(a) Inquire, in accordance with any directions of a Court, into the circumstances or home surroundings of any person accused of an offence with a view to assist the Court in determining the most suitable method of dealing with him and submit reports to the Court;
(b) Supervise probationers and other persons placed under his supervision and, where necessary, endeavour to find them suitable employment;
(c) Advise and assist offenders in the payment of compensation or costs ordered by the Court;
(d) Advise and assist, in such cases and in such manner as-may be prescribed, persons who have been released under Section 4; and
(e) Perform such other duties as may be prescribed.
The section enumerates the major functions of the Probation Officer. It hardly needs to be stated that success or failure of probation service mainly depends on the quality of Probation Officers who play a vital role in bringing out reformation and rehabilitation of offenders and making them useful members of the society. In order to discharge his arduous responsibility, the Probation Officer should have a thorough understanding of the following issues—
1. Legal implications of the offender’s case,
2. Adequate information about offenders antecedents and the social and personal problems which led to his criminal conduct,
3. A deeper insight and know-how about the personality disorders and psychology of the offender,
4. Potentiality of the offender to respond favourably to reformative and rehabilitative processes,
5. Thorough knowledge about the probation procedure and functions and powers of different authorities involved in the probation process.
The major functions of a Probation Officer as laid down in Section 14 of the Act include investigation, supervision and surveillance, counselling and exercise of professional control on the delinquent probationer. The Probation Officer acts as a true source of inspiration, guidance and assistance to probationer and thus he facilitates the rehabilitation of the delinquent as a law-abiding member of society.
1. Investigation and Surveillance:
A thorough inquiry into the life history and past antecedents of the delinquent is necessary for the purpose of securing information about his failures or successes. Proper investigation will enable further imposition of restrictions on liberty of the delinquent in case he does not respond favourably to the reformative processes.
The probationer must be approached psychologically in order to extract as much information from him as possible about his antecedents and it is on the basis of information so gathered that an assessment about the delinquent’s chances of reformation through the process of probation can be made. Surveillance is basically the responsibility of police but Probation Officer’s help and assistance in this police function would be very useful.
2. Supervision and Counselling:
It is neither possible nor feasible to maintain a continuous surveillance over the probationer’s activities. Therefore supervision over the probation is possible only through field-visits and intermittent contacts.
The Probation Officer should thoroughly acquaint himself with the problems which are likely to impede offender’s readjustment in society and suggest measures to overcome them. He must actively support the probationer in the process of his rehabilitation. The probationer should not be made to feel that he is being constantly watched or supervised.
3. Liaison with the Court:
Yet another important function of the Probation Officer is to act as a liaison between the probation and the Court, his primary duty in this capacity being to safeguard the interest of the probationer under his charge. He may make an application to the Court for varying the conditions of probation order or for the discharge of probationer’s bond. When he finds that the probationer’s progress in adjusting himself to the normal life in society is satisfactory.
While taking decisions about the probationer under his charge, the Probation Officer should bear in mind that his decisions are of great importance to the offender as they not only affect the latter’s freedom but also have an impact on the safety of community. These decisions generally involve calculated risks and. therefore, be exercised with utmost caution and vigil.
5. Probation Officer Pre-sentence Report:
As provided in Section 7 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, the Probation Officer is to submit a Pre-sentence report containing relevant information about the offender proposed to be released on probation by the Court.
It is on the basis of this report that the sentencing Magistrate/Judge makes up his mind and pass order of sentence or release of the offender on probation of good conduct. The Pre-sentence report submitted by the Probation Officer must contain true and factual information regarding the character, personality, family and educational background, employment particulars, general surroundings and past- antecedents of the offender. Impartiality and objectivity are the two foremost requisites of a Pre-sentence report to make it worthy of testimony about offender’s antecedents and behaviour.
Submission of Pre-sentence report about the offender when requisitioned by the Court is yet one of the important duties of Probation Officer. It must contain all details about the offender as also the evaluative summary of the offender’s case.
Section 6 (2) of the Probation of Offenders Act imposes a duty on the Court to call for a Pre-sentence report of the probation officer relating to character and physical and mental condition of the offender before denying him the benefit of release on probation. This view finds support in the decision of the Rajasthan High Court in Suja v. State of Rajasthan^ wherein the Court held that provisions of Section 6 (2) are mandatory and noncompliance thereof shall render the sentence void.
The Pre-sentence report submitted by the Probation Officer to the Court is treated confidential because it carries information regarding personal and family antecedents of the offender which are more or less of a confidential nature. However, the contents of this report may be communicated to the offender, if the Court so seems necessary with a view to giving the offender an opportunity to defend himself and produce evidence, if any, to contradict the contents of the Probation Officer’s pre-sentence report.