The criminal justice system is composed of three primary and discernible components: police, courts, and prisons. The components of the criminal justice system are seen as interrelated, interdependent, and striving to achieve a unified goal. This view of criminal justice often focuses on how cases flow through the system, causing ripple effects as cases move from one component to the next. The actions of police officers on the streets, for example, affect the workload of courts, and the decisions of judges in courtrooms affect the operation of jails and prisons.
Police: Police hold a special place in the criminal justice system. Not only do the activities of law enforcement officers affect the operations of the entire criminal justice system, but police are said to be the “gate keepers” of the system. They are usually the first to make contact with accused offenders and are in a position to make some very important decisions about what will happen to those individuals. Police officers are specially trained in many aspects of criminal justice and law in general. The duties provided by law enforcement personnel include traffic citations, criminal investigations and emergency response as well as crime prevention. Law enforcement is there to enforce all laws set in place by the government, whether on the local or federal level. Without law enforcement, society would be in chaos without any reliable way to enforce laws.
Courts: The main role of the courts is to interpret and apply the law. Courts provide a forum to resolve disputes and to test and enforce laws in a fair and rational manner. The courts are an impartial forum, and judges are free to apply the law without regard to the government’s wishes or the weight of public opinion. Court decisions are based on what the law says and what the evidence proves; there is no place in the courts for suspicion, bias or favouritism. This is why justice is often symbolized as a blindfolded figure balancing a set of scales, oblivious to anything that could detract from the pursuit of an outcome that is just and fair. In terms of a criminal justice process the court serves as the place in which a trial is heard and a sentence decided.
Prison: Prisons play a crucial role in the prevention and control of crimes in the society. Prisons perform the following basic functions:
- Keeping safe custody of convicted persons and suspects as well as execute sentences passed on individuals by the courts.
- Ensuring the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates through moral training, education and offering them opportunities to develop other potentials and skills for effective reintegration into the society on discharge.
- Ensuring the welfare of inmates through the provision of good health care, feeding, clothing and recreational facilities in order to create the enabling environment for reformation and rehabilitation programmes.
Criminal Justice System in India:
The system of administration of criminal justice in India today is the product of well-thought efforts on the part of successive Governments. It places human rights and dignity for human life at a much higher pedestal.
In our criminal jurisprudence, an accused is presumed to be innocent till proven guilty, the burden of proof being on the prosecution; he is entitled to a true investigation, and fair and open trial, and the prosecution is enjoined to play a balanced role in the trial of an offence. The standard of proof required is ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’. Articles 20 and 22 of the Constitution of India, falling in the chapter on fundamental rights, guarantee that no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act or omission charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence ( the rule against ex post facto penal law); no person shall be prosecuted and punished twice for the same offence (the rule against double jeopardy); every accused enjoys the right against self-incrimination; every person who is arrested is entitled to be informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest as well as the right to consult and be defended by a lawyer of his choice; every person who is arrested and detained in custody is required to be produced before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours, excluding journey time, and cannot be further detained without the magisterial authority. Writ of habeas corpus is a remedy available under our Constitution to question detentions which are illegal.
Article 21 of our Constitution guarantees protection of life and personal liberty and enjoins that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Through judicial interpretation, this fundamental right has been elaborated and expanded tremendously. The ‘procedure’ prescribed by law has to be ‘reasonable, fair and just’. A right to early end of criminal proceedings through a speedy trial is a part of right to life. Right against solitary confinement, right against bar fetters, right against handcuffing, right against custodial violence, right to human conditions in prisons and protective homes, and right to legal aid are but some of the rights which have been held to flow from this article. Avoidable arrests are frowned upon by courts. A person arrested cannot be subjected to more restraint than is necessary to prevent his escape. Then, there are well-meaning provisions concerning bail.
The Indian Penal Code 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, along with parts of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, constitute the essence of Indian criminal law. A large number of special and local laws take care of various other antisocial activities. Members of the armed forces face trial for offences by a Court Martial under special Acts owing to their special requirements.
Stages of Criminal Trial in India:
The criminal procedure in India is governed by the CrPC 1973.It divides the procedure to be followed for administration of criminal justice into three stages namely-
- Investigation- where evidences are to be collected.
- Inquiry- a judicial proceeding where judge ensures for himself before going on trial, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person is guilty.
- Trial- the judicial adjudication of a person’s guilt or innocence.
The steps in detail are as follows:
(i) Registration of F.I.R
- Lodged under section 154 of the code which provides for the manner in which such information is to be recorded.
- Statement of the informant as recorded under section 154 is said to be the First Information Report. Its main object is to set the criminal law in motion.
- FIR means the information, by whomsoever given, to the officer in charge of a police station in relation to the commission of a cognizable offence and which is first in point of time and on the strength of which the investigation into that offence is commenced.
