Maharashtra government in contempt of Supreme Court directives to improve prosecution, probe quality

Mumbai(dna): The matter came to light when an RTI application was filed to follow up state action on the various directives given by the SC.

Even as high profile cases play out in courts, quality of crime investigations and prosecution that are key to conviction or acquittal lie disregarded. In absolute contempt of Supreme Court directives, the state government has not moved to do anything to improve the prosecution and investigation arm of the criminal justice system, despite the apex court asking it to do so over a year ago.

The matter came to light when an RTI application was filed to follow up state action on the various directives given by the SC. The application was filed by Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch as part of a study across India conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative to see the state’s response to these directives, with increasing convictions falling through and crime rate rising.

On May 5, taking cognisance of the contempt of SC order, the state information commission ordered a chief secretary-level inquiry. State chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad’s scathing order on the state government considered the arguments that the issue impacts “life and liberty” of a person.

The SC, in its January 7, 2014, order, had directed the Centre and state to take a series of measures after a minor was raped and brutally murdered with her ankles cut in Gujarat over 10 years ago. The accused was acquitted due to want of evidence. The SC, showing regret, had issued directives that a committee be formed to study all such acquittals so that such cases are not repeated.

Through three RTI applications, Prabhu asked for office memorandums, circulars issued, committees constituted, instances of acquittals studied and training material developed among other things.

“While the public information officer did not react at all, it was surprising that during the first appeal stage the home department did not even know about the case despite Centre’s circular in March 2014 on the issue. It shows how seriously they look at the issue,” said Prabhu.

When the second appeal was filed, the first time no one attended from the home department. Two more dates were given to the department to provide documents on details of SC compliance. On the last date, the department gave a circular that they have asked the director general of police’s office to work on it.

Terming the action as extremely “irrepressible” looking at the “sensitivity of the case”, Gaikwad said it was handled very “callously”. “At the end of the day, this job is of state and not of the courts. Despite in-depth directives, they have not done anything,” said Prabhu.

The commissioner, in the order, directed that the chief secretary, Swadheen Kshatriya, conduct the inquiry and ensure that all orders from the courts that are of public interest be put up on website of the government.

Kshatriya and additional chief secretary (home) KP Bakshi did not respond to calls or SMSes from dna.

Posted by on May 9, 2015. Filed under Nation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.