News By/Courtesy: Ritwik Guha Mustafi | 03 Apr 2020 10:01am IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trials are governed in India by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  • Trial means hearing of any legal cause as per laws of the land and jurisdiction
  • Complex procedures and time inefficiency are major drawbacks

'To cheapen the lives of any group of men cheapens the lives of all the men'. The major aim of the criminal justice system is to protect the rights and personal liberty of the people as enshrined in the constitution and to punish/penalize the violators of law. The criminal justice system of India is based primarily on the Code of Criminal procedure (Cr.P.C.) 1973 and the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C) 1860. This system hasn’t seen a lot of change even after more than 70 years of independence. This has led to various deliberations regarding the growing inefficiency and irrelevancy of the age-old criminal justice system and a need to reform it. 

One important factor in this regard is the Malimath committee report (2003) which recommended various reforms but they haven’t been implemented properly. With regards to the present system, the committee report stated that the precious right of life and liberty under Article 21 is a pipe dream to many to whom justice is delayed, distorted, or denied [1]. 

A trial refers to a hearing of any cause, civil or criminal, before a judge who has jurisdiction above it, as per the laws of the land [2]. As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter Cr.P.C.) 1973, there are three types of trials- Warrant trials (for heinous offences, punishment for which is more than 7 years or life imprisonment, or death penalty), summon trials (for offences not of warrant nature, maximum punishment for which is not more than 2 years imprisonment), and summary trials (for petty offences, maximum punishment for which is not more than 3-6 months imprisonment) [3]. 

Warrant trials often slow down the judicial proceedings.  It takes a lot of time in passing a final judgement in such trials. The other forms of trial take a lot less time and have a simple procedure. Warrant trial has following stages [4]:-

  • A First Investigation Report (F.I.R) is filed under section 154 of Cr.P.C which sets the case in motion.
  • Investigation is made by studying and documenting the crime circumstances and the statements of the witnesses and the final copy is given to judge as police report.
  • Charges are framed in writing by the court in case the accused isn’t freed from blame after filing of police report.
  • A chance is allowed to accused for making a confession of his guilt and judge has to ensure that this confession is given willingly.
  • After framing of charges and an affirmative plea of guilty by the accused, the judge may convict him.
  • If accused refuses to plead or pleads to be innocent, a date of examination of witnesses is given. Prosecution now has to prove the guilt of the accused.
  • The statement of accused is recorded to clarify the realities of the case as per section 131 of Cr.P.C.The defence evidence is called. After arguments and counter-arguments, the court gives the decision. The physical presence of accused is mandatory in every stage.

In contrast to warrant trials, summon and summary trials have simple processes. In case of summon trial (sec. 251-59 of Cr.P.C.), there is no compulsion for the accused to be physically present at a given date. He can send his plea to magistrate through a letter or a messenger. Charges are framed orally. The accused is given only one chance to cross-examine the witnesses. If the complainant dies, the judge may acquit the accused or adjourn the case for next date. The summary cases deal with petty offenses. The court records the substance of evidence and the reasoned brief arguments of both sides. These cases are disposed of quickly [5]. 

The involvement of highly influential people in the F.I.R. registration process and overall investigation process, the poor infrastructure and less staffs in most of the lower courts and police stations, physical absence of accused from hearing, and non-digitalization of F.I.Rs which increases the chance of their misplacement are some major reasons for delay in warrant trial procedures which increases the burden of the courts [6].

There should be proper digitalization of the police reports, F.I.Rs, and record diaries. Forensic labs should be available in each district for easy assistance of police. Mobile forensic vans can also be used for the purpose.Police stations are to be technologically updated. Separate rooms should be there for investigations. Videography of investigation process should be there [7].

India has undoubtedly an overburdened justice delivery system. For making the system more cohesive and relevant in the present, the procedures of law need to be progressive and dynamic. The present system has many anomalies which are to be removed for restoring its efficacy. The system needs to be modernized and awareness about the various processes and remedies of law is to be spread among the people. Media and public representatives can play a major role in this regard. By doing this, the basic fundamental rights of the people would be protected efficiently and delay in justice delivery will be reduced substantially.

References:-

1.) Upendra Baxi, The Malimath committee on reforms of criminal justice system: premises, politics, and implications for human rights, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA, (April 3, 2020, 10:29 A.M.), https://www.legal-tools.org/doc/70d1c6.

2.) WHARTON & J.J. SMITH, WHARTON’S LAW LEXICON: FORMING AN EPITOME OF THE LAW OF ENGLAND 753-54 (9th ed. 1892).

3.) P.K. MUKHERJEE, CRIMINAL MAJOR ACTS ALONGWITH SUPREME COURT CRIMINAL DIGEST 3-4, 103-109, (18th ed. 2018).

4.) JUSTICE M.R. MALLICK, CRIMINAL MANUAL, 123-126, (2015).

5.) Id. , at 127-130.

6.) Law Commission, Expeditious Investigation and Trial of criminal cases against influential public personalities, GOVERNMNET OF INDIA (April 3, 2020, 10:34 P.M.), http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report239.pdf.

7.) Id. , at 7-34.

 

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 03 Apr 2020 15:57pm IST


Tags : Trial, legal, jurisdiction, complex, inefficiency

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