Create WhatsApp group for each criminal trial to summon witnesses, ensure speedy trial: Madhya Pradesh High Court to Police

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the Director General of Police (DGP) and Director of Prosecution to seriously consider creating WhatsApp groups for each criminal case, to ensure the presence of witnesses before trial courts in such cases [Vijendra Singh Sikarwar V. The State Of Madhya Pradesh].

In an order passed last week, Justice Anand Pathak asked the DGP and Director of Prosecution to hold a workshop on the subject and take expert suggestions on the creation of such WhatsApp groups.

“It is earnestly believed by this Court that Director General of Police and Director, Prosecution shall seriously take a workshop and suggestion from police officers and other experts to think of creating concept of WhatsApp Groups for twin purpose of summoning the witnesses and protection of witnesses,” the Court’s order stated.

The Court passed the order while reiterating suggestions made by it in September last year.

In last year’s order, the Court had recommended every police station to consider creating a WhatsApp group with the complainant, material prosecution witnesses, the Public Prosecutor and other officials as members to ensure a speedy trial.

The creation of such WhatsApp groups would be to ensure a mechanism to inform the witnesses well in advance about the date of their appearance in court. The court clerk or court munshi could post the summons on the WhatsApp group besides serving the same in person in the usual mode, the Court had suggested.

The Court has now stood by this earlier recommendation.

“This Court is hopeful that these officers must have contemplated over this thought wherein creation of WhatsApp Group was suggested by this Court,” the Court said in its September 21 order.

The Court also added to its earlier suggestions, noting that when WhatsApp groups are created, the creation of such a group can be referred to an order passed by the trial court.

Once the trial is over, the groups can be deleted, the Court pointed out.

“Privacy and dignity/decency of the members of the WhatsApp Group be maintained, so that it may be available only as tool for facilitation of trial rather than for any other purpose,” the Court added in its latest order.

The Court passed the directions while hearing a matter related to a murder case dating back to 2018. The trial in the case has been delayed due to the non-appearance of witnesses.

“Almost four and half years have passed since then, but trial is not being completed. Incidentally, all the eye-witnesses have been examined but other formal and departmental witnesses are yet to be examined and that is causing delay in the trial,” the High Court found.

It, therefore, directed the trial court to take proactive steps to keep the case posted on a weekly basis and to seriously deal with any tactics adopted by the defence counsel to get the case adjourned

Justice Pathak observed that when witnesses do not turn up before trial courts, it causes a severe dent in the prosecution’s case. The Court also noted that sometimes, summons do not reach the witnesses and the Police also considers it a less important job.

Therefore, it reiterated its earlier suggestions on the creation of WhatsApp groups for trial court cases.

The matter will be heard next in November on compliance.

Advocate Harshit Sharma represented the petitioner in the case. Deputy Advocate General Virendra Pal represented the State.

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