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The Delhi High Court has issued a slew of direction for streamlining the procedure for service of summons, notices, and judicial processes, on witnesses residing abroad, and for recording their evidence through video-conferencing. (Court on its own motion vs State)
The directions were issued by a Division Bench of Justices Manmohan and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal in a criminal reference before the Court.
The directions have been passed pursuant to the 'Comprehensive Guidelines Regarding service of summons/notices/judicial process on persons residing abroad' passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2009.
The "Practice Directions" passed to the Trial Courts are as follows:
- For the purpose of service of summons/notices/judicial processes on persons residing abroad, the Trial Courts must follow the procedure as laid out in the MHA Guidelines, 2019.
- The designated Central Authority for the purpose of service of summons/notices/judicial processes on persons residing abroad is the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- However, to facilitate the execution of non-bailable warrants of arrest on an individual residing abroad, requests which are in the nature of extradition proceedings, ought to be forwarded to the Ministry of External Affairs.
- For service of summons/notices/judicial processes on persons residing abroad, Trial Courts should ensure compliance of the MHA Guidelines, 2019, under its sign and seal.
- At the time of issuance of summons on a person residing abroad, the order of the Trial Court should also indicate whether evidence is to be recorded through video-conferencing.
- Trial Courts should fix date(s) for recording of evidence, at least 12-13 weeks after its order issuing summons to the said witness.
- Trial Courts should separately fix an intermediate date between the date of issuance of summons and the date of recording of evidence, to seek confirmation from the prosecuting agency about the service of summons etc.
- Based on the information received on the intermediate date, the Trial Court should direct its own Coordinator to forthwith establish contact with its counterpart in the foreign Country, conduct a mock test of the video-conferencing link prior to the date of recording of evidence and submit a report in this regard at least three days prior to the date fixed for recording of evidence.
- On the receipt of the report from Court Coordinator, the documents relied upon by the prosecution and the Defence should be identified, scanned, and numbered, and sent to the Coordinator in the Requested Country, under strict instructions of confidentiality.
- Trial Courts should ensure that the date(s) fixed for recording of evidence through videoconferencing are utilised productively. If for some reason the Presiding Judge is unable to hold Court on the date(s) fixed, s/he should ensure, as far as possible, that the evidence is recorded by the Link Judge.