Wednesday, 6 December, 2023

Effective Justice System ,Attorneys & police must work in tandem


Bishnu Hari Marasini

The purpose of the criminal justice system is to ensure the rule of law, which is the key to creating vital conditions for peace, order and development of society. For this purpose, those violating laws should be punished while fully observing due process of law. In our criminal justice system, the police have been empowered to investigate to bring perpetrator to justice, whereas prosecutors have been assigned to make sure that due legal process has been followed during the investigation.

There is common misunderstanding between the police officers and government attorneys. The former often accuse the latter of weakening the charge-sheet filed at the court, thereby letting the suspects off the hook. On the other, the government attorneys accuse the police of failing to conduct effective and evidence-based investigation before asking the former to file a case. Such a conflict between investigators and prosecutors often leads the court either to hand down lenient punishment or order the release of the guilty. As the police and government attorneys are complementary to each other in the delivery of criminal justice administration, there is the urgent need of developing harmonious relationship between them to effectively implement the rule of law so that the public have greater faith in the criminal justice system.
After undergoing lengthy, laborious and complicated investigation process, police investigators generally tend to develop a feeling of exclusiveness, and think that the entire investigation domain is their responsibility. As a result, any sort of advice and instruction from the outside is construed as interference and unnecessary. They resist if they are told to bring more substantial evidence, or amend or improve the evidence collected. Police officers and organisations have been inclined to take their entire work, especially the case handling as a professional and skilled job. Though they do the investigation within their own legal parameter, and procedural codes, their practical and operational framework makes them believe that they have their own chain of command system which works as efficiently as prosecutorial agencies and which they believe, can provide them guidance and instructions.

With academic background in jurisprudence and greater sensitivity to the issue of human rights, rule of law and due process, prosecutors adopt more legalistic approach in dealing with the police files. Prosecutors will first examine the appropriateness of evidence and will then evaluate its fitness for the court proceedings. Pressure from colleagues of investigating agency for prosecution may embarrass him/her in case his/her disposition appears to lead to acquittal of the alleged. Sometimes, investigators may bring applications for arrest warrants to a prosecutor even at midnight and ask for speedy scrutiny, which will put pressure and strain on the prosecutors

Despite the difference in the legal system of each country, which governs the relationship between the police and prosecutors, it is heard that the police feel frustrated when the prosecutors’ case-disposition conflicts with the expectations of the police. It is totally disappointing for investigators if an arrested suspect is set free by prosecutors on the ground that the prerequisites have not been fulfilled for keeping the suspect in custody, or where investigatory activity, despite the great deal of time and effort involved, leads to the termination of the proceedings.

In order to realise the rule of law, the prosecutors’ guidance to the police investigation is sine-qua-non for building a civilised and democratic society. Modern police forces are highly professional, well-trained and well-equipped while prosecutors on the other hand are highly qualified legal brains. It is apparent that the police and prosecutors are getting more and more mutually dependent due to the increasing complexity, multitude and other challenges of criminal cases cropping up in modern societies. Considering the heavy workload the police and prosecutors are facing, it is quite understandable that, in some countries, various ways of effective distribution of responsibilities between the two organisations are being experimented.

Given such circumstances, it is not surprising that, despite the difference in the basic legal principles in criminal proceedings, or historical background relating to the relation between the police and prosecutors, most of the countries seem to be heading to the same direction, where closer collaboration between the police and prosecutors is emphasised. In this context, it should be kept in mind that the development of new forms of cooperation between the police and prosecutors should not be viewed as just an adjustment for the sake of convenience. On the contrary, such developments in many countries are structured upon the deep consideration as to the independently entrusted roles of the police and prosecutors in the course of realising the rule of law. The relationship between the police and prosecutors inevitably and desirably involves, to some extent, a conflicting nature. Accordingly, close collaboration between the police and prosecutors should be only developed on such a challenging, though positively stimulating, relationship.

The National Criminal Procedure Court, 2017 has clear provision that the investigating officers may ask any opinion, advice from government attorney regarding anything related to investigation, and government attorney may give any instruction in such issues and complying with such instruction is the duty of investigation officer. This type of legal provision has helped to enhance cooperation to greater extent.

At present, various activities are conducted to enhance the cooperation and minimise the differences through training, workshops, seminars and national level conference. There are coordination committees, from centre to district level, to discuss various issues and executes plan for betterment. Since both the government attorneys and police investigators are working for common goal to provide justice to victim and punish for the guilty, they must build up close tie right from registration of first information report, collection of physical and acceptable evidence, filing the case and execution of decision made by the court.

(Marasini is a public prosecutor and currently works in office of the high attorney in Butwal)