Explained: Why Indian Criminal Justice System Needs Urgent Reforms?

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Criminal cases largely depend upon the testimony of witnesses. Witnesses come to the court, take oath and quite often give false evidence with impunity. Procedure for taking action for perjury is not simple and the judges seldom make use of them.

Chandigarh (ABC Live): The Lok Sabha recently passed three bills for amending Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedures and Indian Evidence Act with objective to reform Criminal Justice System.

The ABC Research Team working closely with the Association for Judicial Reforms (India) refers a report of Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System constituted by Ministry of Home Affairs on 24 November 2000, to consider measures for revamping the Criminal Justice System.

The above cited report outlines the some of the major problems that have contributed to the failure of the Criminal Justice System as under;

The foundation for the Criminal Justice System is the investigation by the police. When an offence committed is brought to the notice of the police, it is their responsibility to investigate into the matter to find out who has committed the offence, ascertain the facts and circumstances relevant to the crime and to collect the evidence, oral or circumstantial that is necessary to prove the case in the court. 

The success or failure of the case depends entirely on the work of the investigating officer. But unfortunately, the Criminal Justice System does not trust the Police.

The courts view the police with suspicion and are not willing to repose confidence in them. Section 161 of the Code empowers the investigation officer to examine any person supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case and record the statement in writing. 

However section 162 of the Code provides that it is only the accused that can make use of such a statement. So far as the prosecution is concerned, the statement can be used only to contradict the maker of the statement in accordance with Section 145 of the Evidence Act. Any confession made by the accused before the Police officer is not admissible and cannot be made use of during the trial of the case. 

The statement of the accused recorded by the police can be used as provided under Section 27 of the Evidence Act to the limited extent that led to the discovery of any fact. The valuable material collected by the investigating officer during investigation can not be used by the prosecution. This makes it possible for the witnesses to make a contradictory statement during trial with impunity as it does not constitute perjury. 

The accused now-a-days are more educated and well informed and use sophisticated weapons and advance techniques to commit the offences without leaving any trace of evidence. Unfortunately, the investigating officers are not given training in interrogation techniques and sophisticated investigation skills. All these factors seriously affect the prosecution. This is a major cause for the failure of the system.

So far as the system of prosecution is concerned, it is often seen that best legal talent is not availed of for placing its case before the court. 

The accused is normally represented by a very competent lawyer of his choice. There is a mismatch in that, an equally competent lawyer is not there to represent the prosecution. The burden of proof being very heavy on the prosecution, it is all the more necessary for the prosecution to be represented by a very able and competent lawyer. Lack of co-ordination between the investigation and the prosecution is another problem. This makes things worse.

The victim whose rights are invaded by the accused is not accorded any right to participate except as a witness. The system does not afford him any opportunity to assist the court such as adducing evidence or putting questions to the witnesses. The system is thus utterly insensitive to the rights of the victim. The focus is all on the accused and none on the victim. The system has denied itself the benefit of this important source.

Criminal cases largely depend upon the testimony of witnesses. Witnesses come to the court, take oath and quite often give false evidence with impunity. Procedure for taking action for perjury is not simple and the judges seldom make use of them.

 Witnesses turning hostile are a common feature. Delay in disposal of cases affords greater opportunity for the accused to win over the witnesses to his side by threats, or inducements. There is no law to protect the witnesses. 

The treatment given to the witnesses is very shabby. Even the basic amenities like shelter, seating, drinking water, toilets etc. are not provided. He is not promptly paid TA/DA. He is often paid much less than what he spends and nobody bothers about it.

 The cases are adjourned again and again making the witnesses to come to court several times leaving aside all his work. Witnesses who are treated in this manner become an easy prey to the machinations of the accused and his family. 

To read complete report click here 

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