The Karnataka High Court, by an interim order, has issued guidelines for quick disposal of criminal cases against politicians and influential people.

The guidelines issued in this regard included a time limit of 60 days for completion of investigation of petty offences whereas for serious and heinous offences, a time limit of 90 days was stipulated by the Court.

The Court issued 17 guidelines, wherein it has emphasized on the need for implementing the Witness Protection Scheme to protect the interests and lives of witnesses.

These guidelines were issued after the Bench of Justice S.Sunil Dutt Yadav observed inordinate delay in the investigation into the alleged disproportionate assets of Abhaykumar B. Patil, a two-time MLA from Belgaum South constituency. The complainant Sujit Mulgund, who had filed the complaint in 2012 alleging corruption, claimed constant threats by the henchmen of the accused to withdraw the case

The High Court noted that the complaint was originally filed in 2012 but no charge sheet was filed till date by the police.

The High Court had appointed Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate Sandesh Chouta to assist the Court whereas Advocate K.Chandrashekar appeared for the accused.

The Court observed that "there has been delay in completion of the investigation. It is noticed that there have been delays caused due to lack of coordination between different Departments, viz., the Prosecution and the Income Tax Department".

Citing the unnecessary delay in the case, the Court further noted that "the delay in investigation and consequent delay in trial, places the complainant as well as the witnesses in a vulnerable position and the protection mechanism requires to be evolved."

The Court laid down extensive guidelines for speedy investigation and to that end held that "I.O. shall bring to the notice of Magistrate the bottlenecks, if any, that are coming in the way of speedy investigation including the attempts being made by the accused to hinder the investigation."

The Court directed establishment of separate investigation wing with dedicated personnel in police stations with necessary training imparted so as to inculcate professionalism in investigation. "It is the duty of the State to ensure that a very competent prosecutor is appointed to work before the Special Court who is capable of handling the nature of prosecutions which are pending before the Special Court," the court held further.

The High Court also stressed the importance of witness protection and directed the state to implement the witness protection scheme 2018 in terms of the observations of the Apex Court in the case of Mahendra Chawla and Others as well as the direction in the order dated 01.12.2020 passed in W.P.No.10240/2020 and directed the Registrar General to place on record the information regarding the availability of Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complexes in the State.

The High Court also directed the state government to set up a witness protection fund within a period of two weeks in order to implement the witness protection scheme 2018.

Click here to read/download the Order