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HomeNation‘Pick your battles’: CJI Chandrachud tells probe agencies; lauds new criminal laws

‘Pick your battles’: CJI Chandrachud tells probe agencies; lauds new criminal laws


NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud on Monday said the premier probe agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) must concentrate on those cases of importance that threaten the security, public order and economic health of the country rather than taking up petty cases while praising the three new criminal laws brought by the Centre.

Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud frowned at incidents of unwarranted confiscation of personal devices (X/CBIHeadquarters)

CJI Chandrachud also emphasised the need to “uphold due process” in the functioning of law enforcement agencies and striking a delicate balance between “search and seizure powers” and “individual privacy rights” to create a fair and just society, alluding to the unwarranted seizure of personal devices during raids.

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“It is important for us, both in the context of not just streamlining the courts but also promoting the efficiency of CBI and the investigative agencies to pick our battles. I think we have perhaps been spreading our investigative agencies too thin over the years, despite a rapid change in the environment. Our premier investigative agencies must concentrate their attention and efforts on that class of crime which truly threatens the security of the nation, public order or economic health of the nation,” the CJI said while delivering the 20th DP Kohli Memorial Lecture, organised by CBI in the memory of its founding director. “Allowing our investigative agencies to spread themselves too thin would really pose a serious challenge to the personnel who man the agencies because the number of personnel is obviously limited,” CJI Chandrachud said as he cited the example of CBI, which consists largely of officers who come on deputation.

The CJI was referring to instances of CBI investigating cases involving bribes as low as 300.

Lauding the three new criminal laws – Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), which will replace the colonial era Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Indian Evidence Act from July 1 — the CJI noted that “the new criminal laws enacted by Parliament encompass substantive crime, procedure and evidence”.

“These laws aim at digitising various aspects of criminal procedure. This is a significant step towards modernising the justice system. From the initial registration of a first information report to the final delivery of judgment, every stage of a criminal investigation is slated to be recorded digitally under the purview of the proposed legislation. This comprehensive approach ensures a seamless flow of information and is intended to facilitate better coordination and collaboration among stakeholders involved in the investigative and adjudicatory processes,” he said.

“Summons can now be issued electronically, and testimonies from witnesses, experts, accused individuals, and other parties may also be presented virtually,” the CJI said, Underscoring how the new laws will integrate technology with the criminal justice system.

“This innovation eliminates the need for physical documentation and enables swift communication between law enforcement agencies, courts, and individuals involved in legal proceedings. It will obviate the delay in bail orders reaching the jail authorities and in recording witness depositions. Similarly, the authorisation for presenting testimonies virtually opens up new avenues for participation in legal proceedings, allowing contributions to the process from remote locations”, he added.

CJI Chandrachud also advocated for striking a balance between investigative imperatives and individual privacy rights in his address.

“In the realm of criminal justice, the delicate balance between search and seizure powers and individual privacy rights stands at the cornerstone of a fair and just society. At the heart of this balance lies the need to uphold due process while ensuring the effective functioning of law enforcement agencies,” he said.

The CJI noted that Section 94 of the newly enacted BNSS and Section 185 of BSA grant courts and law enforcement the authority to summon documents and materials, including digital evidence deemed necessary for investigation.

“Instances of raids conducted and incidents of unwarranted confiscation of personal devices highlight the pressing need to strike a balance between investigative imperatives and individual privacy rights,” he said.

The CJI further highlighted there was a need to rethink our investigative framework to deal with the innovations in criminal activities and called for having “multidisciplinary teams” consisting of officers and domain experts.

“The practice of allocating a case to an investigative officer (IO) and his local team for investigation must be re-looked to meet the challenges of sophisticated criminal networks. We can do this by completely re-engineering the national response to crime and our approach to criminal investigation by forming multidisciplinary teams consisting of law enforcement officers and domain experts including data analysts. These teams would draw from the expertise of their members and refine their investigative work. Multidisciplinary investigative teams can deploy unique approaches and pattern recognition in a seamless manner over a fluid investigative landscape,” he said.

While recommending the use of technology such as AI by agencies to bolster the criminal justice system, CJI asked to prioritise “ethical considerations” in utilising such technologies and have clear guidelines and safeguards to prevent misuse.



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