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Criminal law ill-equipped to deal with cases of riots : HC

Moots entrusting investigative process to authorities other than normal agencies

Noting that the general criminal law is provenly ill-equipped to deal with communal riots cases, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday suggested several reforms, including possibility of entrusting investigative and prosecution process in such cases to authorities other than normal agencies of the State.

Political influence

Justice R.K. Gauba remarked that after each event of communal riots, allegations of political influence have worked as the root cause or for protection of those responsible.

The High Court’s observation came while upholding the conviction of 70 persons in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases in Capital’s Trilokpuri area.

It said there had been no meaningful thought spared till date to usher in reforms in the judicial process to effectively deal with the cases of communal riots which were engineered, more often than not, by those who had clout or influence — of various kind.

To inject a sense of neutrality in the investigative and prosecution process, Justice Gauba said the possibility of entrusting such tasks to authorities other than normal agencies of the State needs to be explored.

The High Court wondered if the initial task of gathering evidence or the duty to “preserve” evidence can be entrusted to the Human Rights Commissions in cases of communal riots situations.

Once a Commission of Inquiry is instituted, under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, further investigative process by gathering all evidence for such cases can be taken over by such Commissions of Inquiry, it said.

The High Court suggested amendments to the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 and the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to entrust the responsibility of investigation in communal riots through SITs specially constituted under their respective control.

With the technological advancements that have been made and the rise of media — print and electronic — as an effective fourth pillar of democracy, the High Court said there was a strong case for utilising as evidence the press reports, supported by photographic material or video footages in trials of criminal cases arising out of communal riots.

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