Report No. 14
21. Investigation by junior officers.-
It also appears that investigation of serious crimes is often entrusted to officers below the rank of a sub-inspector of police. We think that it is desirable that the investigation of serious offences should be invariably undertaken by senior officers like the inspector or even the deputy superintendent of police. In fact the Police Standing Orders do generally require the investigation of such offences to be made by senior officers. Not unoften, however, the investigation is conducted by a junior officer, and the senior officer merely signs the papers as if he had conducted it. The conduct of the investigation by the senior officer will not only ensure a better and more efficient investigation but also conduce to a greater measure of public confidence in the police department.
22. Separation of investigating branch.-
It has also been stated to us that on account of the various duties of police officers, it is not practicable for them to give exclusive and single-minded attention to the investigation of crime. As already stated, it sometimes happens that a police officer while investigating a particular offence is suddenly called upon to attend to some other duty and he has either to suspend the investigation or hand it over to a junior officer. The Inspector-General of Police, West Bengal, frankly stated that the police officers do not give to the investigation of lesser offences the amount of care and attention which they require. Having regard to the insufficiency of personnel and their varying duties, it is difficult to expect from them either the thoroughness or the promptness in investigation which are the characteristic features of the police force in the western countries.
23. It was suggested that the police personnel entrusted with investigation of crime should be separate and distinct from the police staff entrusted with the enforcement of law and order and other miscellaneous functions. It was said that if this was done the detection of crime would get the exclusive attention it needs and that such a course would lead not only to greater specialisation in the art of investigation but will also promote speedy detection of crime. Though a separate trained staff for the purpose of investigation is desirable, in our view the two parts of the police organisation cannot be kept in water-tight compartments. The senior police officers were not very sanguine of the success of any such separation.
They agreed that in the larger towns it would be practicable to have a separate investigating staff. In fact there is a separate branch generally known as the Crime Branch operating in the larger cities and we gather that the separation of the staff in these cities is working satisfactorily. If the two wings of the police are separated in the mofussil, there may be lack of co-operation between them. It was also said that police officers dealing with law and order would be better able to obtain information in the course of investigation on account of their closer contacts with the people than officers exclusively entrusted with the task of investigating into crime.
The Inspector-General of Police, West Bengal, told us that as an experimental measure, a central pool of experienced officers has been formed for each district in West Bengal and the more important cases were entrusted to them for investigation. When an officer of the central pool goes to investigate an important case, the local officer is also associated with the investigation. This not only avoids professional jealousy but also ensures that if the local officer is needed elsewhere, his absence would not affect the continuity of the investigation.
24. We think on the whole that there is great force in the suggestion that, as far as practicable, the investigating agency should be distinct from the police staff assigned to the enforcement of law and order. We do not however suggest absolute separation between the two branches. Even officers of the police department have taken the view that if an officer is entrusted with investigation duties, his services should not be required for other work while he is engaged in investigation.
The separation of the investigating machinery may involve some additional cost. We think however, that the exclusive attention of the investigating officer is essential to the conduct of an efficient investigation and the additional cost involved in the implementation of our proposal is necessary. The adoption of such a separation will ensure undivided attention to the detection of crimes. It will also provide additional strength to the police establishment which needs an increase in most of the States.
The need for a systematised training for the police officers in proper methods of investigation cannot be overemphasised. Skilful investigation is an art which can be learnt only by training and experience. We were told that on account of the migration of several officers after the partition of the country, the gap in the higher posts was filled by promotion of officers who were lacking in experience of investigation. This also resulted in the police force suffering from lack of experienced staff at the lower levels. The police force has thus lost a great many of the officers who had been trained by sheer experience. We think it is imperative that training centres should be established in different parts of the country for the training of men selected for detection work.
