A provision was introduced in Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code by Parliament in 2009 suggesting that the statement of victims, witnesses and accused before a magistrate be also recorded on audio-visual medium besides paper. Though this statement before the magistrate under Section 164 Cr.PC is admissible in court as evidence during trial, accused persons and witnesses regularly retract these sworn confession/witness statements often forcing Sessions courts to reject the painstakingly created evidence.

The Nithari killer, Surinder Koli, had retracted his confession statement during trial but the Sessions court still relied upon it, aided by the video recording of his statement that showed him speaking voluntarily and under no pressure. Among the excuses or accusations that witnesses and accused make are that they are illiterate and did not know what the magistrate wrote in the statement, that what they stated was not what the magistrate recorded; that they were forced by the police to give the statement; and that the magistrate allegedly read the Section 161 Cr.PC statement, witnesses/accused gave to the police, and “actively led” the witness/accused along instead of “passively” recording the statement.

“Because of the poor infrastructure in our court complexes and the overall lack of interest to improve the system very few statements are video-recorded. The audio-video recording is a powerful piece of evidence because it allows trial courts to also see the demeanour of the person giving the statement -- whether they are being pressured to give statement – and also the conduct of the magistrate and the investigating officer. During trial, magistrates are summoned as prosecution witnesses and subjected to intense cross-examination by defence counsel on their conduct while recording statements. It is both a waste of time and causes a lot of anxiety for magistrates which can be avoided if statements are video-recorded,” a retired judicial officer said.

But with only a handful of Delhi courtrooms equipped with audio-video recording devices, these measures will take a long time coming.

But with only a few of Delhi courtrooms equipped with such devices, these measures will take a long time coming

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