The Madras High Court recently observed that even though the law does not require investigating officers to take the opinion of the Public Prosecutors before filing Final Reports, it may sometimes prove to be counterproductive. Thus, the court noted that some methodology could be devised to ensure that the final reports are scrutinized by legally trained minds before they are filed in courts at least in cases involving serious offences.
“Such filing of the Final Reports without scrutiny of a trained legal mind may prove to be counter productive in cases involving serious offences. The nuances of various provisions under penal law can be appreciated well only by a legally trained mind and we cannot expect such standard from an investigating officer. Hence, some methodology must be devised to ensure that scrutiny takes place before Final Report is laid before the Court atleast in cases involving serious offences,” the bench noted.
The bench of Justice MS Ramesh and Justice Anand Venkatesh had earlier directed the Tamil Nadu government and the Director General of Police to respond to an order for establishing a specialised wing to improve the quality of investigation.
During the course of the hearing, the State Public Prosecutor informed the court that the practice of placing Final Reports before the Public Prosecutors had come to an end by way of a circular issued by the Director General of Police in April 2022.
The court noted that the DGP had relied on an order of the division bench of the High Court for passing the circular wherein the division bench had observed that the Investigating Officer was not legally obliged to take the opinion of the Public Prosecutor before filing a Final Report in jurisdictional court.
To this, the court noted that the DGP seemed to have taken the judgment to its extremity and that the judgment did not completely prohibit the Public Prosecutor from scrutinizing the Final report. The court added that the intention of the judgment was only to ensure that Final Reports are not filed beyond statutory period in cases involving serious offences and it nowhere said that the Final report should not be scrutinised by the Public Prosecutors.
Thus, the court directed the Director of Prosecution to issue a circular to all Public Prosecutors sensitizing them to deal with Final Reports at the earliest. The court added that the prosecutors can inform the investigating officers about any defects which can be rectified before filing it in the Jurisdictional Courts. The court added that the circular shall make it abundantly clear that delay in scrutinization should not be the cause for delay in filing of Final reports beyond the Statutory period.
“In the light of the above direction given by us, it will be left open to the investigating officer to get the Final Report scrutinized by the Public Prosecutor before the same is filed before the concerned Jurisdictional Court. The investigating officer shall furnish the Final Report to the Public Prosecutor by ensuring some reasonable time to the Public Prosecutor to go through the papers and to rectify the defects, if any,” the court said.
The court also emphasised that scrutiny by prosecutors was not for the purpose of getting an opinion but to ensure that the Final reports are filed in an effective and legally sustainable manner.
“We once again reiterate the position of law that the Final Report placed for scrutiny before the Public Prosecutor is not for the purpose of getting an opinion from the Public Prosecutor and this procedure should be adopted only to ensure that the Final Report is filed before the Court in an effective manner and is legally sustainable. It is not necessary that this procedure has to be adopted in all cases and it can be restored to in serious crimes. To that extent, the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu can issue a clarificatory Circular,” the court added.
State Public Prosecutor also submitted a status report informing the court about the particulars of investigation conducted by the Specialised Wing in 11 Taluk Police Stations and also in the Coimbatore Commissionerate. He also informed the court that steps were being taken to extend creation of the Special Wing to other cities and taluks.
The court, after perusing the status report, found that there was a visible improvement in the completion of investigation on time and filing of Final Reports. With respect to digital evidence, the court noted that finalisation of a Digital Evidence Manual was very important to ensure that the procedure was methodically followed in cases involving electronic evidence. The court also noted that since the process involved application of mind there could not be haste and thus granted the DGP four weeks’ time to finalise the same.
The court also appreciated the Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu and the DGP for taking effective steps in conducting an orientation programme for Prosecutors and sensitising them on effective investigation and filing final report within the prescribed time limit.
Case Title: Satheesh Kumar v Inspector of Police
Citation: 2023 Livelaw (mad) 177
Case No: Crl A(MD) 482 of 2017