We understand some institutions of this kind already exist in Uttar Pradesh, Bombay and West Bengal and some other States. The existing institutions are, it appears, not adequately equipped and sufficient in number to meet the needs of the police forces. Instruction in crime investigation should in our view be given to every officer who is recruited to the police force or at any rate to recruits intended for investigation work. The Inspector-General, Madhya Pradesh, suggested that short refresher courses of instruction may be arranged for senior officers from time to time. We are of the view that the question of training of police officers engaged in investigation work requires the urgent attention of the State Governments.
26. Legal assistance to investigating officers.-
One of the causes of defective investigation which often results in acquittals is the lack of legal assistance at the stage of investigation. Most of the investigating officers are not law graduates, nor do they have sufficient knowledge of law and the procedure of the law courts. They are often unable to appreciate the significance or importance of a particular piece of evidence to the prosecution case. Whether any links in the chain of evidence connecting the accused with the crime are missing, whether any connected matters require to be investigated in order to fill up lacunae in the prosecution case, whether sanction for the prosecution is necessary and such other matters, cause difficulties which the investigating officers find it difficult to solve or even to appreciate.
It is true that such difficulties generally arise only in the investigation of serious crimes, particularly where the proof of them depends upon circumstantial evidence, or where the evidence consists of entries in books of account and in like cases. In such cases the police officers do sometimes seek the advice of the public prosecutor but that is not often done. Elsewhere, we have suggested the creation of the office of a Director of Public Prosecutions at the district level, who can render such legal assistance to the police as may be necessary even at the stage of investigation. We have also suggested that the functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions may be delegated to the assistant public prosecutors at the sub-divisional level, so that the local police officers can directly seek from them legal assistance, whenever necessary.
27. Lack of supervision.-
A large number of witnesses whom we examined were of the view that there was not only incompetence and negligence but a great deal of corruption among police officers. Not only was the investigation defective, but evidence was deliberately distorted and often a dishonest record of the evidence was prepared by the police. Some of the lawyer witnesses went to the length of stating that the daily record of investigation by the police officers was usually written up at a later date.
The rules did require that copies of this record should be sent from time to time to the magistrate through the immediate superior police officer, but these rules were often disregarded. As the idea persists among most of the junior police officers that their promotion will largely depend upon the number of convictions they are able to obtain, in their anxiety to obtain convictions or from other motives, these officers not unoften deliberately concoct false evidence to connect the accused with the crime. Two Inspectors-General conceded that there was some measure of truth in some of these allegations against the police officers.
28. We are of the view that if the pernicious practice of measuring the efficiency of the investigating officers by the number of convictions obtained by them exists it should at once be put a stop to. It is imperative that any notion that their promotions depend on the number of convictions they obtain should be eradicated from the minds of the investigating officers. They should be told that their promotions will depend not upon the number of convictions that result but upon their integrity and the quality of their investigation.
We feel that these defects and dishonest practices can be remedies only by a very strict supervision of the work of the investigating officer by the senior departmental officials. Some of the higher police officers stated to us that on account of their pre-occupation with administrative duties, the senior officers were not able to devote sufficient attention to the supervision of the work of the investigating officers. The Committee of Inquiry into the working of the scheme of separation of the Judiciary from the Executive in Madras stated in 1952 as follows:1
1. Report, p. 183, para. 601.
"The fairly effective supervision over investigations conducted by head constables and sub-inspectors that prevailed in the past has to a large extent disappeared Quite a number of deputy superintendents and assistant superintendents were prepared to concede, though not officially, that they just had not the time sufficient to go through the case diaries submitted to them but something must be done to provide for effective supervision of investigation by circle inspectors and by sub-divisional police officers."
In what manner this supervision should be exercised is a matter of detail which can be worked out by the department itself. We may however broadly suggest that better returns, insistence upon prompt dispatch of case diaries, scrutiny of case-diaries, frequent visits of senior police officers to police stations, and the appointment of special officers of the rank of a deputy superintendent of police to undertake the work of supervision are perhaps some of the methods which may achieve this purpose. We must emphasise, however, that strict supervision is a vital need of the police department today in view of the enormous powers which the police, including those in the lowest ranks, can wield.