Selective disclosures to media in criminal trial affect rights of accused, victims: SC

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New Delhi, Dec 17 (PTI) Selective disclosures to the media in a criminal trial affect the rights of the accused and the victims, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.

The apex court said selective divulging of information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice.

'Selective disclosures to the media affect the rights of the accused in some cases and the rights of victims families in others. ...selective divulging of information, including the disclosure of material which may eventually form a crucial part of the evidentiary record at the criminal trial, can be used to derail the administration of criminal justice,' the top court said.

A three judge bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee said the investigating officer has a duty to investigate when information about the commission of a cognizable offence is brought to their attention.

Unfortunately, this role is being compromised by the manner in which selective leaks take place in the public realm, it said.

'This is not fair to the accused because it pulls the rug below the presumption of innocence. It is not fair to the victims of crime, if they have survived the crime, and where they have not, to their families. Neither the victims nor their families have a platform to answer the publication of lurid details about their lives and circumstances,' the bench said while handing over to the CBI the investigation of the case.

The apex court was hearing an appeal against an order of Allahabad High Court granting anticipatory bail to parents-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law of a woman who died by suicide.

The father of a woman had moved the top court against the bail granted to the accused in a dowry harassment case.

According to the FIR registered at Police Station Tajganj in Agra, on August 7, 2020, the father lodged a complaint alleging that he spent an amount in excess of Rs.1.50 crore for conducting the marriage of his daughter Deepti , who was a doctor.

It is alleged that even thereafter, Sumit, his parents, brother-in-law and sister-in-law misbehaved with the deceased on account of dowry.

The deceased, it is alleged, was pressurized to bring money and later died by suicide.

Within a couple of days of the death of Deepti, the alleged suicide note found its way into the newspapers in Agra.

The top court said the husband of the deceased have a prominent social status in Agra and that they may have used their position in society to thwart a proper investigation cannot be regarded to be unjustified.

It said the status of the accused as propertied and wealthy persons of influence in Agra and the conduct of the investigation diminishes this Court's faith in directing a further investigation by the same authorities. “In the backdrop of what has been stated above and the serious deficiencies in the investigation...we are of the view that it is necessary to entrust a further investigation of the case to the CBI in exercise of the powers of this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

'The conduct of the investigating authorities from the stage of arriving at the scene of occurrence to the filing of the charge-sheet do not inspire confidence in the robustness of the process,' the bench said.

The apex court also set aside the order passed by the Single Judge of the High Court allowing the applications for anticipatory bail by the accused. PTI PKS RKS RKS