Centre seeks criminal justice system overhaul, says protracted trials in heinous cases damaging police credibility

  • The government note said there is an urgent need to bring improvements in criminal justice system

  • The Centre has advocated implementation of new laws, amendments of existing procedures to tackle abysmally low conviction rate

  • The Centre has argued for the implementation of a comprehensive witness protection programme on the lines of US model

New Delhi: With more than 2.6 lakh criminal cases pending, including 15,000 related to murder, the Centre in a comprehensive note to the states and Central agencies asked for speedy investigations and swift trials. The government has warned that a huge number of pending cases will defeat the objective of criminal justice system which includes prevention and control of crime, maintenance of public order, fair trials, justice for victims, and punishment and rehabilitation of the guilty.

 Centre seeks criminal justice system overhaul, says protracted trials in heinous cases damaging police credibility

Representational image. PTI

The Centre has raised concerns over loss of credibility of police due to protracted trials in heinous crimes and suggested better coordination between police, prosecution and judiciary to increase the conviction rate.

As per the note reviewed by Firstpost: “The states have put in place mechanism to protect innocents but the system is facing challenges due to huge pendency of criminal cases, inordinate delay in disposal of cases and low rate of conviction.”

Since 51,000 criminal cases are pending for more than three years, the government note said there is an urgent need to bring improvements in criminal justice system, including administrative reforms, infrastructural facilities, capacity building, separation of investigation and law and order, accountability, coordination between investigation and prosecution and combating corruption.

The government has also proposed for an inquisitorial system of trial in child rape cases in which prosecution relies heavily on the testimony of parents, who, in a majority of cases turn hostile.

To avoid such a situation, the Centre has advocated implementation of new laws, amendments of existing procedures to tackle the abysmally low conviction rate. Citing a directive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the note said, “Entrusting highly qualified constables with investigation would increase the police capability to deal with burden of under investigation cases.”

“The issue of separation of law and order from investigation wing of police has been implemented in more than a dozen states, however, it remain mainly on paper as police force is burdened with multifarious responsibilities. There is a scope for improvement in criminal justice system by police on its own through prompt registration of cases, effective execution of summons and time-bound monitoring of investigations. Future challenges with changing dimensions of crime such as data theft, dark web operations, economic crimes, require skill development of capable manpower. In the new realm of policing, the police force needs to adopt the role of a true friend, philosopher, guide, enforcer and protector to ensure the fruits of justice to every citizen,” the government note said.

There is also apprehension about pendency of 3.14 crore cases in various courts clogging up the judicial process and need for imposing limits on the number of adjournments that could be taken by the defence counsels in the course of a trial. Due to the inordinate delays in several cases either witnesses turn hostile or go missing under influence and fear of alleged accused.

The Centre has argued for the implementation of a comprehensive witness protection programme on the lines of US model, which includes changing of identity coupled with relocating and providing financial support to witnesses. The government is of the view that US model could be adopted in cases dealing with death, life imprisonment and be funded through corporate social responsibility.

Although there is no clear policy on victim compensation scheme, the Centre has observed that it should be institutionalised, along with other reforms such as giving priority to victims' opinion in criminal justice proceeding stages including bail, withdrawal, and charge sheets on the lines of existing practices followed by US law enforcement agencies.

Stressing upon the need to revisit existing laws and procedures as well periodic review of the criminal justice system, the government note said a quick trial followed by conviction is the only way to enhance police credibility.

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2019 18:48:33 IST