ROLE OF INVESTIGATING OFFICER IN SOCIALLY SENSITIVE CASES ARISING OUT OF INTERFAITH MARRIAGES
A sub-inspector (SI) is generally in command of few police personnel (with head constables, the equivalent of corporals, commanding police outposts). He is the lowest-ranked officer who under Indian Police rules and regulations can file a charge sheet in court, and is usually the first investigating officer. Officers subordinate to him cannot file charge sheets, but can only investigate cases on his behalf.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code, Section 2 (h) the term “investigation” is to be conducted always by a police officer or any other authorized person other than a Magistrate, who is authorized by a Magistrate on his behalf. The object of investigation- It includes all the proceedings under the Code for the collection of evidence. It was observed by the court that etymologically, the meaning of term investigation is that which includes any process involving sifting of materials or a search of any relevant data for the purpose of ascertaining facts in issue in a matter at hand. If investigating agencies conduct a mala fide investigation, then it is open to correction by invoking the jurisdiction of the High Court under Art 199 of the Constitution.
2. Duties of Investigating Officer :
The primary function of the Police Department is to maintain law and order in society as well as to ensure the safety of the general public. In order to achieve the said objective, the power of investigation has been provided to them. The power of investigation is not only power but also a responsibility and a strong means to achieve the ends of justice. The powers give policemen a free hand without any interference from any external sources. Therefore, it is crucial that when the Statute gives power to any institution or department to carry out their prescribed functions, the institution exercising those powers is morally, ethically, and humanely duty-bound to exercise those powers in an independent, unbiased and non-partisan manner. Being in an advantageous position by default should not give anyone the license to misuse, abuse, browbeat, blackmail others using those powers and if one does so, it is diametrically opposed to the spirit of his oath of office.
Investigation of the Crime is a solemn duty imposed by law on the police officers. The duty of the investigating officer is not merely to bolster up a prosecution case with such evidence as may enable the Courts to record convictions but to bring out the real unvarnished truth. It is not the duty of the investigating officer to adopt a ‘fastening the noose’ approach by manipulations and resort to sharp practices. In the light of these observations, Justice Holmes observed: ‘ I may point out that Courts have insisted on the observance of certain principles – a code of investigation ethics – to be observed by the investigating officers. Observance of these rules is essential to protect the life and liberty of the people and create public confidence in the criminal investigatory process. .Police functions and duties become more important in such socially sensitive cases arising out of inter-caste marriage because of the major reason that such cases if mishandled lead to brutal honor killing cases. However, IOs do not abide by their duties in such cases and as a result, instead of protecting young couples who decide to get marry or live together against their family wish are the ones who are tortured, harassed, and even brutally killed.
3. THE NEGATIVE CONDUCT
In Laxmibai Chandaragi Vs The State Of Karnataka The court highlighted the negative conduct with dismay as,” Though the IO stated that they would like to close the case, they wanted her to get her statement recorded at the police station. The IO also stated that the family members may file a case against her that she has stolen things from the home and if an FIR is filed, there would be a negative mark against petitioner No.2 and they would have to arrest him which would be problematic for his job also.
The aforesaid does not tally with what is stated in the counter affidavit to the extent that the investigation officer had at no point threatened the petitioners.
The aforesaid does not reflect very well on the police authorities or the IO, the marriage certificate having been received by him and the conversation already been held with petitioner No.1 where she clearly stated that she was married to petitioner No.2 and that she was feeling threatened and apprehensive of coming to the police station. If the IO could have visited the residence of petitioner No.2, he could very well have recorded the statement of petitioner No.1 at the place where the petitioners were residing rather than insisting and calling upon the petitioners to come to the local police station at Karnataka. Not only that, he undoubtedly sought to compel petitioner No.1 to come and record the statement at the police station on the threat of the possibility of a false case being registered by her parents against the petitioner No.2 and the consequent action of the police which would result in the arrest of petitioner No.2. We strongly deprecate the conduct of the IO in adopting these tactics and the officer must be sent for counseling as to how to manage such cases.
