The Calcutta High Court has directed the Commissioner of Police to immediately suspend the police officers and initiate disciplinary proceedings against them for exposing the identity of a minor victim and for depriving the accused of the liberty ‘though materials spoke otherwise’. While terming the police officers’ lack of awareness as ‘appalling’, the bench remarked, “Police officers are responsible public servants entrusted with the duty to investigate sensitive cases involving vulnerable child victims. Their lack of awareness with regard to the manner in which the identity of the victim is to be protected is appalling”.

While referring to Joginder Singh v. State of U.P. (1994) 4 SCC 260 a bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Ajay Kumar Gupta said that the power to arrest is an important tool in the course of investigation, however is dangerous too and therefore the police must exercise it with due care. It observed, “We find a wanton disregard to such mandate. The police officers concerned appear to have flagrantly ignored the aforesaid mandate of law in the investigation of the case and prima facie caused harm both to the victim by exposing her identity as well as to the petitioner by depriving him of the liberty though materials spoke otherwise. We are of the prima facie view that the police officers have derelicted in the discharge of their official duties during investigation of the case”.

Advocate Mazhar Hossain Chowdhury appeared for the petitioner and PP Saswata Gopal Mukherjee appeared for the State.

In the present matter, the photograph of the victim was made a part of the case diary produced in the judicial proceeding. As per the explanation of the police officers submitted in accordance to the order dated July 11, 2023, the victim went missing and a missing diary was registered. However, unintentionally her photograph came to be a part of the case diary that was produced in the court.

The petitioner was accused of offences under Sections 363/365 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 4/17 of the POCSO Act.

In the chain of circumstances and the materials placed before the Court, the bench noted that the accused-petitioner was kept in custody for a long time despite the statement of the victim recorded under Section 161 of CrPC which was exonerative in nature and the fact that the police officers were cognizant of it.

The bench cited Nipun Saxena and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors. (2019) 2 SCC 703 in the matter which reads, “The police officials should keep all the documents in which the name of the victim is disclosed, as far as possible, in a sealed cover and replace these documents by identical documents in which the name of the victim is removed in all records which may be scrutinised in the public domain.”

The bench has listed the matter for further hearing on August 22,2023.

Cause Title: In Re: Anil Sardar

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