Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 21 October 2023

Not just a case about improving investigation

In a free and democratic society such as ours, justice should not eternally abrogate one’s rights to freedom and liberty, except in the most extreme cases.”

-Bernard B. Kerik

Relevance: GS II (Polity and Governance)

  • Prelims: Justice Malimath Committee; 239th Report of Law Commission of India;
  • Mains: Need for Police reforms; Reforms in IPC and CrPC; Indian Criminal Justice System;

 Why in News?

The Supreme Court of India, recently, in Rajesh and Anr. vs The State of Madhya Pradesh, emphasized the need to devise a ‘consistent and dependable code of investigation’ so that the guilty do not walk free on technicalities.

  • The Court not only pointed out some illegalities in the investigation but also echoed the comments of the Justice Malimath Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System and the observations of the Law Commission of India in its Report number 239.


  • 239th Law Commission of India Report talks about Expeditious Investigation and Trial of Criminal Cases against Influential Public Personalities.
  • The Malimath Committee was established by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2000, with the aim of reforming India's criminal justice system. However, it presented its recommendations in its report titled as the Report of the Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System in 2003.


First, let us know about the set-up of Criminal Justice System in India:

  • The criminal justice system is the set of laws, processes, and institutions that aim to prevent, detect, prosecute, and punish crimes while ensuring the rights and safety of all people.
  • Evolution of Criminal Justice System in India:
    • Indian Criminal Justice System in India have evolved since ancient times citing the nature of the society. During British rule, the criminal laws that were codified in India however remained largely unchanged till the date.
    • Eventually in 1860, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was drafted, in the wake of the first law commission that was established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833.
    • The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) enlists procedures for administering criminal law in India which was enacted in 1973 and became effective from 1 April 1974.
  • Currently, it is implemented through four subsystems in India as follows:
    • Legislature (Parliament)
    • Enforcement (Police)
    • Adjudication (Courts)
    • Corrections (Prisons, Community Facilities)

What were the recommendations by Justice Malimath committee?

  • A preamble shall be added to the Code on the following lines:
    • To constitute a Criminal Justice System for punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent.
    • Quest for the truth shall be the foundation of the Criminal Justice System.
    • Whereas it shall be the duty of every functionary of the Criminal Justice System to actively pursue the quest for truth.
    • Quest for truth shall be the fundamental duty of every Court.
  • Recommendations for Police Investigation:
    • The panel recommendations were based on system of investigation, seen in countries like Germany and France, where a judicial magistrate oversees the investigation.
    • For improving the investigation, it recommended on setting up of a National Security Commission and State Security Commissions.
    • It also recommended on appointing of additional Superintendent of Police in each district in order to maintain crime data, organization of specialized squads to deal with organized crime.
    • Setting up a team of officers to probe inter-state or transnational crimes, and setting up of a Police Establishment Board to deal with posting, transfers, and so on.
    • The Committee also suggested on increasing police custody from present 15 days to 30 days. And if it is the case for serious crimes and an additional time of 90 days be granted for the filing of charge sheets.
  • Recommendations on Empowering Judiciary:
    • According to Section 311 of the code, any Court shall at any stage of any inquiry, trial or other proceeding under the Code, summon any person as witness or as it appears necessary for discovering truth in the case.
      • According to Section 482 of the Code, every Court shall have inherent power to make such orders as may be necessary to prevent abuse of the process of Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.
According to Section 311 of the Code, any Court shall, at any stage of inquiry or trial under this Code, have such power to issue directions to the Investigating Officer to make further investigation or to direct the Supervisory Officer.


  • Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act: The Supreme Court has held that for a confession made to the police to be admissible under Section 27 of the Evidence Act, two essential conditions must be met: the individual must be 'accused of any offence,' and they must be in 'police custody' at the time the confession is made. Therefore, custody under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act does not necessarily mean formal arrest by the police.
  • Section 100(4) or section 100(5) of the CrPC: The Supreme Court laid too much emphasis on seeking compliance relating to the presence of independent witnesses during the search and seizure procedure. The safeguards in search proceedings based on compulsion cannot be read into discovery on the basis of facts voluntarily deposed (against Influential Public Personalities). In fact, such pathnames are prepared by the police as a rule of caution, and not in compliance with any mandatory provision of law.
  • Struggle for Police Reforms: Seventeen states have taken measures to separate the investigative and law and order functions of the police following the Malimath Committee recommendations. The remaining states are not opposed to this directive but have yet to initiate the necessary steps for separation. Nine States fell under the ‘good and satisfactory’ category and 20 States in the ‘average and poor’

 Way Ahead:

  • Separation of Investigation is needed: A separation of investigation from law and order will ensure quicker investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
    • For Enforcement (Police): The quality of investigation needs to improve and the police should use the best available scientific tools for
      • Need for Police reforms: ‘The police stations are understaffed’, ‘sufficient priority is not given for investigation of crime’ and ‘there is no periodic exercise to upgrade the skills of investigation’.
      • Unless additional manpower is sanctioned, except in major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, it is practically difficult to separate the two wings because of a lack of manpower.
    • For Adjudication (Courts): The Courts in India also need to review the reforms that have taken place in the police in pursuance of the recommendations made by various commissions and committees.
      • The Supreme Court needs to step forward and ask every State and Union Territory to report compliance with its directives on investigation and other issues in letter and spirit. Similarly, there must be consistency in its rulings unless earlier judgments are clearly overruled for cogent reasons.
    • Need a separate Code of Investigation: It is difficult to believe that a code of investigation does not exist in the states. If present, it can be also revised from time to time, with the Supreme Court’s directions included wherever required.



Q1) National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India can be most effective when its tasks are adequately supported by other mechanisms that ensure the accountability of a government. In light of the above observation assess the role of NHRC as an effective complement to the judiciary and other institutions in promoting and protecting human rights standards. (2014)


Q1.      For which one of the following reforms was a Commission set up under the Chairmanship of Veerappa Moily by the Government of India? (2008)

(a)       Police Reforms.

(b)       Tax Reforms.

(c)        Reforms in Technical Education.

(d)       Administrative Reforms.

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