In the past, Hon’ble Supreme Court had issued directions to the administrative and police authorities all over India while deciding a case of harassment by the parents of the boy and girl who had an inter-caste marriage. Following are the directions that were laid in the case of Lata Singh v. Sate of U.P.,
“We direct that the administration/police authorities throughout the country will see to it that if any boy or girl who is a major undergoes inter-caste or inter-religious marriage with a woman or man who is a major, the couple are not harassed by anyone nor subjected to threats or acts of violence, and anyone who gives such threats or harasses or commits acts of violence either himself or at his instigation, is taken to task by instituting criminal proceedings by the police against such persons and further stern action is taken against such persons as provided by law.”
This judgment is so ironic because the court is directing police officers to protect young couples but indeed the police authorities are the ones who give such threats and harass them.
In Bhagwan Dass vs State (NCT) Of Delhi on 9, May 2011 the SC had issued a direction to circulate a copy of this judgment to all the Sessions Judges/Additional Sessions Judges in the State/Union Territories. Copies of the judgment shall also be sent to all the Chief Secretaries/Home Secretaries/Director Generals ofPolice of all States/Union Territories in the country.
Hon'ble courts directing even police, has a relevant purpose, as they do play a significant role in such cases as laid down in Bhagwan Dass v. State (NCT of Delhi),’ Often young couples who fall in love have to seek shelter in the police lines or protection homes, to avoid the wrath of kangaroo courts.’
In Deepika And Another vs State Of U.P. And 3 Others on 11 November 2013
The common grievance of the petitioners in these writ petitions is that they are major and they wish to live with each other, but they are being subjected to harassment by the local police at the behest of their unwilling parents
Thus from all these above judgments held by hon'ble courts, averts that police authorities or IOs are performing negatively as not fulfilling their duties, violating laws and orders by courts.
4. ROOT CAUSE OF MISHANDLING SUCH CASES
4.1 POLICE ABUSING POWERS
Police have the power to investigate through certain provisions under CRPC. The objective of powers given to police or IOs is to make judicial use of such powers to protect the young couples as directed by the court in the case of Lata Singh v. the State of U.P, However, police exercise their powers sparingly and arbitrarily as aforesaid mentioned, pointing out the negative conduct in case of Laxmibai Chandaragi Vs The State Of Karnataka. Also, in Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar & Anr SC issued guidelines for police authorities to exercise their powers. The aim was to reduce or control the abusive power of IOs.
4.2 PROVISIONS OF CRPC WHICH ARE VAGUE AND ARBITRARY
Since IOs lack knowledge they tend to misinterpret provisions of CRPC and investigate the cases according to their understanding and ultimately indulge in arbitrary decisions.
MISINTERPRETED PROVISIONS OF CRPC
Where the police officer has otherwise reason to suspect the commission of a cognizable offense [S.157(1) & S.156(1)]CRPC. The expression “reason to suspect” as occurring in Section 157(1) is not qualified as in Section 41(a) and (g) of the Code, wherein the expression, “reasonable suspicion” is used.
Therefore, it has become imperative to find out the meaning of the words “reason to suspect” as it is unclear and synonymously used and it tells the IO that how he wants to handle the case, and such vague provision is often misinterpreted by IO.
It is pellucid that the commencement of an investigation by a police officer is subject to two conditions, firstly, the police officer should have reason to suspect the commission of a cognizable offense as required by Section 157(1), and secondly, the police officer should subjectively satisfy himself as to whether there is sufficient ground for entering on an investigation even before he starts an investigation into the facts and circumstances of the case as contemplated under Clause (b) of the proviso to Section 157(1) of the Code.
It is to be noted that using the word satisfaction is vague in this provision, satisfaction to one police officer could be different from another officer.
The use of such words according to their satisfaction gives IOs an excuse to abuse their powers and give them an opportunity to defend themselves if charged.
4.3 APPOINTMENT CRITERIA: The Police Act, 1861 states that the appointment of the police officers is subject to article 311 of the constitution, and such rules as the State Government may from time to time make under the act.
The eligibility and recruitment process of various designations under the police department. is different. For SP/ ASP/ DSP, one has to clear the IPS examination. Meanwhile, For other posts, state governments hold separate recruitment exams. The recruitment exam consists of both a written and physical test. The candidates must meet the proper height and weight description, depending on the post.
Staff Selection Commission (SSC) is another authority that conducts the recruitment exam for Sub-Inspector of Police in several states.
