POLICEMEN ACROSS Maharashtra will soon be trained to calculate the ‘hash value’ of FIRs that they are to register through video-recording. A recent circular by the Maharashtra director general of police (DGP) had asked for video recording of the statements of victims and witnesses — in addition to noting it down — that will form a part of the FIR and subsequently chargesheet, so that there is transparency in the entire process and it helps improve the conviction rate.
An unchanged ‘hash value’ will prove that the video clip containing the statements has not been doctored and the victim and witnesses cannot go back on their statements.
According to a senior officer, every video has a particular algorithm, a figure that is called the ‘hash value’. If one records a video and does not make any changes to it, the hash value will remain the same. During the trial stage, when the defence tries to prove that the statements have been ‘improved upon’ or doctored by the police, an unchanged hash value could puncture their claims.In order to ensure that the defence cannot use such ploys, DGP Praveen Dixit had issued a circular last month asking for all these statements to be video recorded and their hash value calculated.
“In the court, once we show that the statements have the same hash value as the time when the video was recorded, allegations of policemen tampering with the statement do not hold at all,” said the senior officer. “The aim is to make the entire process transparent and ensure that the routine ploys used by defence lawyers are rendered ineffective,” added the officer.
The Maharashtra Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) has been given the task to train policemen in the calculation of hash value.
An official from the FSL said, “We will be teaching them how to calculate the hash value and how to maintain the records. As soon as the statements are recorded, they are to mention the hash value on the CD or the pen drive on which it is handed over to the court.”
The court will again get the hash value of the digital device calculated and admit the same as evidence if the hash value remains the same.
A senior officer, however, said the process of recording ‘sensitive cases’ on video camera had not begun in Mumbai police stations as they still did not have the cameras and other equipment required to digitally record statements.
“We are aware that a circular was issued asking us to video record important statements at least in sensitive cases. However, for that we would require certain equipment at the duty officer’s table, which are currently not available,” said the officer.