Selective Leaks During Investigation To Media Affect Right Of Accused And Victims: SC Of India

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Case in reference: Dr Naresh Kumar Mangla vs. Anita Agarwal [ Criminal Appeal Nos.872-873 of 2020]
  • The coram consisted of: Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee
  • The counsel was Sr. Adv Shekhar Naphade for appellant., Sr. Adv R Basant and Sr. Adv Sidharth Luthra for respondent, Sr. Adv Vimlesh Kumar Shukla for state.
  • The apex court said selective divulging of information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice.
  •  The bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee said the investigating officer has a duty to investigate when information about the commission of a cognizable offence is brought to their attention.

INTRODUCTION

The Supreme Court on Thursday said that selective disclosures made to the media during investigation of a crime affects the rights of both the accused and the victims. The apex court said selective divulging of information can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee made the observation while cancelling an anticipatory bail granted by the Allahabad High Court to the in-laws of a deceased woman in a dowry death case.

"Selective disclosures to the media affect the rights of the accused in some cases and the rights of victims families in others. Selective divulging of information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice," the top court said.

The Allahabad High Court had earlier granted anticipatory bail to the parents-in-law , brother-in-law and sister-in-law of the deceased woman, who were accused in the dowry death case. To grant them anticipatory bail, the High Court observed that (a)"the FIR prima facie appears to be engineered to implicate the applicants";(b) "there is no corelation in between the various allegations leveled in the FIR";and (c) the allegations "are general in nature" with no specific role being assigned to the accused.

Unfortunately, this role is being compromised by the manner in which selective leaks take place in the public realm, it said.

Referring to the case records, the bench, also comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjeeobserved that the investigation by the UP Police in the present case 'leaves much to be desired'.

The Court noted that within a couple of days of the death of the deceased woman, the news about alleged suicide note was reported in the newspapers in Agra.

BRIEF BACKGROUND

The father of a woman had moved the top court against the bail granted to the accused in a dowry harassment case.

According to the FIR registered at Police Station Tajganj in Agra, on August 7, 2020, the father lodged a complaint alleging that he spent an amount in excess of Rs.1.50 crore for conducting the marriage of his daughter Deepti , who was a doctor.

It is alleged that even thereafter, Sumit, his parents, brother-in-law and sister-in-law misbehaved with the deceased on account of dowry.

The deceased, it is alleged, was pressurized to bring money and later died by suicide.

Within a couple of days of the death of Deepti, the alleged suicide note found its way into the newspapers in Agra.

The top court said the husband of the deceased have a prominent social status in Agra and that they may have used their position in society to thwart a proper investigation cannot be regarded to be unjustified.

It said the status of the accused as propertied and wealthy persons of influence in Agra and the conduct of the investigation diminishes this Court's faith in directing a further investigation by the same authorities.

"In the backdrop of what has been stated above and the serious deficiencies in the investigation. We are of the view that it is necessary to entrust a further investigation of the case to the CBI in exercise of the powers of this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

The Court in the context above said that, “The sequence in this case appears to follow familiar patterns. Immediate publicity was given to the alleged suicide note. These examples are now becoming familiar. Selective disclosures to the media affect the rights of the accused in some cases and the rights of victims' families in others.he media does have a legitimate stake in fair reporting. But events such as what has happened in this case show how the selective divulgingof information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can beused to derail the administration of criminal justice.The investigating officer has a duty to investigate when information about the commission of a cognizableoffence is brought to their attention. Unfortunately, this role is being compromisedby the manner in which selective leaks take place in the public realm.This is not fair to the accused because it pulls the rug below the presumption of innocence.It is not fair to the victims of crime, if they have survived the crime, and where they have not, to their families.Neither the victims nor their families have a platform to answer the publication of lurid details about their lives and circumstances.”

"This is not fair to the accused because it pulls the rug below the presumption of innocence. It is not fair to the victims of crime, if they have survived the crime, and where they have not, to their families. Neither the victims nor their families have a platform to answer the publication of lurid details about their lives and circumstances," the bench said while handing over to the CBI the investigation of the case.

The Supreme Court also disagreed with the Allahabad High Court order granting anticipatory bail to the accused in the case. The judges said that the first information report lodged in the case contained details of incidents of assault and payment of money to the in-laws of the deceased.

"The grant of anticipatory bail in such a serious offence would operate to obstruct the investigation," the court noted. The judges directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct further inquiry into the case.

CONCLUSION

In some parts of India, Dowry deaths still exist. There are so many rural areas where there is still problem of Dowry. The problem with such cases is that it is very difficult to prove the cause of death. The woman’s family becomes helpless.

There are two sides to this situation. Some women might misuse this provision. This is the reason why it becomes difficult for making very strict provisions. The matter needs to be analysed very carefully.

 

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Ishita Desai Online
on 23 December 2020
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