Chief Justice Chandrachud Advocates Balancing Privacy and Law Enforcement in Criminal Justice Reform

CJI Chandrachud emphasized balancing search/seizure powers with privacy rights. He advocated for due process while enhancing law enforcement efficiency, highlighting the importance of digital advancements and safeguards in criminal justice reform.

Chief Justice Of India DY Chandrachud recently spoke about the importance of finding a careful balance between law enforcement's search and seizure powers and individual privacy rights within the criminal justice system. He emphasized the crucial need to uphold due process while ensuring the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies.

"In the world of criminal justice, it's essential to maintain a delicate equilibrium between the authority to search and seize and the rights to privacy of individuals. This balance is fundamental for a society that aims to be fair and just," remarked CJI Chandrachud.

He pointed out instances where raids and confiscations of personal devices have occurred without proper justification, underscoring the urgent necessity to strike a balance between investigative needs and respecting individual privacy rights.

CJI Chandrachud delivered these remarks during the 20th DP Kohli Memorial Lecture, organized by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), with a focus on "Adopting Technology to Advance Criminal Justice."

During his address, he referenced a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals, which sought guidelines for the seizure of personal electronic devices by investigative agencies. He noted the Court's directive for Union agencies to follow the 2020 CBI (Crime) Manual on Digital Evidence until formal guidelines are established.

He highlighted the significance of the CBI Manual, stressing its requirement for hash values provision for confiscated digital devices, akin to electronic fingerprints, to maintain integrity during investigations. Additionally, the manual mandates the creation of images of seized electronic documents to prevent tampering or manipulation.

CJI Chandrachud elaborated on how recent criminal laws aim to digitize every stage of a criminal investigation, from filing an FIR to delivering judgments. He discussed newly enacted laws, such as the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam 2023, granting courts and law enforcement the authority to summon documents and materials, including digital evidence, for investigation.

He informed the audience that summonses can now be issued electronically, and testimonies can be presented virtually, eliminating the need for physical documentation and enabling swift communication between stakeholders involved in legal proceedings.

Addressing the issue of delays in case disposal, CJI Chandrachud highlighted the serious nature of charges in CBI cases and emphasized the need for swift justice delivery. He emphasized that prolonged delays in case disposal significantly affect the lives and reputations of the accused individuals.

Towards the end of his lecture, CJI Chandrachud proposed the development of a mobile application with predefined timelines for different stages of investigation or trial. He envisioned this app as a platform for all stakeholders involved in a case, facilitating communication, coordination, and timely notifications of approaching deadlines.

Concluding his address, CJI Chandrachud acknowledged the transformative reforms undertaken by the CBI to strengthen its investigative capabilities. He emphasized the potential of leveraging advanced technologies such as data analytics, forensic methodologies, and artificial intelligence to enhance crime detection, investigation, and prosecution.

However, he stressed the importance of implementing robust safeguards to protect individual rights and promote transparency within the criminal justice system. He expressed confidence that by establishing a digitally native environment, significant reductions in case pendency could be achieved, leading to a more citizen-centric approach to justice.