MADRAS HC ON AUDIO & VIDEO RECORDING OF WITNESS STATEMENTS

                                                                                                                   -Kosha Doshi

BACKGROUND –

  The criminal appeals 482 and 513 of 2017 were heard by Madras HC on Friday, 8th November 2019 and decided to implement the recording of witness statements to curb the increase in acquittals. The appellants then were Satheesh Kumar and Sankar while the respondent was the State in both cases. The State was represented by the Inspector of Police, Ariyamangalam Police Station, Trichy. In 2014, the deceased person was talking with the Defacto complainant and his wife, following which the accused to murder the deceased persuaded him to exhibit him the first floor. Soon on the first floor, a fight broke out where the descended was brutally attacked with a knife.

   The trial process set about but even before the Test Identification Parade took place a witness turned hostile causing a deviation in the course of the case. The appellants were convicted and sentenced for 10 years rigorous life imprisonment along with an authorized fine of 5000/- These criminal appeals had been filed against the decision of the III-Additional District and Sessions Judge.

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CURRENT ISSUE-

   The batch of appeals was heard by Justice S Vaidyanathan and Justice N Anand Venkatesh of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. The bench observed an escalation in the number of cases in the past 2 months. This has led to a boast in the number of acquittals. The judges felt the need to curb this increase by bringing about deterrence to avoid further acquittal due to hostile witnesses. The hick has led to people losing faith in the judicial system of India.

   The order passed was regarding Section 161 and 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which has been only stated in books and not implemented to its full capability. In addition to that, it also dealt with special courts using electronic means to record witnesses of victim girls related to POSCO Act cases.

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Question of Law-

   The judges of Madras HC looked into Act 5 of 2009 of Section 161 (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973) which was introduced on 31st December 2009 for the audio and video recording of witness statements through electronic means. They ordained that this Act was restricted to theory only and practicality of it was lagging. Additional insight into Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 took place by the judges. Section 164 puts forth the concept of recording confessions and statements by Metropolitan Magistrates or Judicial Magistrates.

   The order passed would help the court impeach the credit of witnesses under Section 155 of the Indian Evidence Act thereby providing the court with an opportunity to take proper action for perjury by witnesses. It further mentions the scientific advancements in today’s times which could drastically impact the quality of investigation and aid not only the witnesses but also the prosecution. Keeping this in mind, the court with the assistance of the Bar plans to implement electronic means of audio and video recording of witnesses regularly.

   Madras HC also set out the use of audio and video recording of witness statements as a means to be implemented through the State for future interrogation. The registry was directed to mark a copy of the order to the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court Bar Association, High Court Complex, Madurai (MMBA), Madurai Bench of Madras High Court Advocate Association (MBHAA), and High Court complex, Madurai and Women Advocates Association, High Court Complex, Madurai. The appeal which took place on 8th November was then adjourned to be posted in the same caption on 13th November at 2:15 pm.

CONCLUSION-

   As Bentham says, “Witnesses are the eyes and ears of justice”. If a witness retracts from its earlier statement it would lead to unfavourable circumstances and the witness would be declared hostile. This would lead to piling up of numerous cases and delay in dispensing justice eventually causing a breakdown in the Justice imparting system. The order passed is to ensure the protection of witness’ as well as the state’s interest. The Madras High court order will now curtail the list of acquittals that took place due to hostile witnesses. Investigative techniques used to obtain confessions and the going back to engineer and corroborate it would cause different prosecution versions ultimately leading to acquittals. The case mentioned falls in the same category but with the anticipated approach to practically apply Section 161 and 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, justice can be rendered.  

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