Defective investigations contaminate judicial process, threaten human rights: SC

While deciding the case of an investigation officer fired for protecting a culprit, SC observes that botched-up investigations can become a top impediment in the administration of justice

Defective investigations contaminate judicial process, threaten human rights: SC

The Supreme Court has observed that defective investigations contaminate the judicial process and pose a hazard to human rights. 

The top court has further observed that an Investigating Officer (IO) plays a crucial role in the administration of the criminal justice system and the constituent of the investigation report, and its worth keeps hold of plenteous value and repercussions on the outcome of any criminal case. 

"However, at times, a botched-up investigation can become a top impediment and stumbling block in the administration of justice, either intentionally with the aim to favour the accused or unintentional due to inefficiency, incompetence, or unskillfulness of the Investigation Officer," the top court observed. 

The top court made these observations in its verdict on an appeal filed by Ikramuddin Rajput, who challenged the judgement of the Services Tribunal, wherein he was dismissed from the police services for protecting an alleged rapist of a minor girl.  

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar had heard an appeal filed by Sub-Inspector Ikramuddin Rajput, who had been dismissed from the force. Justice Mazhar authored the eight-page verdict.

The verdict stated that the criminal justice system signifies the procedure for 
adjudicating criminal cases to award a sentence.

The foremost objective is to penalise the offenders subject to evidence, the top court observed, further adding that this very important aspect is attached with the burden of proof on the prosecution, which has a direct nexus with the investigation report, the material and evidence collected by the investigation officer in discharge of his sacred duty to bring out the truth without engaging in any manipulation or favouritism.

"In unison, it is the duty of superior officers and officers in charge of police stations to ensure that the investigating officer follows the provisions of law 
conscientiously, without any breach, conducting an impartial and honest investigation with the sole aim of bringing the truth to light," the top court further observed.

Moreover, it added that the task of investigation is an art, and for attaining proficiency in the job of investigation, extensive on-the-job training is also required to ensure integrity and uprightness without any temptation for personal gains or advantages. 

"It is also a foundational pathway for the prosecution case, and being a sacrosanct duty of an investigation officer, it should be performed without any recklessness, sluggishness, or greediness."

"It is the duty of an investigating officer to find out the truth of the matter under investigation. His object shall be to discover the actual facts of the case and to arrest the real offender or offenders. He shall not commit himself prematurely to any view of the facts for or against any 

The case

Rajput was serving as a sub-inspector in the investigation wing at the Mominabad Police Station located in District West, Karachi. 

He was assigned to investigate the rape of a minor girl aged about seven years. 

A medical examination of the victim established the commission of rape. Rajput, as the investigation officer in the case, reduced the actual commission of rape into an attempt to commit the rape during his investigation. 

Subsequently, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him, and the enquiry officer, SP Investigations Muhammad Tariq Nawaz, found Rajput guilty in his report.

The petitioner was then dismissed from the force.

However, the matter landed in the Services Tribunal, which upheld the decision of the disciplinary proceedings. After that, Rajput approached the top court. 

"The purpose and sagacity behind initiating disciplinary proceedings by the employer are to ascertain whether the charges of misconduct levelled against the delinquent are proven or not and, if so, to determine the appropriate action against him under the applicable Service Laws, Rules and Regulations, which may include the imposition of minor or major penalties in accordance with the sound sense of judgment of the competent Authority," the top court observed. 

"In contrast, the justification and raison d'être for initiating criminal prosecution is entirely different, where the prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable doubt." 

The top court has further observed that both processes have distinctive characteristics and attributes concerning the standard of proof. 

It further added that the object of a departmental inquiry is to investigate
allegations of misconduct to maintain discipline, decorum, and efficiency within the institution, strengthening and preserving public confidence. 

"In a departmental enquiry, the standard of proof is that of "balance of probabilities or preponderance of evidence" but not "proof beyond reasonable doubt", which is a strict standard required in a criminal trial, where the potential penalties are severe."

The top court has observed that Rajput, as an IO, was responsible for submitting the finalrReport under Section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Subsequently, the verdict added that it was the function of the trial court to consider all evidence and materials collected by the investigation officer and proceed further in accordance with the law. 

The verdict observed that the police force is a disciplined force with significant accountability and responsible for maintaining law and public order in society.

"Therefore, any person who wants to be part of the disciplined force should be a person of utmost integrity and uprightness with an unimpeachable, spotless character and clean antecedents."

The top court felt that disciplinary action was taken after complying with due process of law and based on self-evident and self-explanatory

The top court, while clarifying that the judgment's findings shall not prejudice either party's case in trial court, upheld the Service Tribunal's judgment and dismissed the appeal.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain