Record audio, video of witnesses’ statement in serious crime cases: Madras High Court
Madras High Court also tells authorities to form a high-level team to supervise the compliance with the direction
MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently directed the Home Secretary and DGP to ensure the police record statements of witnesses through electronic means, at least in serious crime cases. It further directed the authorities to form a high-level team to supervise compliance with the direction.
A Bench of justices R Suresh Kumar and KK Ramakrishnan gave the directions while dismissing an appeal filed by the CB-CID and the victim’s family against the acquittal of 11 people in a triple murder case - a woman and her two children - in Ramanathapuram district.
Noting that the trial court had to acquit the accused as all the witnesses in the case had turned hostile, the judges refused to interfere with the trial court’s order. They also rejected the request made by the appellants seeking retrial.
However, in order to avoid such situations in future, the judges referred to the recommendations made by the Supreme Court and the Malimath Committee, which included recording of the statement of witnesses by police under Section 161 CrPC through audio-video electronic means. “In many instances, the Investigation Officers treat the witnesses like slaves and show indifferent attitude towards the witnesses,” the court said, adding investigation officers do not record the statement as given by the witnesses and it leads to a number of contradictions in the eye of the accused.
Observing that till date, no procedure has been formulated for the purpose, the judges also framed a set of procedures, which included 10 steps, to be followed while recording statements under 161 CrPC.
The deceased were identified as Aathila Banu, her daughter Ajira Banu (5) and her son Mohammed Aslam (7). According to the prosecution, Banu’s husband Muthusamy was a star witness in the murder of a relative of the accused. Since Muthusamy turned hostile, the case had ended in acquittal and the accused developed enmity with Banu and Muthusamy, who had later gone to Singapore.
The prosecution alleged that on November 8, 2010, the accused kidnapped and murdered Banu and her children and disposed of their bodies in different places near Vadipatti in Madurai. But the Mahila Court in Ramanathapuram acquitted the accused in July 2019.