Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] We need to invest in four wings of criminal justice system — police, prosecution, judiciary, prisons

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Instant justice; Criminal Justice system and need for Rule of Law

Context

The changes in the law and procedure post the December 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder case could not curb the predators of further crime. The nation thus welcomed recent encounter of the 4 accused in the crime.

Criminal Justice -> Instant justice

  • The clamor for quick action stems from the fact that the criminal justice system has failed in the country. 
  • Delay in trials – Even if a criminal is convicted, the appeals that follow lead to a further delay of more than five years. Citizens lose faith in the law and they hero-worship officers who “encounter” these criminals. They cite examples of the Delhi 2012 accused still in Tihar and Ajmal Kasab, who was hanged six years after the gruesome killing of innocent citizens in Mumbai. 
  • Witnesses – due to the delay in trials, the witnesses lose interest or do not attend hearings. Documents are lost, seized weapons are not traceable. 
  • Officials – The investigating officers get transferred and thus can not monitor trials. The complainant gives up.
  • Conviction rate – the poor conviction rate may not attract the immediate attention of citizens but reinforces a general feeling of lawlessness.

Way ahead

  • Police investigation and presentation by the prosecutors need to improve. 
  • Session courts – Session courts need to finish cases at one go, within a week or fortnight, and not hear them in a piecemeal manner. They need to clamp down heavily on adjournments. 
  • Appeal timeline – Higher courts must dispose of appeals within a fixed time frame. 
  • Staff – Expenses for more judicial officers and their staff should be met by the Centre and state governments jointly. 
  • For a rape accused who is sentenced, his final appeal has to be disposed of within a year.
  • Organised communication – For police, medical officers, forensic experts, prosecutors, and judicial officers to work together as a team, the formal interactive sessions between them have to be organised. 
  • Training – Regular training workshops will lead to an exchange of information, knowledge-sharing and mutual trust among different wings of the criminal justice system. 

Conclusion

We have to invest in all four wings of the crumbling criminal justice system — police, prosecution, judiciary and prisons. India, after more than 70 years of Independence, needs to be the lighthouse for the rule of law.

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