Delhi court seeks filing status of charge sheets forwarded by senior officers in last 3 years

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New Delhi, Feb 18 (PTI) Taking a strong note of non-filing of charge sheets by the investigating officers (IOs) despite being forwarded by a senior officer, a Delhi court has sought the filing status of charge sheets forwarded in the last three years and said it would definitely 'unearth many hidden ghosts' (files) and 'wake many souls (IOs) from slumber'.

Non-filing of charge sheets despite being forwarded by a senior officer amounted to undermining the hierarchy and discipline of service, the court said.

It added that late filing of charge sheets despite timely completion of the investigation shook the confidence of an ordinary citizen in the justice delivery system.

A time period be fixed for filing forwarded charge sheets and IOs should be asked to strictly comply with it, the court said, adding that such time should not be more than 30 days from the date of forwarding of charge sheet by the concerned ACP.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Arvind Bansal directed the concerned Additional Commissioners of Police (ACPs) to prepare a list of the charge sheets forwarded in the last three years (2018-2020) and sought status report of filing from the concerned IOs.

It further directed the concerned ACPs to devise a mechanism under the guidance of DCP (South-East) to check and ensure that all the charge sheets signed/ forwarded by them were duly submitted with the court.

'It is observed that non filing of charge sheets despite being forwarded by a senior officer amounts to undermining the hierarchy and discipline of service.

'Meanwhile, the ACSP concerned should prepare a list of charge sheets forwarded in the last 03 years (2018-2020) and seek status of filing from the concerned IOs. It is firmly believed that the same would definitely unearth many hidden ghosts (files) and wake up many souls (Os) from slumber,' the court said in its order passed on February 16.

It said retaining of 'forwarded' files by IOs reflects a missing link in the chain of factors requiring expeditious administration of criminal justice.

'The court could not find any rule in the 'standing order' of the worthy Commissioner of Police, Delhi requiring the IOs to submit the charge sheets with the court within a stipulated time frame.

'However, late filing of charge sheets despite timely completion of investigation shakes the confidence of an ordinary citizen in the justice delivery system. It may further result in accused fleeing away from justice and witness(es) disappearing or losing interest in the case. It creates an overall disappointing scenario for all the stakeholders,' it said.

It further said that the IOs need to understand and know that investigation of all 'summons cases' generally needed to be concluded within six months from the date on which the accused was arrested, and failure might result in an order by concerned Magistrate stopping further investigation into the offence.

The court added that cases affected the most were registered under sections 279 (rash driving), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 304A (causing death by negligence), 427 (mischief), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint) of the Indian Penal Code.

'However, it has been observed that most of the IOs are not aware of this provision and therefore, continue investigation even after the initial period of six months... It is incumbent upon worthy DCP concerned that this provision is reminded to IOs,' it noted.

It said the provisions concerning the period of limitation for filing the charge sheets were the most neglected.

'IOs even fail to file applications for condonation of delay owing to their want of knowledge of these provisions. While a right of hearing accrues in favour of accused because of such negligence of IO (even before cognizance of offence is taken by Court), it also delays dispensation of justice leading to further victimisation of complainant/victim.

'The concerned DCP and ACP concerned must take it upon themselves to ensure training of IOs on this aspect,' it said.

The court's observations came while hearing a 2017 case of rash driving in which though the charge sheet was forwarded by the concerned ACP on October 2018, the IO retained it till January 2021. The IO filed the charge sheet before the court on January 30, 2021.

The court took cognisance of the charge sheet filed against accused Ravi Yadav and put up the matter for further hearing on April 6.

It noted that filing of the charge sheet in the case was triggered by an application filed by the owner of the offending vehicle.

The owner had moved an application seeking permission to sell the offending vehicle. The court came to know that the charge sheet has not been filed by the police after a reply was sought from the IO on the application.

'In fact, filing of charge sheet was triggered by a miscellaneous application of registered owner of offending vehicle, otherwise IO would have retained it for even longer. Such negligent conduct of IO raises some significant legal issues,' it said. PTI URD SA