Calcutta High Court orders suspension of police officers for disclosing identity of minor rape survivor and wrongfully arresting accused

The Calcutta High Court Tuesday ordered the suspension of two police officers for disclosing the identity of a minor rape survivor by enclosing her photograph in the case diary, which was produced before the trial court [Anil Sardar vs State of West Bengal].

A division bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Ajay Kumar Gupta said the Supreme Court in the case of Nipun Saxena vs Union of India had insisted that the identity of the victim of sexual crime particularly a minor must be scrupulously protected.

The said directive was flagrantly violated and a photograph of the victim was made a part of the case diary produced in the judicial proceeding, the High Court noted.

“Police officers are responsible public servants entrusted with the duty to investigate sensitive cases involving vulnerable child victims. Their lack of awareness with regard to the manner in which the identity of the victim is to be protected is appalling,” the bench said in its order.

Further, the Court also noted that the police officers were cognizant of the statement of the victim recorded under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which was exonerative in nature with regard to the petitioner-accused.

Despite that, the accused was arrested and remained in custody for a considerable period of time, the bench noted.

The power to arrest is an important tool in the course of an investigation, the Court underscored.

“It is a dangerous one too. It encroaches on the most precious right of an individual i.e. his/her personal liberty. The Apex Court in a series of cases has emphasized that police must exercise their power to arrest with due care and circumspection. We find a wanton disregard to such mandate,” the bench observed.

It held that the police officers in the instant case appear to have flagrantly ignored the said mandate of law in the investigation of the case.

“The police officers have prima facie caused harm, both to the victim by exposing her identity as well as to the petitioner by depriving him of the liberty, though materials spoke otherwise. We are of the prima facie view that the police officers have dereliction in the discharge of their official duties during the investigation of the case,” the Court held.

Hence, it directed the Commissioner of Police, Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate, to suspend the police officers, Santanu Sarkar, (Inspector-in-charge, Baguiati police station) and the Investigating Officer of the case – Biswajit Das (Sub-Inspector of Police, Baguiati police station).

The Court also ordered that disciplinary proceedings be initiated against them for dereliction of duty during the investigation.

A report regarding the same should be submitted before the bench on August 22, the bench further directed.

Advocate Mazhar Hossain Chowdhury appeared for the Petitioner.

Public Prosecutor Saswata Gopal Mukherjee and Shiladitya Banerjee represented the State.

Source: Bar and bench.

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