New Delhi: The Kerala High Court has observed that police officials should not reveal facts learned through investigation in criminal cases to the media. The court was hearing an appeal filed by the accused persons in the murder of diamond merchant Harihara Varma in 2012.
The appellants had said that they were prejudiced by a press conference held by police officials upon making arrests. The division bench of Justices A. Hariprasad and N. Anil Kumar held that no prejudice was caused, but made the observation about the police.
The court has upheld the double life terms of four accused, while acquitting the fifth for want of evidence.
The court cleared its point on releasing the facts of the investigation by conducting a press conference and held that the court cannot agree to the practice of police officials conducting press conferences about ongoing investigations.
In the words of the court in its judgment: “We have serious reservations about police officers conducting press meetings in respect of criminal investigations, which they and the media consider to be sensational. In our view, on many occasions holding press meetings would spoil the quality of evidence collected during the investigation. It is our considered opinion, no police officer conducting investigation into a crime shall be authorised to divulge the facts ascertained during investigation through the media. They should remember that a criminal case has to be finally decided in a court of law.
“Police officers should refrain from airing their personal views in respect of a case under investigation. They are not expected to reveal before the media the facts ascertained in the course of investigation by questioning material witnesses or confession made by the accused. It is common knowledge that recently the practice of police officers rushing to the media with speculative information about ongoing investigations is on the increase.”
“Section 31(3) of the Kerala Police Act, 2011 specifically says that no person in custody shall be paraded or allowed to be photographed and no press conference shall be conducted without permission of the State Police Chief for the purpose of publishing the same in newspaper or in any visual media. State Police Chief certainly cannot grant such a permission mechanically and for a mere asking. He is bound to exercise his discretion judiciously before granting permission. It is the complaint of the accused in this case that all such precautionary measures have been flouted here,” noted by the Court in its Judgment.
Read the Judgment here;display-pdf-1
-India Legal Bureau