Post Mortem

Infirmities and delays in criminal justice system

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/5/2020 12:12:17 PM IST

 With the modern tools of artificial intelligence, smart algorithms and the availability of big data, all these challenges, which primarily relate to jury formation, can easily be overcome. It is every man’s business to see that justice is done. But, it is also true that the course of justice often prevents it. The long delay in hanging the convicts in the December 16 rape and murder case stands in stark contrast to the encounter killing of four rapists of a veterinary doctor in Telangana.

The chasm between people’s perception of justice and the actual majesty of law as it unravels over trial, conviction and executions has been widening with each passing day of long-drawn trials and eventual implementation of the verdict. This is one of the biggest causative factors for the lynch-mob and justice-at-hand mentality, even in minor accident offences involving transport vehicles. Post the December 16 and Telangana cases, there are no easy answers and solutions to tackle the root cause of the malaise of sexual assaults, which manifests first as a crime that essentially is not only an assault on an individual victim but also the psyche of all women. The massive support and adulation for the Telangana police personnel responsible for the encounter has to be seen against this backdrop. The delayed trials and the insensitivity of the criminal justice system leaves the victims and their families hapless and helpless. Often, for victims, the trauma of trial is more painful than the actual crime.

In the age of social media, even those unaffected by the crime are equally outraged by the infirmities of the criminal justice system. This outrage portends well. Perhaps, this is the right moment for the state to negate the shortcomings in the criminal justice system — which are resulting in widespread popular anger, often testing the limitations of state response — and make common people participants once again in justice dispersal through the jury trial system. Jury trials have been quite popular and widely accepted in many other common law countries like the US, despite its criticism in well-known cases such as Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till and Rodney King. The original provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1861 and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1882 had a provision for jury trial. It was given a burial with the new Code of Criminal Procedure that came into force in 1974. The famous Nanavati case of 1959 hastened the demise of the jury trial system in India. However, the acute shortcomings of the conventional criminal justice system, evident in cases such as the December 16 rape and murder, call for revisiting the merits of the jury trial system. In a multicultural and a multiracial country like India, with its motley of castes, ethnicities and interest groups, jury trials can have their own challenges, especially relating to composition of jury members. Sometimes, a jury trial can be akin to riding a ship into a storm. However, with the modern tools of artificial intelligence, smart algorithms and the availability of big data, especially due to widespread adoption of the common platform of Aadhaar across the country, all these challenges, which primarily relate to jury formation, can easily be overcome. The jury trials can also have the added benefit of sharing the workload of an already overburdened judicial system.

These challenging times, when the entire edifice of criminal justice system is shaken and is being questioned by citizens for its lack of speed and sensitivity, call for a paradigm shift. This is the moment when the country wants to be judge, jury and executioner. A democracy based on the rule of law cannot allow the public to be the judge or executioner. However, people drawn from a diverse pool, who qualify on a set of well-defined parameters, including education, vocation, age, experience and other relevant criteria, can be members of the jury in “public interest” cases like the December 16 rape and murder and Telangana rape and murder. If there ever could be, this truly is the moment for the jury to decide for whom the bell tolls.

HGS Dhaliwal

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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