How to reform the criminal justice system

THE criminal justice system has virtually collapsed in India. The continental system may not suit Indian conditions. The Evidence Act needs to be amended to shift the onus of proving not guilty on the accused. Wherever the onus of proof has been shifted on the accused, it has not resulted in a happy solution.

I offer the following suggestions to reform the system. Separate the investigation agency from the law and order wing of the police. Both need proper training in the modern techniques of crime detection and control. Superior investigation officers must promptly visit the place of crime to check lapses in investigation. Fix accountability on officers found wanting.

Separate the Directorate of Prosecution from the executive. Trial must be completed within six months of the commission of offence through daily hearing. Strict supervision of judicial officers who show laxity in granting adjournments by the High Court is also necessary. Recording of evidence of witnesses on oath before a judicial magistrate during investigation and amendment of the Cr PC to make it difficult for one to retract from the testimony are also essential. Donít show sympathy to the accused. Liberal application of the principle of the benefit of the doubt has resulted in mass acquittals. Victims too deserve justice.

Justice R.K. MAHAJAN (retd), former Judge, HP High Court, Shimla

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The police is a wing of the government. It can improve only if the government improves. During police investigation, consciously or unconsciously, some angularities slip in sometimes, especially when high profile cases are involved.

The Standing Committee of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has turned down the proposal to examine action against hostile witnesses for the simple reason that politicians donít want to lose their hold on the police. When a witness turns hostile, the public prosecutor should promptly declare this and simultaneously examine why he/she retracted from the statement given to the police.

In the Best Bakery case, the Supreme Court has laid down the law of retrial and now it has become a new precedent. As Zahira Sheikh retracted from her testimony in the court, the Supreme Court sentenced her to one year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000.

UMED SINGH GULIA, Advocate (Supreme Court), Faridabad


In the present system, anyone who has money, muscle or political power can influence the system and go scot free. The need of the hour is to amend the Cr PC on these lines:

Witnessesí signatures should be obtained on statements under Section 161. Such statements, especially when it is a heinous crime, should be recorded promptly under Section 164 and full protection given to them. Deterrent punishment must be given to hostile witnesses. And empower the Judge to award punishment to investigating officer(s) for shoddy investigation.




The trial court ruling in the Jessica Lall case, acquitting all the accused in the Jessica Lall case is sad. One cannot blame the judiciary because it has to purely decide on the basis of evidence. The advocates too cannot be blamed because they have to act upon the briefs of their clients.

Our legislatures should keep pace with the changing times and streamline the laws for speedy dispensation of justice. Any lapse or delay in this regard will reflect upon society. Moreover, laws should be enacted for public good to achieve the goal of a welfare state.†

N.M. HANSI, Ludhiana


The ruling shows how deep is the rot in the judiciary. It is this rot (witnesses turning hostile) that the judiciary needs to address first. Everyone in the judiciary knows why the conviction rate in the country is an abysmal 5 per cent!

Our system is criminal-friendly and the dice is heavily loaded in favour of criminals. Therefore, this system needs a thorough overhaul on a war footing. Meanwhile, a national debate is needed on how to plug the loopholes in the criminal justice system.

B.S. MAKOL, Chandigarh


It is indeed shocking that Jessicaís family members could not get justice even seven years after the trial. The acquittal of all the accused is very sad. I feel law is blind in India. The laws are meant only for common people, not for the big and the powerful.

MOHD. SHAFI, Gurgaon

Levy on ATM ridiculous

AFTER the levy on ATM transactions announced by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the Union Budget, banks have started sending messages to customers through the ATM transaction slip that a charge of Rs 50 would be levied on ATM card after the second year of issuance. This levy is unwarranted, ridiculous and a burden on the users who are mostly middle class people.

Why do we go in for ATM facility? It is only to avoid crowding in the bank counters and withdraw money at any time to meet emergencies. Therefore, it is unfair on the part of the government to impose a levy on the users.

V.M. SETH, Sonepat


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