In a significant direction, the Delhi High Court has said that reports of the investigating officer and by the jail authorities must also be given to an accused to enable him to effectively defend his case in a court of law.
Dismissal of a plea based on such reports without a copy to an accused will tantamount to denial of justice and the opportunity to defend, according to the High Court.
A bench headed by chief justice DN Patel was categorical that except in certain extraordinary cases, accused and applicants must be given copies of these report, which form the basis of decision by a court.
“As a general rule, a copy of the report given by the Jail Superintendent as well as the report given by the Investigating Officer should be supplied to the applicant so that accused can properly understand the reasons given therein and defend their case in the Court of law. This is a basic need for access to justice and for rendering justice to the public at large,” the order stated.
Issuing directives for the Delhi government, its prosecution department and jail authorities, the court added that copies of these reports should also be given to the accused/applicant in advance so that “they can also defend their case effectively and efficiently in the Court of law”.
Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, while arguing for a PIL in this regard, had pointed out that in several criminal matters, especially in bail pleas, courts called for reports from the investigating officers and the jail authorities.
Luthra contended that although the same are being relied upon by the courts, the copies of such reports are not being supplied to the accused, who remain in dark why their pleas were rejected.
The senior counsel added this practice should be done away with and but for exceptional reasons, accused and applicants should be handed over such documents so as to have a fair play and accord an audience.
The bench agreed with his submissions, stating that whenever the court is relying upon a report of the Jail Superintendent, which is normally called by the order of the court for a specific purpose on a case to case basis, the copy of the same should be given to the accused, save and except in exceptional cases.
It also noted in its order that whenever such copy is not supplied to the applicant of the application under Code of Criminal Procedure, especially in bail matters, reasons will be recorded by the court in the order.
“This order may be complied with forthwith,” directed the bench, sending copies of its orders for compliance by the chief secretary of the Delhi government, Director General (Prisons); District and Sessions Judge of all the District Courts and other authorities concerned.