Criminal trials: SC decries ineffective cross-examination - The Tribune India

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Criminal trials

SC decries ineffective cross-examination

Criminal trials

Photo for representation. File photo



THE Supreme Court has flagged the public’s perception that criminal trials are neither free nor fair, while expressing concern over ineffective cross-examination of hostile witnesses by public prosecutors. This indictment of the judicial process underscores a key principle of jurisprudence: the pursuit of truth and justice. Yet, this pursuit cannot rest solely on prosecution and defence; it must be championed by the judiciary itself.

While upholding the conviction of a man in a murder case despite the witness having turned hostile, the SC Bench said judges must actively engage in trial proceedings, extracting pertinent information and guarding against lapses by prosecutors. Similarly, the SC’s decision last October to cancel the bail of a man accused of his wife’s murder after the witnesses retracted their statements against him, highlights the dire consequences of witness-tampering. The court’s emphasis on ensuring witness safety and ordering fresh cross-examination in a secure environment can facilitate a fair trial.

The apex court has stated that the relations between the public prosecutor and the judiciary are the cornerstone of the criminal justice system. The SC has urged courts not to act as ‘mere tape recorders’. Such shortcomings affect criminal jurisprudence, compromising its foundational principles. The absence of a fair trial undermines public trust in the legal system. Thus, the independence of public prosecutors from political influence or external pressure is paramount. To this end, the court has rightly emphasised the need for a stringent criterion to appoint public prosecutors, prioritising merit and impeccable credentials. The present state of affairs calls for systemic reforms, placing the delivery of justice at the forefront of legal proceedings so as to uphold the sanctity of the due process.

#Supreme Court


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