New Delhi, Dec 1 (IANS) The Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to move towards implementing audio-visual recording of statements of witnesses in criminal cases and heinous offences.
Relying on the Supreme Court's directions, the bench of Justices S. Vaidyanathan and Anand Venkatesh has also issued guidelines to be adhered to by investigating officers.
The bench has directed that in all crimes, particularly offences affecting the human body covered under Chapter 16 of the Indian Penal Code and punishable with imprisonment of 10 years and above, the statements of eyewitnesses, the injured witnesses and the complainant shall be recorded during investigation under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and through audio-video electronic means, wherever it is available.
In all crimes against women and children under various special enactments, the same procedure shall be followed, it said, adding that the state government shall ensure that audio-video recording facilities are provided to all magistrate courts, mahalir courts and sessions courts throughout Tamil Nadu, within a period of three months from the date of receipt of copy of this order.
The state government shall also make arrangements to facilitate the storage and safe keeping of the electronic data in the respective courts, it said.
While certain difficulties were raised regarding the implementation of such measures, the High Court said: "Practical difficulties that are pointed out by the prosecution cannot be a ground to stop the implementation of these provisions. At some stage, the audio-video electronic means must be used widely during investigation and it has been effectively implemented in many foreign countries."
The court proceeded to give the state three months time to apprise the bench of the measures taken by it to implement to audio-visual recording of witnesses' statements. "This court wants to give three months time to the prosecution to place a report before this court giving a definite action plan to implement the provision for using audio-video electronic means during the course of investigation," the order said.
The bench emphasised that the state government should implement the witness protection scheme, as already directed by the Supreme Court. It observed: "... it is the law of the land as on today. Unless, the witness protection scheme is implemented, the audio-video electronic means cannot be effectively brought into force, since it may expose the witnesses to a larger threat. The Hon'ble Supreme Court has directed the scheme to be implemented within a period of one year, i.e., by the end of 2019. The state government is directed to implement this scheme as per the directions given by the Hon'ble Supreme Court and a status report shall also be filed in this regard."
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