Criminal justice system can't veer towards offender: SC

Criminal justice system can't veer towards offender: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday said that a law declared by it last year that a police officer cannot be complainant and investigating officer in a drug peddling case cannot be used as “spring board” for acquittals in such cases.

The top court held that the criminal justice delivery system, cannot be allowed to veer exclusively to the benefit of the offender making it uni-directional exercise, in view of societal interests to secure justice.

“A proper administration of the criminal justice delivery system, therefore requires balancing the rights of the accused and the prosecution, so that the law laid down in 'Mohan Lal Vs State of Punjab (2018)' is not allowed to become a spring board for acquittal in prosecutions prior to the same, irrespective of all other considerations,” a bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

The court directed that all pending criminal prosecutions, trials and appeals prior to the law laid down in 'Mohan Lal' shall continue to be governed by the individual facts of the case.

It noted that the facts in 'Mohan Lal' case were “indeed extremely telling” in so far as the defaults on part of the prosecution was concerned.

“Individual rights of the accused are undoubtedly important. But equally important is the societal interest for bringing the offender to book and for the system to send the right message to all in the society —be it the law-abiding citizen or the potential offender. ‘Human rights’ are not only of the accused but, extent apart, also of the victim, the symbolic member of the society as the potential victim and the society as a whole,” the bench, also comprising Justices Navin Sinha and K M Joseph, said.

The court passed its judgement, while dismissing an appeal by Virender Kumar against Himachal Pradesh High Court's verdict that reversed his acquittal in a case of carrying 'charas' and sentenced him to 20 years jail term with Rs two lakh fine.

The petitioner heavily relied upon the Mohan Lal case but the top court found that the facts of the case, including past antecedents, were sufficient to hold him guilty.