Even as it reduced the sentence of Sanjeev Nanda, convicted for running over and killing six people with his BMW in 1999, the Delhi High Court expressed displeasure over the weakening of the prosecution's stand due to the failure of investigation agencies to conduct the probe in a "scientific" manner.
In his 274-page judgement, Justice Kailash Gambhir said, "Every man is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty. This is the cardinal principal of criminal law. In recognition of this right of the accused the burden of establishing the charge against the accused is placed on the prosecution.
"Courts have quite often observed that though they are convinced that the accused is guilty but they have to acquit him by giving benefit of doubt due to failure of the investigators in properly conducting the investigation."
The Delhi High Court on Monday reduced the Nanda's jail term from five years to two. Nanda, who is a British national, was returning from a party in suburban Gurgaon with his friends Manik Kapoor and Siddharth Gupta in his luxury car in the early hours of Jan 10, 1999, when he mowed down six people in south Delhi's Lodhi Colony area.
Besides Nanda, the grandson of former Naval chief S M Nanda and son of arms dealer Suresh Nanda, the trial court had also convicted Rajiv Gupta and Bhola Nath for destruction of evidence and sentenced them to one year and six months respectively in jail.
Highlighting how poor investigation in a criminal trial leads to poor prosecution, Justice Gambhir said, "Investigation and prosecution are two different facets in the administration of criminal justice. The role of a public prosecutor is inside the court, whereas investigation is outside the court.
"The role of a public prosecutor commences after the investigating agency presents the case in the court on culmination of investigation. Involving the public prosecutor in investigation is injudicious as well as pernicious in law."
"The investigation of a criminal case, however good and painstaking it may be, will be rendered fruitless, if the prosecution machinery is indifferent or inefficient. One of the well-known causes for the failure of a large number of prosecutions is the poor, faulty and unscientific investigation," the judge noted.
Terming a public prosecutor a "minister of justice", Justice Gambhir said the prosecutor "should place before the court all evidence...whether in favour of or against the accused".
"Since our country follows the adversarial system of criminal justice, it is essential for bringing the culprits to the books that the prosecution is strong and well fed by the investigating agencies. Police and other investigating agencies are at the heart of the criminal justice system of India," the court noted.
Stressing on the need for scientific investigation, Justice Gambhir said, "Scientific inputs help the investigators in solving a number of cases of crime. The latest state-of-the-art equipments are the need of the hour considering the escalating rates of acquittal in India due to faulty and defective investigation.
"With the advancement in science and technology, it is high time that the novel and scientific methods of investigation by a team of well-trained experts and not merely through an ill equipped, overburdened and constrained team of Investigating Officers."