If others are doing the police job, it’s ‘sad state of affairs’: HC to UT SSP

India on 05 November 2013
Location : India | Source : Indian Express. Image Source: Indian Express

Observing that if the kin of a victim have to "go around gathering evidence" which is the responsibility of the police then it is a "sad state of affairs", the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday expressed its disapprobation to UT Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Naunihal Singh over the "very shoddy" investigation done by the Chandigarh Police in an accident case which had snuffed out three lives on July 24.
Yash Pal Juneja, father of a 21-year-old victim, had moved the High Court, accusing the Chandigarh Police of shielding the accused.

As summoned by the court, Naunihal appeared on Wednesday. "I have called you for one reason which is that if the family of the victim has to go around to collect evidence then it is a very sad state of affairs," Justice Amol Rattan Singh told the SSP.

The bench added that the evidence which was "obviously available" should have been gathered by the Chandigarh Police than by the father and sister of the deceased. In response, Naunihal told the bench that immediately after the accident, experts (of CFSL) were called. A blood-stained hanky and some broken pieces of beer bottles were collected by the police two days after the incident, he added.

Asking "why were beer bottles picked after two days", the court observed that this delay would only help the accused at the time of trial. The father had alleged on the last hearing some "OCB sheets" from the offending vehicle were collected by him two months after the accident and were handed over to the police.

Confronted by the court on this, the SSP clarified that "prima facie" the said OCB sheets do not have any bearing in the case. Even then, to be "transparent", the police handed over the sheets to CFSL.

"What actually hurts is even if they were irrelevant why did the investigating agency did not collect for relevant or irrelevant reasons? Why did you have to wait for two days?" Justice Singh questioned the SSP.

The bench added that it was not the investigation but the "manner" in which it was done was "sad". The counsel for the Chandigarh Police conceded that the initial investigation done by the police was "shoddy" and that there was a "lapse" and that suitable action was taken against the errant officials and a special investigation team (SIT) was constituted.

Taking note, the court then questioned the petitioner's counsel "if the investigation has been remedied" as claimed by the police, then whether there was any grievance against the investigation process. Senior public prosecutor for UT R S Rai assured the court that the investigation would continue in "all earnest".

The court has deferred the matter to decide whether a harsher offence that of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder" (Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code) be invoked in the present case.

'He has left even before order was passed, i haven't exempted him yet'

After having received a rap on the knuckles for the "shoddy" investigation by the police, the SSP earned wrath of the bench when he walked out of the courtroom even while the judge was dictating the order. Taking offence, Justice Singh remarked that he was yet to exempt the SSP from personal appearance for next hearing. "He has left even before the order was passed. I have not exempted him yet," an angry judge told the senior public prosecutor for UT R S Rai who apologised on behalf of Naunihal. "Why should you apologise?" the bench quipped.

Initially refusing to grant exemption, the bench finally granted exemption to Naunihal for next hearing after the senior lawyer repeatedly apologised and requested for the SSP's exemption.

Having a "spinal problem", the SSP appeared in the court but not in police uniform. He had sought exemption from personal appearance on the last hearing, citing "spinal problem". The SSP had obtained permission from his senior not to wear police uniform to the office. The court, however, had directed Naunihal to remain present on Wednesday even without police uniform.

The case in a nutshell

Two college students from Ghaziabad and a taxi driver had died on the spot when their Chevrolet Tavera was hit by a luxury SUV Audi Q7 that crossed over the divider and rammed the taxi. The accident occurred around 1 am on July 24 on the sector 17-18 road. Initially, the Chandigarh Police had registered a case against the taxi driver who died in the accident. It was only after a hue and cry was raised that a case was registered against the SUV driver.

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