Vol VIII, Issue 2 Date of Publication: April 30, 2023
DOI: https://doi.org/10.20529/IJME.2023.026

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Solving crimes, balancing rights in police investigation

Published online first on March 25, 2023. DOI:10.20529/IJME.2023.026

Jinee Lokneeta’s editorial on Police investigation and unethical “scientific interrogation” was published in the January-March 2023 issue of IJME [1]. It is a scathing critique of the way police investigators rampantly misuse/exploit loopholes in the law, extract forced confessions from the accused and use them in a court of law — sometimes leading to convictions or prolonged incarceration of innocent victims. Her Excellency, the Hon’ble President of India, expressed similar sentiments when she questioned the need for building more jails at the same time that we talk of “moving towards progress as a society” [2]. Her comment was in the context of a large number of undertrials in jails, suffering from the inefficiency of the present day criminal justice system. Therefore, the need of the hour is to fix the weaknesses in the system and advance towards a rapid, truthful, honest and impartial system of police investigation. It is against this background that the journal has published the Editorial, and we support the broader intent which impelled the author to research the current criminal investigation system and expose its deficiencies. Nevertheless, when we go deeper into the details, several features begin to appear which seem incongruous with the author’s arguments in her editorial.

The intended purpose behind using narcoanalysis on the accused as per court-order is not to extract confessions but to get some clues, utilising which the investigators may be able to join the otherwise disconnected dots [3]. In the Shraddha Walkar murder case, after formal case-registration and following the subsequent leads, the police were successful in recovering the weapon used in the alleged murder of Shraddha Walkar although the charges remain to be proven in a court of law [4]. Similarly, although body parts of the victim, disposed of in disparate locations, were recovered after the accused’s confession, further biological investigation to verify the possible link between the biological evidence and the crime was needed [5], so as to file a chargesheet. Usually when police submit a chargesheet after concluding their investigation, the court trial begins, which may (or may not) result in conviction, depending upon strength of the evidence presented to the presiding officer.

But such an approach is possible only when police have some leads, lest the investigation meets a dead-end, as has happened in the past. No one says that the rights of an individual (the accused in the instant case) should not be respected or protected merely on account of an accusation, but it is necessary to weigh the rights of the alleged perpetrator against those of the victim. Legal jurisprudence does not operate in a vacuum and rules are not framed for a Utopia; but all such regulations operate in the real world where we don’t have a perfect remedy for all the ills. Hence we are forced to choose between a greater evil and a lesser one, as in this case too.

The author cites an incidence of police torture in another case that merits further assessment. When rogue officers trample on the body and soul of a captive in State custody and misuse their position to frame an innocent in a crime; the need of the hour is to deal with such public-servants strictly [6]. Suspension, departmental and/or legal inquiry, making adverse entry in their annual confidential report, dismissal, arrest — that too in a time bound manner — and denial of bail, may be a way to purge such elements from the force [7]. Nonetheless, what we need to realise is that sometimes narcoanalysis may be the only way to connect pieces of circumstantial evidence to provide a lead to an investigating officer.

When a missing person is reported after several months, we need to discover the best way to interrogate the person with whom the missing person was last associated and located. The accused will not disclose his crime easily, and connecting the missing pieces of the puzzle is imperative, so as to provide justice to the deceased woman. Those who commit such barbaric crimes should not be allowed to take undue advantage of the gaps in the evidence, so as to go scot-free. Although there is no perfect solution to the puzzle, we need to solve it in the larger interest of society.

Harish Gupta ([email protected]), Department of Medicine, King George’s Medical University, Lucknow 226 003, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA


  1. Lokaneeta J. Police investigation and unethical “scientific interrogation”. Indian J Med Ethics. 2023 Jan-Mar; 8(1) NS: 3-6. https://doi.org/10.20529/IJME.2023.002″>https://doi.org/10.20529/IJME.2023.002
  2. The President’s caution on overcrowding of prisons is a wake-up call to the executive and judiciary. Indian Express. 2022 Nov 28 [Cited 2023 Jan 15]. Available from: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/president-murmu-caution-overcrowding-prisons-wake-up-call-executive-judiciary-8293265/
  3. Desk. What is a polygraph test, which police wants Aaftab Poonawala to undergo? Indian Express. 2022 Nov 22 [Cited 2023 Jan 15]. Available from: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/everyday-explainers/what-is-a-polygraph-test-aaftab-poonawala-8282757/
  4. Shraddha Walkar murder: Delhi Police recovers multiple weapons used by accused Aaftab Poonawalla. Indian Express. 2022 Nov 24 [Cited 2023 Jan 15]. Available from: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/shraddha-walker-murder-delhi-police-aaftab-knives-recovered-8287951/
  5. Jha R, Singh A. DNA match: Police now have a strong case against Aaftab Poonawalla for murdering Shraddha Walker. Times of India. 2022 Dec 16 [Cited 2023 Jan 15]. Available from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/delhi-murder-case-bones-recovered-by-delhi-policeshraddhas-dna-confirms/articleshow/96265786.cms
  6. India News. Protector can’t adopt brutality: Supreme Court on custodial torture. Hindustan Times. 2021 Feb 12 [Cited 2023 Jan 15]. Available from: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/protector-can-t-adoptbrutality-top-court-on-custodial-torture-101613066659027.html
  7. Live Law. Custodial violence. Cited 2023 Jan 15. Available from: https://www.livelaw.in/tags/custodial-violence
About the Authors
Department of Medicine, King George’s Medical University,
Lucknow 226 003, Uttar Pradesh, INDIA

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