March 3, 2024

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The Protest Petitions in Criminal Trial

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The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 commonly known as Cr.P.C was amended in the year of 2009 in order to introduce certain statutory rights for the victims in the crime. Dealing with the introduction of a Victim’s Compensation Scheme from (Section 357-A of Cr.P.C), were conferring a right upon victims to appeal against the judgments by way of inserting a new proviso to the Section 372 Cr.P.C.

Although the Cr.P.C does not strictly envisage hearing the victims while considering the grant of bail as many courts allowed them an opportunity to be heard at the stage. Here, focusing on another judicial creation – The Protest Petition.

PROTEST PETITION:

A Protest Petition is a representation which is made by the victim/informant to the court during or after the completion of any investigation by the police official. In today’s era, it is most commonly filed after the police filing a Closure Report or B-Report under the Section 173 of Cr.P.C wherein the police concludes the allegations which are not made out against an accused. The Protest Petition is such an opportunity which is granted to the victim or the complainant to raise the objections against these conclusions before the magistrate decides to apply the judicial mind to the final report.

HISTORY OF THE PROTEST PETITION:

Tracing the development through the concept of time, the High Court of Patna and Calcutta had extensively dealt with the legal niceties surrounding the protest petitions before the independence, the first reported judgment from Delhi did not come before 1990 in most of the databases. In ensuring the victim’s rights at a time, when such concepts were alien to the criminal process across most parts of the world.

The High Courts seem to consider the Protest Petitions as any of the representations being protesting against the Police investigations. The term predominantly which is used in Calcutta was Naraji, which loosely translates to dissatisfaction. Naturally, extending the petitions which were filed by both the accused persons and complainants/victims, although the latter far outnumber the former.

The Protest Petition by an accused seems to have only been filed during the investigation, whereas those by the complainants made after the conclusions of investigations. The considerations of the Protest Petitions and acceptance of the Final Reports by the Police officials were also raised with the important issues concerning the nature of the exercise as ‘Whether it was an executive or a judicial function?’

If the task is to be considered as an executive function, it has a limited scope for the review of such an order in the revision proceedings and it is purely of historical interest now, since the Code of Criminal Procedure makes a clear separation between the executive and judicial functions of the magistracy.

Not always, there were several reports before the year of 1973 in which it is considered on how the separation could take place (37th Law Commission Report).

FILING OF A PROTEST PETITION:

Many more investigations on the procedural issues arise by allowing some of the intervention by the complainants.

  • If the Magistrate has a Closure Report and a Protest Petition, can the latter be considered only, if the Final Report is accepted?
  • Does the Protest Petition have to be a ‘Complaint’ to take cognizance?
  • Must the Complainant be examined under an oath under the Section 200 of Cr.P.C after taking on a Protest Petition?
  • If the Magistrate takes the Cognizance on a Protest Petition when there is a Closure Report, would the case be tried as a complaint case or one based on a Police report?
  • If the Magistrate has a Protest Petition and the Closure Report, can the Magistrate send the Police back for further investigation to file a fresh report?
  • If the Magistrate is rejecting the Closure Report and accepting the Protest Petition, should the case be transferred before the other Magistrate for Trial?

Answering the questionnaire with a degree of certainty, there is no prohibition on considering the Protest Petition before accepting the Closure Report. The Magistrate may also look at the Protest Petition beforehand and on taking the cognizance on the Closure Report itself. The Magistrate is also empowered to direct a further investigation under Section 156(3) after receiving a protest petition.

If the magistrate does decide to take the cognizance of the Protest Petition, then it must satisfy the ingredients of a ‘Complaint’ under the Section 2(d) of the Cr.P.C., and then the Complaint must be examined on oath before issuing the summons.

Remaining with some doubt and a cost since these questions have important consequences. A Complaint case allows for arguing the discharge after cross-examining the witnesses and thus such cases can be dismissed for the non-appearance of the complainant. This is not so when the cases are processed on the police report. Furthermore, if the Magistrate rejects the findings in the Closure Report and takes cognizance or direct investigation only to take the cognizance.

Would it not affect the appearance of justice, if the trial proceeded before the same court?  It is not entirely unreasonable to suppose that the court has already arrived at some conclusions about the case in such situations despite the limited application of mind which is required at the initial stage of the criminal process. The latter is becoming increasingly pressing though, with it becoming routine for certain courts to resend the Closure Reports for further investigation to gather more material and play the role of a prosecutor.

CONCLUSION:

The Protest Petition is a crucial piece of a judicial innovation much ahead of the times in giving victims a say in the criminal process. Its existence, and development across the country over the last centuries directly questions the notions that the role of the victim was negligible in India. Its presence in today’s era raises the important questions regarding the separation between the spheres of investigation and the Trial. It would be insightful to compare this with the other colonial jurisdictions to discern exactly how unique this practice was to India.

The predominantly area-specific judicial practise has attained national status. It would help certainly the federal legislature codified, the Protest Petition and make it a part of the Cr.P.C to address the lingering ambiguities that have arisen during the transformative process. 

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