The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said that even under the existing system, Magistrates are made witnesses during trial as they record dying declaration and hold test identification parade. (HT PHOTO).
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said that even under the existing system, Magistrates are made witnesses during trial as they record dying declaration and hold test identification parade. (HT PHOTO).

Top court proposes cadre of magistrates to fill gaps in police investigation

  • The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat apart from Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde were of the view that magistrates should play a more “intrusive” role in investigation.
By Abraham Thomas
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:55 PM IST

To add public confidence to police investigation, the Supreme Court on Wednesday proposed that the need of the hour is to have a separate cadre of Magistrates to assist the police in collecting crucial evidence from crime spots.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde mooted this idea while hearing a suo moto petition with regard to inadequacies in criminal trials. The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat were of the view that magistrates should play a more “intrusive” role in investigation.

“In some cases, a police team goes to the scene of crime and forgets to pick up crucial evidence. If a magistrate is associated with the investigation, there will be a greater sense of responsibility on the police,” the bench observed.

Though the Court has not passed any order to this effect, the bench indicated that it may initiate another suo moto petition on these lines by issuing notice to all states. Without specifying about the contours of what they intend to do, the judges said, “The Magistrate may not participate in investigation…There may be an independent cadre of Magistrates for investigative purposes.”

Two senior lawyers – R Basant and Sidharth Luthra, assisting the Court as amicus curiae had diverse views on this suggestion. Luthra pointed out that Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) envisaged a supervisory role for Magistrates in police investigations. But he had doubts over whether a Magistrate could be part of the investigation during evidence collection as that would make him a witness during trial.

The bench replied that even under the existing system, Magistrates are made witnesses during trial as they record dying declaration and hold test identification parade.

Basant strongly objected to the Court’s suggestion hinting at the inherent danger of making a Magistrate a part of the investigation process. He said, “The Magistrate is not supposed to meddle with the investigation till filing of the final report (by police). The CrPC envisages a separation between the adjudicator and investigator. With this suggestion the mantle of independent adjudicator will fall.”

The bench assured that it will not do anything absurd as Magistrates who are hearing the case will not participate in the investigation. “We need to think of a system….a different independent cadre,” the bench added.

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