- Its evidentiary value: – It is not substantive evidence i.e. not the evidence of the facts which it mentions. Its importance as conveying the earliest information regarding the occurrence cannot be doubted. It can be used to corroborate the informant under section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, or to contradict him under section 145 of the act, if the informant is called as a witness at the time of trial.
- ii) Commencement of investigation:
- It includes all the efforts of a police officer for collection of evidence: Proceeding to the spot; ascertaining facts and circumstances; discovery and arrest of the suspected offender; collection of evidence relating to the commission of offence, which may consist of the examination of various persons including the accused and taking of their statements in writing and the search of places or seizure of things considered necessary for their investigation and to be produced at the trial; formation of opinion as to whether on the basis of the material collected there is a case to place the accused before a magistrate for trial and if so, taking the necessary steps for the charge-sheet.
- Investigation ends in a police report to the magistrate.
- It leads an investigating officer to reach a conclusion whether a charge-sheet has to be filed or a closure report has to be filed.
iii) Framing of charges: If a person is not discharged, trial begins by framing a charge (nothing but a specific accusation against the accused) and reading and explaining it to him (so that he knows what he is to force).
- iv) Conviction on plea of guilty: After framing of charges the judge proceeds to take the ‘plea of guilt’ which is an opportunity to the accused to acknowledge that he pleads guilty and does not wish to contest the case. Here the judge responsibility is onerous- a. to ensure that the plea of guilt is free and voluntary, b. He has to ensure that if there had been no plead of guilt- was the prosecution version if unrebutted would have led to conviction. If both the requirements are met then judge can record and accept plea of guilt and convict the accused after listening to him on sentence.
- v) Recording of the prosecution Evidence: Examination of prosecution witness by the police prosecutor, marking of exhibits and cross examination by defense counsel.
- vi) Statement of the Accused: Section 313 of the Criminal procedure empowers the court to ask for explanation from the accused if any. The basic idea is to give an opportunity of being heard to an accused and explain the facts and circumstances appearing in the evidence against him. Under this section, an accused shall not be administered an oath and the accused may refuse to answer the questions so asked. The answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in such inquiry or trial, and put in evidence for or against him.
vii) Evidence of Defense: In cases of accused not being acquitted by the court, the defense is given an opportunity to present any defense evidence in support of the accused. The defense can also produce its witnesses and the said witnesses are cross- examined by the prosecution. However, in India the defense does not provide defense evidence as the criminal justice systemputs burden of proof on the prosecution to prove that a person is guilty of an offence beyond the reasonable doubt.
- ix) Final arguments on both the sides: once the public prosecutor and the defense counsel present their arguments, the court generally reserve its judgement.
- x) Judgement: Judgement is the final reasoned decision of the court as to the guilt or innocence of the accused. After application of judicial mind, the judge delivers a final judgement holding an accused guilty of an offence or acquitting him of the particular offence. If a person is acquitted, the prosecution is given time to file an appeal and if a person is convicted of a particular offence, then date is fixed for arguments on sentence. Once a person is convicted of an offence, both the sides present their arguments on what punishment should be awarded to an accused. This is done in cases which are punished with death or life imprisonment. After the arguments on sentence, the court finally decides what should be the punishment for the accused. While punishing a person, the courts consider various theories of punishment for the accused. While punishing a person, the courts consider various theories of punishment like deterrent theory of punishment and reformative theory of punishment. Court considers the age, background and history of an accused and the judgement is pronounced accordingly.
Need of Speeding up Criminal Justice system in India:
“JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED”
The reason one goes to court is to get justice, and “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” Unfortunately the judicial system in India is based on Evidences and facts not conscience or morals, so it should be easier, once having the facts at hand, all it needs is argument and hearing and quicker pronouncement of Justice. A judicial system that cares only about evidences and facts shouldn’t worry about taming the souls of the plaintiff and the defendant with time rather give justice as quick as it can, this delay/denial of justice leads to increasing “Out of Court settlements” which are cheaper and quicker thereby leading to the loss of trust in our Judicial System.
As Chief Justice Burger has noted: “A sense of confidence in the courts is essential to maintain the fabric of ordered liberty for a free people and three things could destroy that confidence and do incalculable damage to society: that people come to believe that inefficiency and delay will drain even a just judgment of its value; that people who have long been exploited in the smaller transactions of daily life come to believe that courts cannot vindicate their legal rights from fraud and over-reaching; that people come to believe the law in the larger sense cannot fulfill its primary function to protect them and their families in their homes, at their work, and on the public streets”.
