THE High Court directive asking police stations and magistrates courts to make the submission of photocopies of complainants’ national identity cards mandatory for recording cases is likely to make people’s access to justice difficult. An online bench issued the directive on Monday after hearing a writ petition filed by a person, who has faced 49 ‘fictitious’ cases filed by people who could not be traced by law enforcers during investigations. While it is true that there are incidents of such cases filed primarily to harass people, making the submission of complainants’ national identity cards mandatory would create a hurdle to justice dispensation. Many people do not have national identity cards, many have lost it and many others always remain in the process of getting their national identity cards reissued. The issuance of national identity cards is often a time-consuming process, suggesting that a large number of people are likely not to have their national identity cards at their disposal. In such cases, victims would be in difficulty to file a case, even when they have absolute grounds to file cases, if the directive is implemented on a wholesale basis.
A former High Court judge observes, as New Age reported on Friday, that the directive could be a superfluity and that a plaintiff must be allowed to file a case if there are reasonable grounds and there might be many reasonable grounds for not having the national identity card or for not being able to show it when it is required. The directive also appears to be troublesome as it would deny anyone, under the age of 18, to file cases. Another expert has come to criticise the directive saying that justice will be somewhat inaccessible if the submission of national identity cards of victims is made mandatory. Many victims, who do not carry their national identity cards or have lost their cards, would have to wait for days, weeks and even months to file cases which would make the cases weak as delay in filing a case is considered a weakness. Another legal practitioner has termed the directive ‘one-sided’ saying that the court could have kept other options and a review mechanism to identify the plaintiffs. While it is imperative for the police stations and magistrates courts to establish the identity of plaintiffs to ensure that the case is not fictitious and plaintiffs can be traced easily during investigations, making the submission of the national identity card would create more hurdles.
The submission of photocopies of birth certificates, passports, business identity cards and driving licences can easily be used to identify complainants. It is expected that the High Court would, therefore, reconsider its directive and ease the process of filing cases for complaints while putting a mechanism in place to establish the identity of complainants so as to stop the filing of fictitious cases.
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