Criminal Trident Pack: IPC, CrPC and IEA by Sr. Adv. G.S Shukla and Adv. Raghav Arora
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  • In a landmark decision, the Calcutta High Court ordered on Wednesday that seizing officers in all cases involving the recovery of narcotic substances must film the entire process and that any excuses for not doing so must be made explicit in the investigation records. 
  • All police personnel typically have smartphones and other electronic devices that would allow them to videotape such a recovery procedure, according to a bench comprising of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Ananya Bandyopadhyay. 
  • Furthermore, it was noted that using such technology is necessary to give the investigative process fairness, impartiality, and confidence.
  • The Bench further noted that while the Narcotics Control Bureau's Field Officers' Handbook, among other things, instructs the search team to carry a video camera among other equipment for the purpose of the search, sadly, even in instances handled by NCB, such orders are not implemented. 
  • Additionally, the Committee constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs gave certain recommendations like crime scene recording is "desirable and acceptable best practise”.
  • The Committee has also issued a number of directions for planning, capacity building, and the mandatory implementation of such a procedure.
  • The Court additionally observed that the NDPS Act gives investigative authorities complete authority to search, seize, and make arrests, and that even the court's ability to issue bail is constrained by stringent limitations under Section 37, particularly in cases involving commercial bulk.
  • While a strict legal framework is required to combat organised crime, such as drug trafficking, and safeguard young people from the dangers of drug abuse, its harsh provisions are occasionally abused by investigating authorities, leading to false accusations and unjustified prolonged detention of individuals.
  • To ensure that the "unvarnished truth" is presented to the Court during adjudication, the Court issued the following directives:
  • (i) Seizing officers must film the entire process on camera in all circumstances when recovering narcotics is involved, especially when recovering narcotics in excess of commercial quantities, unless they are prevented from doing so for reasons beyond their control;
  • (ii) The investigation records, in particular contemporaneous documentation like seizure/inventory lists, must expressly note the reasons for failing to videotape the recovery operation.
  • (iii) A superior police officer who is not below the rank of additional superintendent of police is responsible for recovering illegal substances in quantities greater than those used for commercial purposes while also ensuring that all statutory requirements are followed.
  • (iv)Departmental proceedings may be initiated if the directives (i) and (ii) relating to videography of recovery are not followed, or if sufficient justification is not provided in contemporaneous documentation for the non-compliance.
  • (v)To ensure proper compliance with the aforementioned orders, the Director General of Police shall issue any required instructions;
  • (vi) Each district's or commissionerate's superintendent of police or commissioner of police shall implement training programmes to increase officers' understanding of and capacity for compliance with statutory obligations.


 

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