Need For Reforms In India’s Criminal Justice System - The Home Ministry is all set to overhaul the Indian Penal Code (IPC) designed by the British.
- Home Minister had said that the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) should work on a proposal to amend various sections of the IPC and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC).
About the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) The Government of India formally established the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), under the Ministry of Home Affairs for the following reasons and with the primary objective of modernization of police force: 1. To take a direct and active interest in the issues. 2. To promote a speedy and systematic study of the policy problems. 3. To apply science and technology in the methods and techniques used by police. In addition and as a secondary, it is mandated an advisory role for the Bureau.
What is IPC?
- The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the main criminal code of India.
- It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law.
- The code was drafted in 1860 on the recommendations of first law commission of India established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Thomas Macaulay.
- It came into force in British India during the early British Raj period in 1862.
- However, it did not apply automatically in the Princely states, which had their own courts and legal systems until the 1940s.
- The Code has since been amended several times and is now supplemented by other criminal provisions.
Why there is a need for reform in the Criminal Justice System in India?
- The system has become ineffective: The Criminal justice system based on century-old outdated laws has led to harassment of people by the government agencies and also put pressure on the judiciary.
- Inefficiency in justice delivery: The system takes years to bring justice and has ceased to deter criminals. There is a lack of synergy among the judiciary, the prosecution and the police.
- Complex nature of the crime: Crime has increased rapidly and the nature of crimes are becoming more and more complex due to technological innovations.
- Investigation incapability: It led to delay in or haphazard investigation of crimes which greatly contribute to the delay in dispensing prompt justice.
- Inequality injustice: The rich and the powerful hardly get convicted, even in cases of serious crimes.
- The lowered confidence of common man: The judicial procedures have become complicated and expensive. There is a rise in cases of mob violence.
Recommendation of the Malimath Committee:
- There is a need for more judges in the country.
- National Judicial Commission:
The Constitution of a National Judicial Commission to deal with the appointment of judges to the higher courts and amending Article 124 to make impeachment of judges less difficult. The higher courts should have a separate criminal division consisting of judges who have specialised in criminal law.
- The Inquisitorial system of investigation practised in countries such as Germany and France should be followed.
- Power for the court to summon any person, whether or not listed as a witness if it felt necessary.
- Right to silence: A modification to Article 20 (3) of the Constitution that protects the accused from being compelled to be a witness against himself/herself.
- The court should be given freedom to question the accused to elicit information and draw an adverse inference against the accused in case the latter refuses to answer.
- The right of accused: A schedule to the Code is brought out in all regional languages to make accused aware of his/her rights, as well as how to enforce them.
- Presumption of Innocence: The courts follow “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” as the basis to convict an accused in criminal cases which is an unreasonable burden on the prosecution and hence a fact should be considered as proven “if the court is convinced that it is true” after evaluating the matters before it.
- The victim should be allowed to participate in cases involving serious crimes and also be given adequate compensation.
- Victim Compensation Fund: A Victim Compensation Fund can be created under the victim compensation law and the assets confiscated from organised crimes can be made part of the fund.
Draft national policy on criminal justice has drawn up by the N R Madhava Menon committee.
- Reclassification of criminal offences: Criminal offences covered by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) must be re-classified into four comprehensive codes on the basis of severity and appropriate response for better management of the criminal justice system,
- Social welfare offences code: Its focus is on reparation and restitution rather than punishment.
- Correctional offences code covering crimes punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine;
- Penal code for graver offences punishable with jail term beyond three years and even death;
- An economic offences code for select crimes that endanger economic security under the IPC and other relevant economic laws.
- Each of the proposed four codes will incorporate the rules of procedure, the nature of trial and evidence and the types of punishment.
- The four-fold scheme of reorganising criminal law and procedure is aimed at better management of the crime scenario.”
Key issues in the recommendations
- Malimath Committee report recommends making confessions made to a senior police officer (SP rank or above) admissible as evidence. Confessions to police have repeatedly come under scrutiny because of allegations of custodial torture, instances of custodial deaths, fake encounters and tampering with evidence.
- The report recommends diluting the standard of proof lower than the current ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard. Such a measure would have adverse implications on suspects and requires considerable deliberation.
Recent major IPC reforms
- In 2016, the Home Ministry had proposed the insertion of two stricter anti-racial discrimination provisions in the IPC.
- The two amendments — Section 153A and Section 509A “to deal with racially motivated crimes” received a lukewarm response from the States.
- Appointing more judges and police personnel
- Improve investigative skills: Diluting the proof beyond reasonable doubt precept will prove to be counterproductive. The onus must be on improving the investigative skills of police officers, improving the quality of documentation and separating criminal investigation responsibilities from law and order duties.
- Deploying scientific techniques, beefing up forensic labs, and other infrastructure investments are the need of the hour.
- Audio-visual recording mandatory: It can be argued that audio-visual recordings reduce the space for accused and witnesses to backtrack and also gives judges the benefit of seeing whether the witness/accused is under duress.