Need to probe all acquittals, Supreme Court orders states

SC orderThis order will ensure that the cause of justice is served and that the guilty do not escape punishment. (PTI)

In an order with far-reaching implications for law enforcement and the criminal justice system, the Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that every criminal case ending with the accused being acquitted will have to be examined by state governments to ascertain whether there were lapses by the police and the prosecution or if the accused was deliberately framed.

This, the court said, will ensure that the cause of justice is served and that the guilty do not escape punishment while also guaranteeing that innocents are not implicated in false cases.

The order was prompted by the acquittal of an accused in a minor's rape and murder case of 2003. Noting major lapses by the police and prosecution in the case, the bench had acquitted the accused but said it was "crestfallen, heartbroken and sorrowful" that it was not able serve justice to an innocent child.

"The perpetrator(s) of a horrendous crime, involving extremely ruthless and savage treatment to the victim, have remained unpunished. A heartless and merciless criminal, who has committed an extremely heinous crime, has gone scot-free," it said.

The court added that if the accused was wrongfully prosecuted, his suffering would also have been "unfathomable."

The bench of Justices C K Prasad and J S Khehar has given six months to governments of all states and union territories to put in place a mechanism to examine all orders of acquittal and to record reasons for the failure of prosecution cases.

"A standing committee of senior officers of the police and prosecution departments should be vested with aforesaid responsibility. All such erring officers identified as responsible for failure of a prosecution case, on account of sheer negligence or because of culpable lapses, must suffer departmental action. This would infuse seriousness in the performance of investigating and prosecuting duties, and would ensure that investigation and prosecution are purposeful and decisive," the bench said.

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