The recent court hearing in New Delhi, which questioned the Delhi Police’s use of WhatsApp to send summonses to public witnesses, shed light on several worrisome issues. The judge strongly admonished the police for neglecting to personally visit the witnesses’ homes, as required by guidelines. By depending entirely on WhatsApp, the police ignored the importance of face-to-face interactions and failed to make the required measures to establish good communication with the witnesses.
The relevant sections which deal with summons and their serving are Sections 61 – 69 of CrPC. The following is the procedure:
To ensure that individuals are duly notified and have the opportunity to participate in legal proceedings, it is essential to follow the correct procedure for serving summonses under the CrPC.
Additional Sessions Judge Hem Raj, the presiding judge in a recent murder case, voiced concern about an absent and unresponsive witness despite repeated calls. The judge noted that the Commissioner of Police in Delhi had issued a standing order ensuring appropriate witness service. However, it was seen that police officers continued to rely only on WhatsApp, ignoring their responsibilities to visit the residences of the witnesses as required. The matter was sent to the deputy police commissioner of the west district for action, and the relevant police officials were summoned to explain.
This incident raises general questions about the police department’s adherence to proper protocols. It indicates a lack of care and adherence to established protocols on the part of several police officers, which can have serious ramifications for the administration of justice. While dependence on digital channels such as WhatsApp might be beneficial in some ways, it should not overwhelm the need for personal connections and meticulous follow-through in legal procedures. This instance serves as a reminder of the need for police officers to adhere to established processes and demonstrate a higher sense of responsibility and deference to commands issued by their superiors.