The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed High Courts and the state governments to amend the existing procedures as it framed detailed draft rules to streamline investigation and expedite trials in criminal cases.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat, said: “This court is of the opinion that the courts in all criminal trials should, at the beginning of the trial, i.e. after summoning of the accused, and framing of charges, hold a preliminary case management hearing. This hearing may take place immediately after the framing of the charges.”
The bench clarified that the draft rules, related to investigation, like preparing medico-legal certificate, post mortem, inquest report, photography and amid the investigation videography of post mortem, are compliant and not in any way repugnant to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
“If the state government’s co-operation is necessary in this regard, the approval of the concerned department or departments, and the formal notification of the said Draft Rules, shall be made within the said period of six months,” it added.
Passing the order in a suo moto case, the top court said the rules also dealt with trial proceedings, which includes supply of documents to accused, framing of charge, and recording of evidence. “The state governments shall appoint advocates, other than Public Prosecutors, to advise the Investigating Officer during investigation,” it said.
The bench said all High Courts should take expeditious steps to incorporate the Draft Criminal Rules on Practice, 2021 as part of the rules governing criminal trials, and ensure that the existing rules, notifications, orders and practice directions are suitably modified, and promulgated (wherever necessary through the Official Gazette) within 6 months from Tuesday.
The top court took into consideration the views of the High Courts and three amici curiae, senior advocates Sidharth Luthra, R. Basant and advocate K. Parameshwar. The court approved the draft rules, which, among others, mandated recording of evidence on a day-to-day basis, and noting down special reasons for allowing adjournment.
According to the rules, bail applications in non-bailable cases must ordinarily be disposed of within a period of three to seven days from first date of hearing.
The top court also directed the state governments and Centre in connection with investigating agencies in its control, to carry out consequential amendments to their police and other manuals, within six months.