CRIMINAL LAW – WHETHER DELAY IN RENDERING JUSTICE IS DENIAL OF JUSTICE?
It is often said that justice delayed is justice denied. Delay in giving judgements and in rendering justice, creates fear and anxiety in innocent litigants. Further, unnecessary delay may result in loss of evidence or destruction of evidence. And it is only on the basis of evidence that rights of the parties are to be determined by the court.
Unreasonable and unnecessary delays are signals of the bad performance of Justice system and leads to failure of Justice. This also leads to criticism of judicial system. People lose confidence in the courts and a doubt arises as to the fairness and utility of courts for the delivery of Justice.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees right to life and liberty to each of its citizens. The Supreme Court of India has recognised right to speedy trial as a part of article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It has been held that speedy trial forms in essence of the criminal justice system in India. Even outside India, speedy trial is one of those rights which are given to each of the citizens through Constitution. For example in United States of America speedy trial is a constitutional right of each of its citizens. Even European Convention on human rights assures that all the persons who have been accused of an offence is to be entitled to a fair trial and that trial must be completed within a reasonable timeframe. Coming back to article 21, it may be clarified that speedy trial is not specifically mentioned anywhere in article 21. However it states that no person is to be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with the provisions of law. And it has been held in Maneka Gandhi’s Case that the procedure which forms part of law must also be reasonable and just. Any unreasonable delay in the trial of an offence is considered to be an constitutional.
On books, the current judicial system in India provide this constitutional right. However the practical aspects are different. Indian judicial system is in famous for its notorious delays. There is a huge backlog of more than two crore cases in Indian lower courts and more than thirty-five lakh cases are still pending in high courts in India. There is therefore a lot of delay in the disposal of court cases. It is because of this reason that certain persons try to achieve Justice through extrajudicial methods. For example, in a matrimonial dispute, the wife’s side may try to implicate the husband and his family in a false 498 a case. I have also seen cases where the parties had a property dispute. One of the relatives of one such party expired because he fell from third-floor office own house. This party tried to implicate the other party in the offence of murder of this relative. And because of huge delay in the criminal justice system, the other party suffered for fifteen years before getting Justice.
I have also seen cases where a gang of criminals involving some women falsely accuse innocent men of rape. Such persons are forced to compromise and these gangs extort a lot of money from innocent persons. Had there been a fair and impartial enquiry in such matters and had criminal justice system in India with to act and render Justice, this would not have happened. This is so because people are afraid that once they are behind bars, they will not be able to come out of jail soon even though they are innocent because of the delays in rendering justice. It may be noted that out of the cases pending in Indian courts, to third are criminal cases and 94% of the accused are acquitted. This raises a question about authenticity of criminal Justice system in India.
Every society has laws to maintain order and to stop “ Reign of chaos and old night”. This is also partially achieved by fair administration of criminal justice. However the nature of states have changed from police states to modern welfare state’s. In such states, the role of the government is more of social control and not punishment. In these circumstances, the criminal justice system is an instrument for the protection of individuals and only way to achieve the ends of criminal Justice system is to avoid lapse rendering justice. Under these circumstances, law is not merely an instrument of social change but also social control. Further there are a lot of technological and scientific developments throughout the world. Our criminal justice system which is already subject to so many delays is unable to cope up with the advances in the modern technology. The nature of crime and the methods of committing crimes are also changing with the passage of time.
Criminal Justice system involves procedural and substantive laws. Procedural laws include Criminal Procedure Code and an example of substantive laws of Indian Penal Code. There are clauses in these laws to avoid delays. However the delays caused not only by inadequate number of judges in criminal justice system in India but also by delaying tactics of lawyers. For example a criminal in Chandigarh will find the best criminal lawyer in Chandigarh to defend his case. On the other hand the government leaders are selected either on the basis of political approach or on the basis of written tests. Those who are selected on the basis of political approach are least bothered with the criminal justice system. And those who are selected on the basis of written tests and interviews are selected on regular posts and they cannot be removed easily. This makes them lazy. Their job performance is not related to the results they achieve and performances not measured through the results. In such a circumstance, while a criminal may find the best criminal lawyer in Chandigarh the government leader may not be of that standing. Even if the person has actually committed a heinous crime like rape or murder, a good lawyer may easily be able to delay the trial for decades because of loopholes in legal system.
Although a lot of efforts have been made by the successive governments to curb delays and nip this evil practice in the bud but the delays are here to stay. These delays have become shield to criminals who prefer the status quo in the criminal justice system.