The Supreme Court on Friday held that judicial magistrates are empowered to direct accused in criminal cases to give voice samples to agencies during investigation.
In a major judgment, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) does not have provisions that allow judicial magistrates to direct the accused to cooperate with probe agencies by providing voice samples in pending investigations.
The bench also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, said it was exercising its extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to confer the power on judicial magistrates to direct accused in criminal cases to give their voice samples for proper investigation.
Till now, the accused were not legally bound to give their voice samples to probe agencies.
Probe agencies like CBI and NIA have found themselves in a piquant situation following demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, taking varying stands in different courts on whether to keep the seized crime money with them to safeguard evidence or deposit the currency to save them from becoming worthless.
The dilemma is simultaneously bothering the accused as well, as they have to accord consent in courts that the seized crime money may be deposited by probe agencies.
Such consent would bar them from raising defence at a later stage in trial with regard to the authenticity of the seizure or whether the same currency notes were seized during the alleged raids.
In one case, a special court allowed the CBI’s plea to deposit Rs three lakh as fixed deposit receipts after accused Ashutosh Kumar Singh, who was working as a Deputy General Manager of the Handicrafts and Handloom Export Corporation of India Ltd (Ministry of Textiles), consented that he was “not disputing the identity of the amount/money seized”.
CBI, in its plea in the graft case, said “due to demonetisation scheme of Government of India, now the seized currency (old currency) is needed to be deposited in the bank account maintained by the CBI. In order to save the seized currency from turning invalid, necessary orders are solicited from the court.”
However, in another graft case involving former Medical Council of India President Ketan Desai, the same agency opposed the plea of the accused that Rs two crore, which was allegedly seized in cash by CBI over six years ago, be deposited in a bank.
CBI claimed that the notes were bribe money which were important evidence. If deposited, it would damage the prosecution case as these were yet to be exhibited before the lower court, it said. The trial has been stayed by the apex court in the case.
In a terror case, National Investigating Agency (NIA) supported the plea of suspected ISIS operative, Syed Mujahid, that the seized crime money to the tune of Rs 2.83 lakh can be deposited in bank, after keeping on judicial record, the “photocopy/scanned copies of old currency notes”.
The money can be deposited in NIA’s treasury account, Mujahid told the court.
NIA also urged the court to direct the accused not to raise any objection regarding admissibility of the seizure memo which was prepared after recovery of the search operation at later stage during the trial.
District Judge Amar Nath allowed the plea after the accused gave his consent to it.