However, the court made sure that its directions in a case in 2018 were strictly followed by investigating officers. A division bench of Justices Suraj Govindaraj and G Basavaraja in their judgement on November 4, directed the police officers who probed cases to follow the directions of the court issued in the Madhukara Vs State of Karnataka and Virendra Khanna Vs State of Karnataka cases. In these cases, the court had issued several guidelines including providing anti-static and anti-magnetic boxes for storage of electronic evidence including CDs, pen drives etc.
Simple guidelines include disabling security settings like password and PIN before mobile phones are seized. The criminal appeal was filed before the division bench by Shivappa aka Shivanand Hittanagi in 2017, from Hukkeri, Belagavi. A Sessions court in Belagavi had convicted him for murder and sentenced him to imprisonment for life. A woman who had taken her goats for grazing had gone missing on February 2, 2014 and her body was found three days later. Shivappa was accused of killing her and the police claimed to have recovered a gold chain belonging to the victim from him. He was also accused of stealing six goats of the woman after killing her and selling it Sankeshwar, taking them form Hukkeri in a bus. The bench found several inconsistencies in the way electronic evidence was gathered and recorded in the inquiry.
Though six goats of the victim were said to have been stolen and sold by the accused, the police videographer recorded the recovery of 10-12 sheep. “If the accused had stolen six goats and sold them, the question of 10-12 goats being seized would not arise,” the court noted. In another example, a CD was produced as one evidence. The court noted that it “has been stapled to the file in a plastic cover and hence we are unable to view the same.” Noticing such filling of electronic evidence, the court said, “separate directions in relation to the same are also being issued.” Acquitting Shivappa in the murder case, the HC said, “Suffice it to say that the entire investigation is lacking in terms of details and the chain of investigation has not been clearly established so as to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.” Then the court issued directions to the authorities to conduct training for investigating officers as per the guidelines issued in two earlier judgements of the HC. The case was relisted for hearing on December 6, 2022 for reporting of compliance by the authorities. PTI COR GMS ROH ROH