It is to be noted that the appointment criteria of IOs are mainly checking physical aspects, although there is a written test also these two tests do not check what is the capability of IO to handle pressure, efficiency, and quick decision making.
4.4 NO SEPARATE LAWS
As such there are no codified laws for honor killing cases and India Needs a Separate Law for such cases because Honor killings are notoriously underreported – not by the media, but by the State. India’s latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report recorded only one instance of honor killing in 2018 in the country, in Delhi. The year before, it again recorded only one case, this time in Surat, Gujarat. According to the report, there were no such cases in Tamil Nadu during both years.
However, in the last five years, according to field investigations and studies by Evidence, an NGO working to protect the human rights of Dalit and Tribal people in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, there have been 195 known cases of honor killings in Tamil Nadu alone. In November 2019, for instance, two horrific instances of honor killings took place in the southern state in the span of a single week: 17-year-old Janani from Nagapattinam was set on fire by her mother for being in a relationship with a Dalit man. Five days later, 21-year-old Nambirajan’s decapitated body was found on the railway tracks in Tirunelveli. He had been killed by his in-laws, who simply could not accept his lower-socioeconomic class status, even though he belonged to the same code annual NCRB report is prepared by the Center, with data provided by states and union territories. According to the NCRB, the data is first validated at the Police Station/District level and validated a second time during the consolidation of district data by the State Police. If this is indeed the method followed, then one of two things — or both — are likely true: either state governments have no reliable means to track honor killings, or they prefer not to.
section 29 of police act 1861 states,
Penalties for neglect of duty, etc: Every police officer who shall be guilty of any violation of duty or wilful breach or neglect of any rule or regulation of lawful order made by the competent authority, shall be liable, on conviction before a Magistrate, to a penalty not exceeding three months pay, or to imprisonment with or without hard labor, for a not exceeding three months, or to both.
It is to be noted that if a police officer conducts breach of duty or is negligent to perform his basic duty or mishandle the sensitive cases of interfaith marriage which leads to such horrendously criminal offense like honor killing ie punishable under sec 302 of IPC,1860 is punished to a penalty not exceeding three months pay only. Such slight punishment will not set an example to other IOs to perform their duties with utmost responsibility.
4.6 Influence of executive
Appointment, dismissal, etc., of inferior officers.[Subject to the provisions of article 311 of the Constitution, and to such rules] as the State Government may, from time to time, make under this Act, the Inspector-General, Deputy Inspectors-General, Assistant Inspectors-General and District Superintendents of Police may at any time dismiss, suspend or reduce any police officer of the subordinate ranks] whom they shall think remiss or negligent in the discharge of his duty, or unfit for the same;
[or may award any one or more of the following punishments to any police officer [of the subordinate ranks] who shall discharge his duty in a careless or negligent manner, or who, by any act of his own, shall render himself unfit for the discharge thereof.
Even if police are willing to perform duties honestly, there is immense pressure on IOs as they can be according to the above section and can be anytime be removed by executives. Any bigshot executive person can interfere in free & fair investigation & manipulate it.
The extent of police misconduct can be improved through the training of police officers and racially integrated departments resulting in the decline of police harassment. Such corrections include sufficient training, recruitment, and integration. In recruitment, tighter screening and background checks could be used to avoid misconduct and casteism to enter into the police force. By means of integration, the presence of more minorities can help to dissolve the hatred towards minorities in society, giving affirmative action an opportunity to take precedence.IOs should also be required to go to a class that re-teaches them how to act appropriately in such situations. A majority of these IOs also feel as though they did not commit wrongdoing and that they are innocent. One of the ways to curb police negative conduct is to implement new laws, to hold them accountable. Today, officers know that there are laws dealing with etiquette during such sensitive cases, but many do not attempt to apply what they know, and let physical strength, and force overcome them. Also, severe or reasonable consequences should be given to police officers who participate in police misconduct. Suspension, verbal reprimands, an investigation, training programs, or the loss of their jobs are some consequences that should be given to violating officers.
To put it briefly, IOs have a significant role to play, especially when handling such socially sensitive cases arising out of interfaith marriage. Young couples who are constantly surrounded by immense threats and harassment, first try to seek shelter under police only. At this point of time police must understand their situation & act accordingly.
Although new guidelines have been recently introduced but their applicability will be the most notable part to test the function of the police department.