ANALYSING THE DESIRED IMPLICATIONS OF DRAFT RULES ON CRIMINAL LAW PRACTICE, 2021

This article has been authored by Abhiraam Shukla, a third-year student of National Law Institute University, Bhopal,




Introduction


On 20th April 2021, the Supreme Court of India issued a decision in a suo motu cognizance mandating the High Courts in the country to adopt the Draft Rules on Criminal Practice, 2021 (hereinafter “Draft Rules”) for the purpose of governance of criminal trials and the procedures involved therein. This was rendered after the apex court had taken note of the extended duration of criminal trials in the country due to common deficiencies in the investigation procedure, .


In In Re: to Issue Certain Guidelines Regarding Inadequacies and Deficiencies in Criminal Trials, (hereinafter “the present case”) the Supreme Court, while hearing a criminal appeal[i] of 2017, noticed that that the state of procedural laws in the country was undetermined due to the fact that different High Courts had formulated different rules for procedural aspects of the criminal trial.


In this article, the author tries to analyse the Draft Rules and their implications on the Indian criminal procedure.


Analysis of Draft Rules and Their Implications


Provisions of the Draft Rules are divided into 5 main chapters - i) Investigation, ii) Charge, iii) Trail, and iv) Judgment and v) Miscellaneous. In this part of the article, the author has discussed the prominent ones among them and will be evaluating the changes, the said reforms will be bringing to the impartation of criminal justice in the country.

· Reforms regarding the investigation in criminal cases.


In Chapter I, the most material provisions, keeping in view the abject condition of custodial violence and deaths in the country, are provisions anent investigations of deaths occurring in police custody and police action in the country.


It is provided in the Draft Rules that, in case there is fatality due to police arrest under § 46 of the CrPC 1973, or due to police action under § 129 to 131 of the said Code, the Magistrate or the Investigating Officer [for brevity “IO”] shall inform the concerned doctor and other medical authorities to arrange for photographs and videography for effecting an expedited post-mortem procedure on the deceased. The said photographs/videos shall be also attached in the panchnama seizure memo to ensure their proper proof in the Trial procedure. The IO shall ensure that all the evidences under this part of the Draft Rules are duly endorsed by the certificate.


Another very important provision present in this Chapter bids that every accused in a criminal trial shall be supplied with statements of the witnesses which have been recorded under § 161 [Police examination of witnesses] and 164 [Records of Confessions and Statements] of the CrPC and list of documents, evidence and material objects seized and relied on by the IO according to § 207 [Supply of police report and related documents to the accused] and 208 [Supply of documents and statements to the accused in cases which are triable by the Sessions' Court] of the CrPC.


In the author’s opinion, the provisions of chapter I of the Draft Rules are specifically important since the number of deaths in police arrest/ custody/action is abjectly increasing in our country. More often than not victims of police brutality do not get justice. Draft Rules specify methods for facilitating a proper post-mortem of the victims. This will be helpful in gathering crucial evidence for a fair trial and will be conducive for more convictions in such cases.


· Reforms Regarding Witness Statements, Confessions, And Trial In Criminal Cases


In Chapter III of the Draft Rules, there are some regulations authorizing the deposition of witnesses and related evidence during the trial of criminal cases. Draft Rules have stated that the deposition of witnesses shall be recorded in a typed format on computers, if possible. Further, hard copies of such records of depositions shall be made available to the accused, witness, and the prosecutor free of cost.


In the author’s opinion, the provisions which state that every accused is to be provided with the statements of witnesses, evidence, and material objects relied on by IO ensure that the accused is given every opportunity to object/refute the evidence which might be used against him warranting that the principles of natural justice are observed in their true spirit and letter.


In relation to the statements made by the witnesses under