CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that interrogation of an accused is a statutory right of police and cannot be substituted by video conference. The HC issued the order on two petitions filed by gangster Lawrence Bishnoi who sought directions for the police, including one that said that his life be secured, in the backdrop of the death of criminal Vikas Dubey in an encounter with Uttar Pradesh police.
Bishnoi had moved the HC as he was wanted by Chandigarh and Haryana police for interrogation in a number of cases.
Chandigarh Police want to question him in connection with two incidents of shooting in Sectors 9 and 33. The cops also suspect his role in other firing incidents and crimes in the Union Territory. In Haryana, the police registered a murder case against him at Dabwali in Sirsa district on July 21. Bishnoi, who is lodged in Central jail, Jodhpur, had urged that his physical presence for investigation of the FIRs be dispensed with, or he would be interrogated through video conferencing or handcuffed if he was required to be taken out of the jail.
Dismissing the two petitions, Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill of the Punjab and Haryana high court – in his 11-page judgment made available on Tuesday – said interrogation over video conferencing was not possible as the investigator / interrogator would be unable to record the accused’s demeanor and read his psyche as it would be impossible to assess veracity of answers by the way an “accused blinks his eyes or sighs or moves his feet.”
“Interrogation of an accused, though possible through video conference, will lose much of its effectiveness when the accused is sitting far away from the investigator / interrogator,” Justice Gill observed.
“Police cannot be deprived of its right to interrogate an accused and that video conferencing may not be as effective as physical interrogation,” the HC said. To ensure Bishnoi does not encounter any harm, the HC considered that he should be brought from the Jodhpur jail to Chandigarh in a bulletproof or armored vehicle that is escorted by armed and trained commandos and the transit exercise should be videographed.
“It is directed that the petitioner shall be duly handcuffed and shackled during transit which would be helpful for the police as well as for the accused as the apprehension of the police that he may escape would be minimized and so also the apprehension of the petitioner as regards any false encounter, ”the HC said. In case of any default, the officers concerned shall be personally liable and responsible, it added. A native of Dutaria village of Fazilka district In Punjab, Bishnoi in January 2018 had allegedly issued a death threat to actor Salman Khan.