Public prosecutor not post office, must apply mind, says Punjab and Haryana high court
Bench quashes a Haryana court order whereby police got time beyond statutory period of 180 days to probe a drugs case
A public prosecutor is an important officer of the state government and is expected to independently apply his mind to a request of an investigating agency before asking the court to extend time for completion of a probe, said the Punjab and Haryana high court.
“He (public prosecutor) is not a post office or a forwarding agency. Quite to the contrary, a public prosecutor may or may not agree with the reasons assigned by the investigating officer. He may also come to the conclusion that there has been unnecessary, deliberate or avoidable delay in the completion of the investigation,” the bench of justice JS Bedi said quashing an order passed by a Haryana court whereby the police got time beyond statutory period of 180 days to probe a drugs case.
The court observed that before seeking extension of time, the public prosecutor, after an independent application of mind to such a request, is required to make a report to the court indicating the progress of probe and disclosing justification for keeping the accused in further custody and enabling the police to complete investigation.
The court was dealing with a plea from one Rajpal, challenging August 2, 2022 order of the Sonepat additional sessions judge whereby an application from cops filed through a public prosecutor seeking more time for filing challan was filed, and accepted by the court in a drugs seizure case reported in Ganaur area of Sonepat in February 2022. The police had to submit the challan by August 11, 2022 but they moved an application on August 2, seeking extension of time, which was allowed by the court and three more months were given to submit the final report.
As challan was not submitted, the accused had filed an application for default bail on August 30 last year, but was dismissed by the court. Thereafter, he challenged the August 2 order in the high court.
The court said mere filing of an application for extension does not ipso facto empower the court to extend the stipulated period for filing the challan. Referring to the application filed in the case in hand, it said the content of application did not show any application of mind by the public prosecutor as to why he felt that the police be given more time for final report. In fact, he has acted like a “post office or forwarding agency”, it said.
The court further explained that while acting on such an application from the police, public prosecutor is required to make a report to the court indicating progress of the investigation and disclosing justification for keeping the accused in further custody. “…the report of the public prosecutor is not an empty formality but a vital report because the consequences of its acceptances affect the liberty of an accused and it must, therefore, strictly comply with the requirements of Section 36A (4) of the NDPS Act,” the bench said quashing the Sonepat court order. Section 36A (4) deals with the powers of a trial court to extend period of investigation.