MHA revises int'l mutual legal assistance guidelines (IANS Special)



Aiming to further its "zero tolerance" policy for crime and in an endeavor to fast track the dispensation of justice, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued revised its guidelines for international mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

The revised guidelines provide step-by-step guidance to the investigation agencies for drafting and processing of Letters Rogatory and Mutual Legal Assistance requests and service of summons, notices and other judicial documents.

The guidelines, issued in December last year, are steps to enhance and streamline the process of international mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

By incorporating various legal and technological developments in the recent years, officials in the Home Ministry said that the new guidelines aim to make the documentation in this regard more precise and focused as well as compliant with international requirements.

The guidelines have also taken into account the concerns raised by various courts for prompt and timely responses in service of documents on persons residing abroad, said the Ministry officials.

As an initiative, the officials said, the revised guidelines have provision for service of documents on authorities of foreign country, preferably within 10 days of receipt of request in respect of offences committed against women and children.

"Training in mutual legal assistance in criminal matters has also been taken up for investigators, prosecutors and judicial officers."

The government's move comes in the wake of transnational nature of crime and digital explosion which experts say has "blurred geographical boundaries for criminal activities" and that the availability of evidence and criminals outside the sovereign jurisdiction of countries has necessitated the transformation of scope and nature of conventional investigation.

India has entered into Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and Agreements with 42 countries and is signatory to various international conventions like the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

The MHA is the designated "Central Authority" for India. Generally, assistance is sought and received in the form of Mutual Legal Assistance requests or Letters Rogatory and service of summons, notices or judicial documents on persons residing abroad.

In order to streamline the process of rendering and seeking such assistance, the MHA had issued guidelines regarding investigation abroad and issue of Letters Rogatory in 2007 and regarding service of summons, notices or judicial process on the persons residing abroad in 2009.

Over the decade, there have been substantial changes in international cooperation based on new legislations, regulations and conventions and amendment in procedural laws all over the world including India. These changes necessitated the need for comprehensive review of existing guidelines to keep them abreast the modern era requirements.IANS