Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cabinet clears Cr.PC amendments

Vinay Kumar


Police to be made more accountable in procedures

Trial of rape cases to be held, as far as possible, by a woman magistrate


NEW DELHI: The decks have been cleared for seeking Parliamentary approval for half a dozen major amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC) aimed at bringing relief to litigants and those accused of petty offences.

The amendments were cleared by the Union Cabinet at its meeting on Thursday, setting the stage for taking these before Parliament to seek its nod for making them law. The changes relate to the procedure of arrest, right of the arrested person to meet an advocate of his choice, investigation of rape cases and recording of statement in electronic form.

Though Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who also advocates plea bargaining which was approved and made a law two years ago, is keen that the amendments be approved during the current Parliament session itself, the possibility appears rather remote. Home Ministry officials described the amendments as “forward looking and humane,” which, if approved and implemented, would ease pressure off the police, courts and jails.

By far the most significant amendment is proposed in Section 41 of the Cr.PC which lays down certain conditions on the police officer for arresting a person accused of committing a cognisable offence that carries imprisonment that can be extended up to seven years.

The amendment proposes that the police officer may, instead of arresting the person concerned, issue a notice of appearance, asking him to cooperate with the police officer in the probe. No arrest will be made in a non-cognisable offence except under a warrant or order of a magistrate. The reasons for arrest should be sound and recorded in writing by the police officer, the amendment proposes.

Where such a notice is issued to any person, it shall be the duty of that person to comply with it and arrest can be made only if the person fails to do so.

Another amendment in Section 41 proposes that every police officer while making an arrest shall “bear an accurate visible and clear identification of his name.” At the time of arrest, the memorandum shall be attested by at least one witness, who is a member of the family of the person arrested or a respectable member of the locality where the arrest is made.

The police officer will also need to inform the arrested person that he has a right to have a relative or a friend named by him informed of his arrest. When any person is arrested and interrogated by the police, he shall be entitled to meet an advocate of his choice during interrogation, though not throughout interrogation. The amendment in Section 54 makes it mandatory for the police to conduct examination of an arrested person by a medical practitioner.

In Section 164, the amendment proposes that any confession or statement made under it may also be recorded by audio-video electronic means in the presence of the advocate of the person accused. Similarly, in Section 167 an amendment authorises a magistrate to extend further detention in judicial custody of an arrested person on production of the accused either in person or through the medium of electronic video linkage.

Transparency

In a bid to make the police more accountable and transparent in the procedures, another amendment makes it mandatory for the State governments to display on the notice board kept outside the control rooms of every district, the names and addresses of the persons arrested and the name and designation of the police officers who made the arrests.

An amendment in Section 173 proposes that the investigation in relation to rape of a child may be completed within three months from the date on which the information was recorded by the officer-in-charge of the police station. The amendment also proposes that rape victims shall be interrogated at the place of their choice be it at home or her relative’s place. Trial of rape cases shall also be held, as far as possible, by a woman magistrate and preferably in a fast track court.

Under Section 309, an amendment makes adjournment of cases in the court more difficult.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

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THE HINDU

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