In the earlier post here, we discussed how the Apex Court has taken stance over the video recording of the court proceedings as well as the use of cameras in the Police stations. Does Indian Evidence Act, read with Information Technology Act support the administration of the criminal justice mechanism in India? How far the legal system relies on the digital/technological aids to be used as evidence. In the post here, the renowned cyber expert Mr. Navvi discussed the implications of the recent order of the Apex Court with regard to electronic evidence.
This post traces the timeline of events till date with regard to how Indian legal system has responded to the challenge of the use of crime scene videography –
Timeline of Events
(1) A decision was taken to constitute a Committee of Experts (COE) to facilitate and prepare a report to formulate a roadmap for use of videography in crime investigation and to propose a Standard Operating Procedure(SOP).
(2) Committee of Experts (COE), constituted by Ministry of Home Affairs about the use of videography in police investigation prepared its report on 22nd November , 2017.
- The Committee observed that though crime scene videography was a “desirable and acceptable best practice”, the mandatory videography required major issues being addressed. Videography may be done on “Best Effort” basis. The timeline should be different for different States and the Central Investigating Agencies.
- The Committee suggested that a group of experts may be set up at the level of Government of India. The group should have the freedom to co-opt members and
private experts. The group could periodically issue guidelines/advisories.
- The Committee suggested that each State Police and the Central Investigating Agency may create a Steering Committee under HOPF/Head of CPO within the organization to spearhead this drive. Each State Police/Central Investigating Agency may also designate a senior officer in the rank of IG/ADG as Nodal Officer for spearheading the massive expansion of photography and videography in the investigation. Such an officer should be given authority/responsibility to review the progress at periodic intervals and take/propose necessary measures.
(3) After considering the report of the Committee, the MHA prepared an action plan on the use of videography in the police investigation stipulating capacity building in terms of training, equipment, forensic facilities, a scheme for requisite funds, preparation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
(4) Supreme Court in its order dated 3 April,2018 in Shafhi Mohammad case considered the above suggestions-
- We are in agreement with the Report of the Committee of Experts that videography of crime scene during the investigation is of immense value in improving the administration of criminal justice. (Para 9)
- We are of the considered view that notwithstanding the fact that as of now investigating agencies in India are not fully equipped and prepared for the use of videography, the time is ripe that steps are taken to introduce videography in investigation, particularly for crime scene as desirable and acceptable best practice as suggested by the Committee of the MHA to strengthen the Rule of Law. We approve the Centrally Driven Plan of Action prepared by the Committee and the timeline as mentioned above. Let the consequential steps for implementation thereof be taken at the earliest.(Para 10)
- The Court issued following directions – (Para 11)
(a) With a view to implementing the Plan of Action prepared by the Committee, a Central Oversight Body (COB) be set up by the MHA forthwith. The COB may issue directions from time to time. Suggestions of the Committee in its report may also be kept in mind. The COB will be responsible for further planning and implementation of the use of videography. The COB may issue appropriate directions so as to ensure that use of videography becomes a reality in a phased manner and in the first phase of implementation by 15thJuly, 2018 crime scene videography must be introduced at least at some places as per viability and priority determined by the COB.
(b) The Central Government to give full support to the COB and place necessary funds at its disposal.
Image from here