A Delhi court has taken a serious view of the practice of service of summons on witnesses through WhatsApp by police personnel and said the officials do not seem to have respect for superior orders.
The court also took note of the fact that while there was no circular from the Delhi police to serve summons on the witnesses via WhatsApp, police officials were nevertheless adopting this practice.
Additional sessions judge (ASJ) Hemraj of Tis Hazari court said, "It seems that despite the directions from the DCP in the form of circulars and the standing order, the in-charge of the police stations and the inspector of investigation, as well as SHOs, are not taking care to follow the same meticulously."
"They do not seem to have any respect whatsoever for the orders passed by their superior authorities," the judge remarked.
This matter pertains to a murder case registered at the Punjabi Bagh police station. The family member of a prosecution witness was contacted on the telephone by the police official. He then served the summons on WhatsApp; however, the prosecution witness did not turn up and did not respond to repeated calls.
Advocate Rishabh Jain, counsel for the accused, drew the attention of the court to the order dated February 11, 2019, whereby the court, at the request of the accused, granted the opportunity to cross-examine prosecution witness (PW) Ashween Singh and PW Tajinder Singh on the same day.
The court noted that witness Tajinder Singh was not present that day. The summons to him was received back with the report that one lady, namely, Meera Vanshal, was contacted by the head constable Pradeep on the telephone. She informed him that she was the sister-in-law of the witness Tajinder Singh and at her request, the summons was sent by HC Pradeep on WhatsApp, as she assured hi that she would inform Tajinder Singh about the date of hearing.
The court referred to a standing order passed by the commissioner of police (Delhi) on February 18, 2022, regarding the issue of summons upon the witnesses.
"Earlier also, this court has noted in several cases that the witnesses are being served by police officials on WhatsApp. The matter was brought to the notice of respective DCPs and they were directed to issue circulars to all the SHOs," the judge said.
The court said that in pursuance to the directions, circulars were issued to all the SHOs to meticulously comply with the aforesaid standing order.
"However, police officials are still adopting the practice of service upon public witnesses only on WhatsApp," the judge noted.
The judge expressed his displeasure at this and said, "They are not taking pains to visit the house of the witnesses, which they are supposed to. The police officials cannot make just a single attempt to visit the house of the witness, and rather they are supposed to make at least three visits."
"In this case, no efforts were made by the HC Pradeep. The report was forwarded by inspector of investigation, PS Punjabi Bagh, which shows the lackadaisical application of his mind," the judge pointed out.
The court also noted that vide copy of the letter dated February 15, 2023, in another case of PS Mundka, the worthy DCP (West) reported that there was no circular from Delhi police to serve summons upon witnesses on WhatsApp. Similar circulars have been received by DCPs of Outer District and North District as well in different cases.
"It seems that despite the directions from the DCP in the form of circulars and the standing order, the in-charge of the police stations and the inspector of investigation, as well as SHOs, are not taking care to follow the same meticulously," the judge observed.
The court directed to send a copy of the order along with the letter dated February 15, 2023, in FIR No. 1081/2021 at Mundka police station, to the DCP for his perusal and appropriate action at his hand.
The court has also issued notice to the inspector of investigation and head constable Pradeep to appear in person along with their explanation as to why appropriate action under section 66 of the Delhi Police Act read with Section 187 of the IPC be not taken against them.
Meanwhile, the court also issued summon to PW Tajinder Singh through the SHO concerned.