Published on: 26 July 2023 at 00:30 IST
The Calcutta High Court has taken stern action against two police officers who violated the privacy of a minor rape survivor.
The court ordered the immediate suspension of these officers for disclosing the victim’s identity by including her photograph in the case diary presented before the trial court [Anil Sardar vs State of West Bengal].
The division bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Ajay Kumar Gupta referred to a previous Supreme Court case, Nipun Saxena vs Union of India, where it was emphasized that the identity of a sexual crime victim, especially a minor, must be scrupulously protected. Unfortunately, this essential directive was blatantly disregarded in the present case, as the photograph of the victim was included in the case diary submitted during the judicial proceedings.
The court strongly criticized the lack of awareness among police officers regarding the protection of the victim’s identity.
These officers, as responsible public servants, are entrusted with investigating sensitive cases involving vulnerable child victims, and their negligence in this regard was deemed appalling by the bench.
Moreover, the court noted that the police officers were well aware of the statement given by the victim under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which actually favored the accused. Despite this exonerative statement, the accused was wrongfully arrested and kept in custody for a considerable period.
The court highlighted the significant power of arrest bestowed upon the police during investigations. While acknowledging its importance, the court also emphasized that it is a dangerous tool as it infringes on an individual’s fundamental right to personal liberty.
Previous judgments by the Apex Court have repeatedly emphasized that police officers must exercise this power with utmost care and circumspection. Regrettably, the police officers in this case displayed a flagrant disregard for such mandates.
The court concluded that the officers’ actions had caused harm both to the victim, by exposing her identity, and to the petitioner-accused, by unjustly depriving him of liberty, despite evidence suggesting otherwise. It was evident that the police officers had failed in their official duties during the investigation.
As a result, the Calcutta High Court directed the Commissioner of Police, Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate, to immediately suspend the two police officers involved in the case: Santanu Sarkar, the Inspector-in-charge of Baguiati police station, and the Investigating Officer of the case, Biswajit Das, Sub-Inspector of Police at Baguiati police station.
Furthermore, the court ordered the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against these officers for their gross dereliction of duty during the investigation. A report on the progress of these proceedings is expected to be submitted before the bench on August 22.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate Mazhar Hossain Chowdhury, while the State was represented by Public Prosecutor Saswata Gopal Mukherjee and Shiladitya Banerjee.