality in the functioning and non interference in the investigation is the only way out. Transfers of police officials to lucrative stations, promotion to higher posts and extensions are the weapons in the hands of the politicians, which they do not seem reluctant to use. However the politicians cannot be blamed entirely, as some officers willingly co-operate to bend the law. Some others follow them for personal gains. If at all any change has to be attempted, it must start from the top of the police hierarchy, as well as the political masters.
(The writer is former director, CBI and can be contacted at 123-124, Nav Sansad Vihar, CGHS, Sector 22, Plot Number 4, Dwarka, New Delhi 110075; Email; [email protected])