SC asks judicial officers to act with responsibility

The Supreme Court has asked prosecutors and judicial officers to discharge their responsibility properly as any callousness on their part could shake people’s faith in the criminal justice system.

A bench of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and J Chelameswar regretted that the faith of society in the criminal justice system had already reached a considerably low level, and any inadequacy on the part of responsible persons would further jeopardise the situation.

Dealing with a case of alleged dowry death, the court recorded its “anguish” as the charge sheet was filed without securing the viscera report from a forensic lab, a lapse that was not noted even by the prosecutor and the magistrate, and ultimately resulted in the acquittal of the accused.

The magistrate sent the case for sessions trial “mechanically without applying his mind,”  observed the bench.

“Public prosecutors and judicial officers owe a greater responsibility to ensure compliance with the law in a criminal case.

“Any lapse on their part, such as the one which occurred in the instant case, is bound to jeopardise the prosecution's case, resulting in avoidable acquittals,” it said.

“Inefficiency and callousness on their part is bound to shake the faith of society in the system of administration of criminal justice in this country, which in our opinion has reached considerably lower levels than desirable,” said the bench in the recent verdict.

The court allowed an appeal filed by Gaya resident Kamla Devi, challenging a seven-year jail term awarded to her by a trial court and confirmed by the Patna High Court for the offences of dowry death and cruelty.

Devi was sister-in-law of Babita, who died of poisoning, allegedly by Devi and the victim’s husband in 1991 for the purpose of dowry.

The victim’s husband served a seven-year sentence and preferred not to file an appeal.
The apex court, which upheld the conviction of the appellant for the milder charge of cruelty under Section 498A of the IPC, noted that the prosecution failed to examine the doctor who conducted the post-mortem examination, and to produce the forensic laboratory report on examination of the viscera of the deceased.

None of the witnesses spoke of their witnessing Babita consuming poison either under compulsion or otherwise, added the court.

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