The Kerala High Court on Thursday said stringent action will be taken against investigating officers and the media if confession statements given by an accused to police are leaked and discussed during the course of probe.
If the confession statement and other materials collected during investigation were discussed in media and divulged to the general public, the situation will be perilous, Justice PV Kunhikrishnan said in his order on a bail petition.
The confession statement was not admissible in the eye of law and the court cannot sit as a silent spectator in the criminal justice delivery system, he said, citing relevant provisions of the Evidence Act.
“A full stop is necessary. My respectful request to the reporters of print and visual media and, of course, to the anchors of 24-hour news channel is to read section 24 of the Evidence Act and other similar sections before framing headlines in the newspapers and before giving breaking news in news channels based on confession statement of accused who are in police custody”, the Judge said in his order.
He directed the registry to send a copy of the order to the state Director General of Police
The judge made the observations while allowing the bail application of Jolly Joseph, accused of sensational killings of six of her family members by administering them cyanide, in the case related to the alleged killing of her kin Annamma Thomas in 2002.
He referred to the verdict in Murukeshan Vs State of Kerala, in which the high court had observed that all should realise that once a case involving the commission of a cognizable offence has been registered and the FIR forwarded to the Magistrate concerned, the matter is sub judice.
It had also said no police officer has the right to leak out information regarding the outcome of investigation until the final report is eventually filed before the court.
“I also request them to read the dictum laid down by this court in Murukeshans case. If there is any violation of the same stringent action will be taken. The investigating officers also should be careful at least in the future,” the Judge said.
“If there is any violation of the above directions by any police officers, disciplinary action should be taken”, he said.
Justice Kunhikrishnan said it was fundamental in criminal law that if an accused in police custody gave a confession to the police that he committed the offence, the same was not admissible in the eye of law.
“No court of law can accept the same as evidence. The confession is usually recorded by the police for collecting legal evidence. But the investigating officers in sensational cases are leaking the confession statement of the accused and the media is giving wide publicity (to the statement)…,” he said.
The Judge noted that the general public may not know that a confession statement given by an accused in police custody was not admissible as evidence. A court of law can accept only legal evidence.
If a court of law decides a case based on legal evidence, the public may suspect even the judiciary if the present situation of divulging confession statement and other materials collected during investigation was leaked, he said.
Observing that in the eye of the law, investigating officers (IOs) cannot divulge any materials collected during the probe to the public or media, the court said they should, therefore, be alive to this and they along with the media will have to be prepared to face action in the event of a breach.
“This court is issuing directions not to violate the same. This court knows how to deal with those violations. I once again reiterate that if the above directions are violated either by the police officers or the media, stringent actions will be taken by this court”, Justice Kunhikrishnan said.
“As I observed earlier, if there is any violation of the directions of this court, the consequences will be serious,” he added.
In the present case also, while the investigation was going on, the media used to divulge the details of the investigation every day, the Judge noted in his order.