This has been explicitly made so in the Article 39-A of the Constitution that directs the State – to secure equal justice and free legal aid for the citizens. But the experiences of last 57 years show that the State has failed squarely on addressing some very basic issues–quick and inexpensive justice and protecting the rights of poor and the vulnerable. The justice delivery system is on the verge of collapse with more than 30 million cases clogging the system. There are cases that take so much of time that even a generation is too short to get any type of redressal. It will take about 300 years to clear the backlog of cases in Indian courts is proof enough that our criminal justice system is sick, stagnant and in urgent need of a complete overhaul.
In the Uphaar case it is shocking that it took six years to establish that the 59 people died because of criminal negligence on the part of the cinema management and the Delhi government. It was clear from day one that nobody would have died had the cinema followed safety rules but because the wheels of Indian justice move at the pace of our national vehicle – the bullock cart – it took six years for justice to be done. And, if the Ansal family and the guilty officials decide to appeal it could be many more years before justice is really done.
Causes of delay:
- Strength of Judges are inadequate according to population and bunch of cases:
As of January 2005, pending cases in the Supreme Court number 30,000, in high courts over 33.79 lakh and in subordinate courts over 2.35 crore – a totally unacceptable situation. Much of this is due to shortage of judges. The ratio of judges to population is 10.5 to one million, the lowest in the world. Even this low level is not reached because of the accumulation of vacancies in the Benches -140 against the approved strength of 668 judges in high courts and 2000 against 15000 in subordinate courts.
- The infrastructure of the lower courts is very disappointing.
Though, the Supreme Court and High Courts are having good infrastructure but this in not the same position with lower courts. The Courts have no convenient building or physical facilities. The executive has failed to provide necessary infrastructure to enable judiciary and function normally. Good library, requisite furniture, sufficient staff and reasonable space are the need of the qualitative justice. In some courts security systems is also not good. The legal profession is one of the most struggling profession but no social security scheme is available for lawyers, some financial aid should be provided to Bar associations or the new beginners by the government. The good working condition of the lawyers would help in the excellence of service and qualitative justice to the litigating public.
- Competency of the Other Staff in Court:
It should also be kept in mind that not only Judges and Advocates be competent but also the administrative and clerical staff. The clerical staff must be free from all type of corruption. This is the era of computerization. The highly technical and competitive clerical staff will also help in speedy course. We all know how much time is taken in getting merely a copy of the judgment? It is hard that money is used to speed up the process. The bribe giver does not wish, to get anything done unlawfully, but merely wants to speed up the process of movement of files and communication relating to decision. Certain sections of staff concerned do work only after taking money.
- Investigative agencies generally delay:
The investigation of crime It is generally heard that the accused gets bail as the investigating agency failed to submit charge sheet within statutory period. The combination of several functions, such as crime investigation, riot control, intelligence gathering, and security of VIPs by a single police force has a devastating effect on the criminal justice system. Nowadays, the crime investigation is not immune from the partisan politics. The power of the government to drop criminal charges against the accused has further abused it. The lethargic police investigation is also a ground of slow process of law.
Remedies to overcome delay:
- Technological advancement:
Ø Compulsory 24 hours electricity supply to each judicial building that is Court.
Ø Give laptops and free internet to each judge and all court employees
Ø It should be compulsory for lawyers to use computers and give only computer printed applications , No handwritten applications even if handwritten application is given in emergency then also it should be compulsory for lawyer to submit later on computer printout within 48 hours excluding holidays.
Ø Use of Computer webcam to check the presence of accused person who is in Jail .
Ø Use of computer webcam and big screen to record and take evidence from accused persons .
- First Information Report – Fir is hand written, now suggested reform is Fir should be written using computer and even complainant should be able to write his FIR using internet, this will help complaint or plaintiff to write his FIR properly from home or from police station.
- Strict implementation of arrest warrant – once a non-bailable warrant is issued by the Court whatever may happen the accused should be arrested by police and should be presented before court until that period no entertaining of any application from the lawyer who represents the accused against whose name NBW that is non bailable warrant is issued.
- Strict laws regarding application for next date , many times what happens is that lawyer argues case in one court and his junior gives application in other court that lawyer is sick, he be given next date.
- Increase the number of judges.
- Judges should work in 3 batches of 8 hours thus 24 hours , round the clock the justice given procedure will be on.
These are certain remedies which can be used to overcome the problem of delay.
We can conclude from the above discussion that “Justice delayed is Justice denied” so the justice giving system should be more strong and the speed of trail should be increased by bringing certain changes in the criminal justice system. Also there is a need to clear the backlog of pending cases. Still, the untiring efforts put by fear and flavorless Indian Judiciary is doing commendable job of imparting justice in spite of so many difficulties, which created faith of public.
Author: Harleen Kaur & Chandrika Singh Raghuwanshi, Students of Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal.
Disclaimer: This article has been published in “Legal Desire International Quarterly Journal (ISSN: 2347-3525), page no. 41. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without prior permission from Legal Desire. All Rights Reserved.
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