Author: Daksha Dhiman
Under the criminal justice system of India, section 24 of the Code of Criminal procedure defines a public prosecutor. A public prosecutor is known to be a “minister of justice” who has a pivotal role in ensuring pure and impartial administration of judicial proceedings. The main responsibility of a prosecutor is to impartially and neutrally prosecute all individuals who have been charged by the police. Appointed by the central government or state government, he represents the State in criminal cases. In case Jitendra Kumar Ajju v. State (NCT of Delhi) , the Delhi High Court held that “the Public Prosecutor acts on behalf of the state. They are the ministers of justice who play a pivotal role in the administration of justice.” The prosecutor is not considered as an advocate that represents the state in a manner that he has to seek convection compulsorily, his decisions and activities must be impartial, fair and unprejudiced as he belongs to a profession which is highly honourable and requires suitable ethics to deal with cases. In case Babu v. State of Kerala, the court held that “Public Prosecutors are ministers of justice who are duty bound to assist the judge in the administration of justice.” Role of a prosecutor is segregated into two segments- during an investigating process and the trial.
Functions of the prosecutor diverge according to the diversified designations that our laws have e.g. public prosecutor (supervision of activities of the additional public prosecutor in session or high court), chief prosecutor (supervision of responsibilities given to an assistant public prosecutor in Metropolitan Magistrate Court) , additional prosecutor (responsible for conducting proceedings in a Sessions court), assistant public prosecutor (evaluating evidence, filing revised petitions, examining the charge sheet given by agencies and conducting criminal proceedings in Metropolitan Magistrate court) and the director of prosecution ( manage and direct the directorate officers).
Public prosecutor in its terms includes “public interest” which is an implied service engraved with the duty of protecting the public’s interest through its assistance while administering justice, but it has been observed that their duties and responsibilities, their functions have been considered incapable of prosecuting those who are politically and financially elite. The way in which they practise their duties affects the criminal legal system and the society as well. It has been hidden in the criminal justice system throughout the years. What we call corruption, it’s not just limited to those who cause it. Not only the ministers or those in power, but the legal officials representing them have been more involved in the corruption process. Be it bribe or through coercion, the fairness and honesty that people demand from the judicial system and crime has seen a dip with such vulnerable inclination towards power and greed. The present functioning of the prosecution will be shaping the future of criminal justice system.
The prevailing criminal justice system is based on the principle that if an individual commits any crime, it is considered as a crime against society. It is the responsibility that the state ensures justice to those affected by the crime. It is important to note that the criminal justice framework works within the provisions of the Indian constitution which makes it necessary for a public prosecutor to note that his duties and responsibilities are in accordance with the principles of equality and justice mentioned in the constitution such as equality before the law, speedy trial, discrimination prohibition, presuming innocent until proven guilty, good conscience etc.
- To analyze the role of Public Prosecutor in Indian legal system.
- To elucidate Section 24 which defines the term public prosecutor.
- To know the reasons behind appointing a public prosecutor.
- To know their roles in investigations and trials.
- To know the provisions under the Code of Criminal Procedure that deals with Public Prosecutor.
- To understand judicial response regarding the duties of a prosecutor with the help of case laws.
HIERARCHY OF PROSECUTOR UNDER C.r.P.C
“Section 24 of Criminal Procedure Code” explains the types of public prosecutors in our Indian legal system. Starting from the “public prosecutor appointed by central government, there’s another public prosecutor appointed by the state government, additional public prosecutor appointed by the state government, special public prosecutor by the central government and special public prosecutor by the state government.” These prosecutors are appointed to either High court or a District court by the central and state governments respectively.
Section 24(3) – It states that “the public prosecutor needs to be appointed for each district and may also appoint Additional Public Prosecutor.”
Section 24(4) – It states that “the District Magistrate in consultation with Session judge needs to prepare a panel of names which is considered as fit for such an appointment.”
Section 24(5) – It states that “the person can’t be appointed as a Public Prosecutor or Additional Public Prosecutor by the State Government in a district unless his names are on the panel prepared under subsection 4.”
Section 24(6) – It explains that “in a case where a state has a local cadre of prosecuting officers, but there is no suitable person in such cadre for an appointment the appointment must be made from the panel prepared under subsection 4.”
