Facts of the Case
On 10th April 2019, Senior BJP leader Mukul Roy appealed to the Calcutta High Court against a request to provide a voice sample for help in the investigation of the infamous Narada Sting Operation Case in Kolkata published in 2016.
The 2nd Special Court at Calcutta passed an order on the 4th of February 2019 “to appear before the Calcutta High Court and provide a voice sample before a Forensic Science Laboratory (F.S.L) expert.” The sample has been ordered so that the FSL expert is able to compare the sample with evidence already in the custody of the Investigative Officer (IO). The appeal calls for a stay on providing the said sample while the prosecution argued that it is important for further investigation into the Narada Sting Case.
The Narada Sting Operation refers to the series of stings conducted by Narada news targeting high ranking officials in TMC to expose the level of corruption in the Mamta Banerjee led government. The sting exposed around 12 Trinamool Congress (TMC) Ministers and leaders including Mukul Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastikar, Prasoon Banerjee, Suvon Chatterjee, and others accepting bribes in return of various favours to a fictitious company set up by the sting operators.
Even after TMC won in the 2016 Assembly elections, the Calcutta High Court ordered a preliminary probe into the sting operation to be conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in March 2017. In November of 2017, Mukul Roy officially joined the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
Arguments of the Learned Counsel
The counsel for the petitioner has challenged in the order with the following arguments;
- Section 311A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) reads that any person including an accused can be compelled to…‘only’ provide his specimen signature or handwriting. The court has also used it further to include fingerprints and footprints.
- Section 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act can order any person to be measured or photographed. These sections when read with Section 53 and 53A of the CrPC giving the right of medical examination of any person in the charge of rape or attempt to rape.
- As per the counsel, all these sections “do not contemplate that a witness can be compelled to give a voice sample.”
The learned counsel on behalf of the State made the following arguments to support their claim to a voice sample;
- Quoting the case of Ritesh Sinha vs State of U.P. (2019) 3 SCC (Cri) 252 where the ‘accused’ in the case was asked to give a voice sample, the counsel argued justifiable grounds to ask the petitioner for his voice Sample.
- In the aforementioned case, the Supreme Court had stated that while the accused cannot be compelled to give evidence to self-incriminate, they can be compelled to be a witness against the other accused. Therefore, the learned counsel argued that if an accused can be compelled to submit a voice sample, then the petitioner, in this case, Mukul Roy, who is not an accused can “definitely be asked to give voice samples.”
Appeal’s Outcome in the Narada Sting Operation Case
The Court directed the petitioner to submit a voice sample to the Investigating Officer in the presence of an FSL Expert. However, the voice sample is to be kept sealed and unopened until an appropriate bench can settle the following emerging questions;
- Whether the relevant sections mentioned in the case, i.e. Section 311A, 53 and 53A of CrPC along with Section 5 of the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 can compel a witness to provide a voice sample.
- Can the aforementioned case of Ritesh Sinha vs State of U.P. (Supra) be applied on a witness?
- Whether a witness can be compelled to provide a voice sample when there is a possibility that the said sample could bring forth evidence for the prosecution against the witness itself.
The voice sample will be used in any other investigation only after the decision of an appropriate bench. The petitioner is set to provide the sample until the 10th of January 2020.
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