The Maharashtra Government has changed the policy statement of its Directorate of Prosecution, displayed on its official website. The government was set into motion after a notice was served by a registered Trust, Dard Se Humdard Tak after a PIL was filed by it before the Bombay High Court seeking removal of a part of the policy statement.

The plea filed through Advocate Prathamesh Gaikwad sought the removal of a statement from the motto of the Directorate of Prosecution displayed on its website, which read, “to secure maximum conviction in criminal cases in all court”.

After private notice of the plea was served upon the state, before the plea was listed before the High Court, the state took cognizance of the issue and made the necessary changes in the policy which now reads as “To conduct criminal trials fairly and assist the court in discovering the truth.”

The petitioner is an organization that is working to aid the burdened prisons and their volunteers visit prisoners to provide free legal assistance. It is submitted in the petition, relying on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Shiv Kumar v Hukum Chand where the Court had laid down the role of a Public Prosecutor, that the “policy of Directorate of Prosecution to secure maximum conviction in criminal courts, is a complete deviation from the law declared by Constitution and interpreted by the Supreme Court and by the High Courts”.

The grounds for objection to the erstwhile policy are:

-that such a policy is violative of the law declared by the Supreme Court under Articles 141 and 142 of the Constitution of India;

- that a government agency so openly and brazenly violating the law would automatically bolden the Public Prosecutors to manipulate the court proceedings not to bring out the truth, but to get an order of conviction against the accused;

-that it violated the very principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty;

- that it would go against the very principles of fair trial;

- people of the State will lose their faith in the fairness of the judicial system.

It is also stated that various special statutes such as Section 21(2)(b) of Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act 1999 and Section 43 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act provide the power to the Courts for extension of time for filling of chargesheet and continuance of judicial custody of accused till such extended time. However, a policy of maximum convictions would automatically make a Public Prosecutor to file an unwarranted report for such extensions which would defeat the very principles of justice.

The ple says that the criminal jurisprudence goes by a fundamental principle that the accused should be considered as innocent until proven guilty, which expands into "Let ninety nine culprits escape but one innocent should not be punished".