Section 24(7) – Calls for “a person that can be appointed as Public Prosecutor, can only be appointed after he has been practised as an advocate for the minimum period of 7 years.”
During exercising its powers, a public prosecutor has two abhorrent burdens with him that is while unravelling the facts of the matter in front of the prosecution, the evidence has to be placed before the court by him so that the offender is punished by the court thereon without any delays. While doing so, the prosecutor is expected to stay in the moment and not be taken aback by other feelings including revenge or hate or love or shouldn’t display any implied interest to secure the offender. He shall bear in his mind that his duty is to get the guilty party punished then and there, not to escape him unpunished and let the innocent suffer. The quality in which justice is administered often determines the quality of society that we live in and the government that governs us.
Pollution harms the environment. Similarly, inefficient or poor judicial system can harm the society. “Equal and fair” legal system is the “hallmark of a civilized society.” Any society’s justice quality depends upon its quality of lawyers and other legal officials. The system of justice in India is poorly managed, with lawyers dominating and exclusion of other professions in criminal justice agencies. Many out of those who are arrested are not tried in a proper way and are even released on their first appearance. Under such corrupt practices, where vested interests of professionals are given more power than their positions, such situations mark the failure of criminal justice system which further leads to “breakdown of public order” and curbing human freedom.
The entire system in India is reproving that majority of crimes are either unreported, unregistered or offender is not found, or prosecution is not done. The skyrocketing rise in the number of criminals has questioned the ability of criminal justice system. The never-ending cases pending in the offices of legal officers have made dispensation of justice more difficult. Governance involves the process of “decision making”. The way in which an institution manages its problems, “fundamental notions of inclusiveness, transparency and accountability” are the real “ideals of democracy.” These are the notions which are expected from a prosecutor to inherit in themselves. The “selfish, greedy and evil forces” must be fought against with complete justice and fairness. In case “Kunja Subudhi v. Emperor”, the High court held that “the purpose of a criminal trial is not to support a given theory at all costs but to investigate the offence and to determine the fault or innocence of the accused and the duty of the public prosecutor is to represent not the police but the Crown and his/her duty should be discharged fairly and fearlessly and with full sense of responsibility that attaches to his/her position.” An ideal prosecutor is expected to be concerned about conviction or impressing the state or central government and other departments but must consider themselves as “agents of justice.”
ETHICS OF A PUBLIC PROSECUTOR
The statutes, acts, and rules that guide a prosecutor include certain obligations, ethics and morals which are necessary for fulfilling the eligibility of being a prosecutor. Ethics shape “prosecutorial cultures”. Occupational culture can restrict his own breadth of view. This marks the need for “ethical principles” that gives a shape to the way his powers are being exercised by him. The main reason to adopt a principle of ethics is to “supply strong reasons for choosing a particular rule in a given situation or to pursue a particular course of action”. Certain values based on ethics have been the outcome of judicial precedents and the courts ensure that they are preserved for the prosecutors. Some of the main ethics that define what being a perfect prosecutor are “impartiality, working at the best of ability, propriety, and independence”. Any victim, suspect or the accused must not be shown any preference at the time of duties by the prosecutor. The functions of a prosecutor cannot be mixed with the police and the judiciary. Every department is independent of its duties and powers. The responsibilities given to the prosecutors are provided under great confidence, dependency and trust among the inter departmental relationships. Nothing should be interpreted against anyone or anyone’s interest to maintain the standards of ethnicity. Genuine work values and atmosphere is to be maintained by the prosecutor without any delay or laziness hampering his duties.
Several cases have highlighted the role, position, powers and duties that a public prosecutor holds. Some of them are –
In case “Ramanna v. State of Maharashtra”, the court explained the duty of a public prosecutor by stating that “a public prosecutor’s duty is to ensure that all the incriminating circumstances were put to the accused for his explanation. It is the duty cast on the trial judge, it is the duty of the public prosecutor as well as the defence counsel to ensure that confrontations are properly put and correctly recorded by the judge. And the public prosecutors who are conducting the trials before the courts, are not performing their duties properly and the recordings, especially with reference to confrontations are not only defective and sometimes are contrary to what is stated by the witness in his police statement.”
