a decision that promises transparency for legal procedures involving police, the Bombay High Court has allowed accused persons to record their own police interrogation, provided they bear all costs. The order has far-reaching implications for the police, according to legal experts.
Justice AM Thipsay on Friday passed the order in an anticipatory bail hearing for All-India SpeakAsia Panelist Association head Ashok Bahirwani. Bahirwani claims that though he has been co-operating with police investigations since the beginning, police continue to harass him.
Advocate Shrikant Bhat, who represented Bahirwani, informed the court that his client intended to have the entire interrogation recorded, to avoid controversy over whether or not he had been co-operating with police. The court also recorded the statement of Special Public Prosecutor PD Gharat, who said that the investigating agency, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) would co-operate with Bahirwani, “so as to enable him to video record the interviews/interrogation.”
At an earlier hearing, Gharat had told the court that Bahirwani had not been co-operating with investigations. Bahirwani has however always claimed to have co-operated and has regularly visited the EOW office. On November 5, the court had granted Bahirwani interim protection from arrest, which still continues. Bahirwani’s visit to the EOW on December 6 was his thirteenth.
Speaking to MiD DAY, Bhat said, “I would highly recommend that accused persons use the order to record their statements before the police, especially if they are sure of their innocence. It is akin to the American system, where everything is recorded. Recording of interrogations will ensure transparency and discourage the use of third-degree methods to procure information.”
Bahirwani said, “The police often use the excuse that the person has not been co-operating with investigations. What is unusual is that though it has been five days since the order was passed, I have yet to be called for interrogation.”
It is definitely most useful for witnesses, and even accused persons, to a lesser extent. As far as an accused is concerned, the police can always beat him ‘off the record’ and then videotape him. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the police cannot obtain witnesses’ signatures on their statements, so the police tend to substitute the statements with something extraneous. Videotaping interrogations will mitigate this
— YP Singh, lawyer and ex-IPS officer
If interrogations are video-recorded, it will ensure that police don’t transgress their powers and consequently the interrogated person would not be subject to third degree torture. However, given today’s technology, precautions must be taken to ensure that such video recordings are not tampered with by either the accused or the prosecution
— Tejas Bhatt, criminal lawyer