Functionaries Under the Code of Criminal Procedure

Introduction 

The criminal justice system in India is a complex framework involving various key functionaries who play pivotal roles in maintaining law and order, ensuring justice, and upholding the rule of law. These functionaries include the police, prosecutors, defence counsel, and prison authorities. This chapter explores their functions, organization, and the legal provisions governing them.

1. The Police

1.1 Function and Organization

The police force is instrumental in the prevention and detection of crime. Each State Government establishes its own police force, which is formally enrolled and consists of a varying number of officers and men as determined by the State Government. The Director-General of Police (DGP) oversees the entire police administration in a state, while the District Superintendent of Police (DSP) manages the police administration in each district under the guidance of the District Magistrate, usually the Collector of the district.

1.2 The Police Act, 1861

The Police Act of 1861 established the foundation for the organization and regulation of police forces in India. The Act outlines the constitution of the police force, its powers, duties, and the appointment of police officers. Every police officer, other than high-ranking officials like the Inspector-General, receives a certificate granting them the powers, functions, and privileges of a police officer, which must be returned if they cease to hold their position.

1.3 Other Police Acts

The Police Act of 1888 allows the Central Government to create special police districts covering parts of multiple states with the concurrence of the concerned State Governments. The Police Act of 1949 established a police force for Union Territories, following the 1861 Act’s pattern.

1.4 Supreme Court Interventions

Reorganization of the police has been a persistent issue, addressed by various commissions and committees. Due to inaction from the governments, the Supreme Court, in Prakash Singh v. Union of India, issued directives to reform police structures, emphasizing accountability and efficiency.

1.5 Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946

This Act led to the creation of a special force for investigating specific offences in Union Territories and allowed its jurisdiction to extend to other parts of India with state concurrence. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), established under this Act, often undertakes investigations of significant public interest due to its perceived impartiality and independence.

1.6 Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003

To address corruption, especially at higher administrative levels, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, reconstituted the Central Vigilance Commission, ensuring its operational autonomy and protection from undue interference.

1.7 Police Powers under the Code

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) endows police officers with specific powers such as arrest, search, and investigation. Station-house officers (SHOs) have extensive responsibilities in detecting, investigating, and preventing crimes. Superior officers can exercise the same powers across larger jurisdictions, emphasizing the central role of police stations in crime management.

2. Public Prosecutors

2.1 Role and Responsibilities

Public Prosecutors (PPs) represent the state in criminal trials, advocating on behalf of society against accused individuals. Their primary duty is to conduct prosecutions in sessions and higher courts. They are also involved in criminal appeals and revisions, providing legal advice to police and other government departments on prosecution matters.

2.2 Appointment and Qualifications

Public Prosecutors are appointed under Section 24 of the CrPC, with eligibility requiring a minimum of seven years of legal practice. Appointments for High Courts and districts involve consultation with respective high court authorities and the preparation of panels by District Magistrates.

2.3 Hierarchy and Special Appointments

Public Prosecutors operate within a hierarchical framework, from Assistant Public Prosecutors (APPs) in Magistrates’ Courts to PPs and Additional Public Prosecutors (Addl. PPs) in higher courts. The Central and State Governments can appoint Special Public Prosecutors for specific cases, requiring at least ten years of legal practice.

2.4 Independence and Reforms

The Law Commission’s 14th Report emphasized the need for a separate, independent prosecution agency distinct from the police to ensure impartial and effective legal scrutiny. The Supreme Court has reinforced this by disapproving appointments that compromise the independence of the prosecution, advocating for a dedicated cadre of prosecutors.

2.5 Code of Conduct and Ethical Duties

While the CrPC does not explicitly outline the conduct expected of prosecutors, the principles are well-established. Prosecutors must aim to present all available evidence, whether for or against the accused, ensuring the court can determine the truth impartially. Their role is not to secure convictions at all costs but to facilitate justice.

3. Defence Counsel

3.1 Right to Defence

Every accused person has the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of their choice, as per Section 303 of the CrPC. This right is fundamental to ensuring a fair trial, especially under an adversarial legal system where the state prosecutes, and the accused must mount a defence.

3.2 Legal Aid and Indigent Accused

Recognizing that many accused persons may lack the means to hire a defence counsel, the CrPC and the Constitution provide for free legal aid. Section 304 mandates that if an accused in a Sessions trial cannot afford a lawyer, the court must assign one at the state’s expense. The Supreme Court has extended this to all cases where the offence could lead to imprisonment, ensuring no one is denied a fair trial due to poverty.

3.3 Legal Aid Schemes

Various schemes provide legal aid, including those by State Governments, Bar Associations, and Legal Aid and Advice Boards. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, further institutionalizes legal aid, ensuring broad access to legal representation for the needy.

4. Prison Authorities and Correctional Services

4.1 Role and Legal Framework

Prison authorities manage the detention of undertrial prisoners and the imprisonment of convicted individuals. The Prisons Act, 1894, and other relevant laws outline the establishment, administration, and regulation of prisons.

4.2 Rehabilitation and Probation

The CrPC encourages rehabilitation and probation over imprisonment where possible. Sections 360 and 361 promote the use of probation for first-time and youthful offenders, directing courts to consider non-custodial sentences.

4.3 Correctional Services

Beyond mere confinement, correctional services aim to rehabilitate offenders, preparing them for reintegration into society. Various Acts, such as the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, and the Borstal Schools Acts, support this rehabilitative approach.

Conclusion

The Code of Criminal Procedure outlines the roles and responsibilities of various functionaries integral to the criminal justice system. Each entity, from the police and prosecutors to defence counsel and prison authorities, plays a crucial part in upholding justice, ensuring fairness, and maintaining public order. The legal framework strives to balance the rights of the accused with the need for effective law enforcement and prosecution, aiming to create a just and equitable society. As the legal landscape evolves, continued reforms and adherence to principles of justice and impartiality remain paramount.

Reference-

K.N. Chandrasekharan Pillai, “R.V. Kelkar’s Criminal Procedure”

 
 

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