The act of the public prosecutor in Jayalalitha’s case put the impartiality and independence of judicial system into question. The concept of the independence of judiciary has been held as a part of basic structure of the constitution. To further reinforce this principle, judiciary and legislature formulated the office of “public prosecutor”, to provide a fair, impartial and effective prosecution by excluding elements of private vendetta or vengeance. Subsequently, our legal system had made the public prosecutors the direct representative of the State.
The powers of a prosecutor to withdraw in any case was answered in the case “Shonanandan Paswan v. State of Bihar” where the court held that “the public prosecutor can withdraw a prosecution at any stage and that the only limitation is the requirement of the consent of court.”
In case “Aziz v. state of Kerala” the court stated that “the public prosecutor with any other counsel is expected to be fair and truthful. He must of course, champion the cause of his client as effectively and efficiently as possible but fairly and truthfully. He is not expected to be impartial but only fair and truthful.”
In case “Sandeep Kumar Bafna v. State of Maharashtra and Anr”, the court held that “a Public Prosecutor is not expected to show a thirst to reach the case in the conviction of the accused somehow or other irrespective of the facts of the case. The attitude of the Public Prosecutor must be fair towards the investigating agencies and as well as towards the accused.”
Committing an offensive act is regarded to be an offense against the State which is seen by the criminal justice system. Public prosecutor being a part of the criminal justice justice system, not only holds the office for conviction, but to ensure that justice and equality prevail in the system. Laying evidence before the court is their primary duty which comes along with several other factors which include the way they must perform their duties. A public prosecutor is separate from police which means they cannot be ordered by the police to work in a particular manner. Public interest is what influences a public prosecutor. Improper practices and techniques used by a prosecutor mark the failure of not only the office holder but the entire legal system.
Not only they are an advocate, but they are also responsible for administration of justice as the departments in the legal procedure being a separate entity are inter dependent on each other. The role of prosecutor will be affected in the future by its way of handling cases in the present which makes it highly significant to be transparent, genuine, and true to his duties. Heavy workloads are being provided to the prosecutors with trust which ultimately leads to delay and pendency of certain cases. Steps must be taken in order to dispense the hard loads of work and maintain exclusive services.
Yasrao, “Duty of the public prosecutor in the criminal justice system”, LegalserviceIndia, http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1606/Duty-of-The-Public-Prosecutor-In-The-Criminal-Justice-System.html#:~:text=The%20duty%20of%20the%20Public%20Prosecutor%20is%20to%20represent%20the,is%20an%20independent%20statutory%20authority.
Public Prosecutor Meaning and Functions, LEGODESK https://legodesk.com/legopedia/public-prosecutor-meaning-functions/.
Richa Goel, Meaning, roles and functions of a public prosecutor, IPLEADERS (2019) https://blog.ipleaders.in/meaning-roles-functions-public-prosecutor/#:~:text=A%20Public%20Prosecutor%20is%20an,the%20directions%20of%20the%20judge..
“Role of Public Prosecutor in Administration of Criminal Justice” by Subhash Chandra Singh (2017).
CK. Thakker, Criminal Procedure 24 (Lexis Nexis) Butterworth Wadhwa Nagpur (2011).
Role of public prosecutor in criminal administration of justice, available at, 2017. www.lawyersclupedia.com>article>criminal law.
 Jitendra Kumar Ajju v. State (NCT of Delhi), 84 (2000) DLT 88.
 Babu v. State of Kerala, (2010) 9 SCC 189.
 P.C. John, Procedural Protection in Criminal Justice Administration: Myths and Realities, Vol. XXXIV CULR 297 (2010).
 Kunja Subudhi v. Emperor, (1929) 30 Cri.L.J. 675.
 Ramanna v. State of Maharashtra, 33 (DB) (Bom.) 2003.
. Role of Public Prosecutor: A critical view in light of Jayalalitha, s case, available at lexquest.in/role-publicprosecutor-critical-view-light-jayalalithas-case 2017.
 Shonanandan Paswan v. State of Bihar, (1978) 1 SCC 288.
 Aziz v. state of Kerala, (1984) Cri. Lj 1060.
 Sandeep Kumar Bafna v. State of Maharashtra and Anr, AIR 2014 SC 1745.