“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.”
-James Anthony Froude
The sixth commandment of God, i.e., “Thou shall not kill” [[i]] requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life and the life of others. Everybody who is of sound mind is aware of the unending litigation which is inevitable if one is vulnerable to suspicion in a murder trial. But, sticking to the topic what if you kill without the intention (mens rea) or motive or the act being simply an ill- fate for the deceased? Well, in those cases the answer is enumerated in those Five Exceptions of § 300, which are drafted in the Penal Code.[[ii]] These are grave and sudden provocation, right of private defence, offender being or aiding a public servant who exceeds authority, without premeditation in a sudden fight and consent of the deceased.
These exceptions are really life saving when you get involve innocently/ delinquently without/ with ill- will towards the deceased victim. But, what if you intend to defeat the purpose of justice, exasperate the victim’s family by twisting the knife in the wound or exacerbate their existing miseries. The article focuses on the scope of the aforementioned delights in a murder case which are popularly known as the ‘rights of the accused’ in our country.
The offence is non- bailable as per the First Schedule to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 but still in certain circumstances where the accused is a political personality, bureaucrat or an influential businessman he gets the bail either on a personal bond or by securing bail bonds to the station officer at the police station on the very first instance. Then even if you intend to defer the trial there is Chapter IV, General Exceptions of the penal code in the queue. The accused can plead insanity, inevitable accident, necessity, involuntary intoxication which diminishes the liability and sentence of imprisonment. When the accused somehow manages to get bail due to the magnanimous expertise of convincing and arguing in the unscrupulous lawyers, he tempers with the witnesses so as to come out clean from the charges. As it happens, the witnesses being brutally killed, bribed, tutored, maimed, abducted and threatened so that the prosecution’s case becomes weak.
In the Best Bakery case,[[iii]] Jessica Lal murder case and in many other serious and sensational cases we witnessed the exodus of hostile witnesses and the resultant acquittal of the accused persons. Public outcry that the justice dispensation system crumbled at least in those cases deserves keen attention. How will we protect the witnesses who wanted to submit the truth and nothing but the truth, before a court of law?[[iv]]
The pleasure of committing a murder and not getting caught can be cherished and experienced in India…and in India only. Destroy the murder weapon or conceal it, leave possibly no direct evidence for the investigating agency, hire an outstanding senior counsel to argue and represent your case, use some money and power; and there you are released for want of evidence/ corroboration or benefit of doubt. In C. K. Raveendran v. State of Kerala,[[v]] where the decomposed body of the victim was retrieved after one month, the post mortem report could not locate the exact cause of death and the motive was not proved by the prosecution; accordingly the accused was acquitted for lack of proper evidence and motive. What a travesty of justice!
We immensely need the legislation which protects the witnesses so as to avoid the acquittal on trivial grounds and technicalities. Australia, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal and South Africa already have enacted a law on Witness Protection which we shall again be replicating in near future. The tenacity and integrity of our criminal justice system has been shattered over and over again and it’s high time that we take the righteous and morally elated citizens to be an asset. We cannot expose them to offenders who daunt them till the final disposition of the trial. The time has come when serious and undiluted thoughts are to be bestowed for protecting witnesses so that ultimate truth is presented before the court; justice triumphs and the trial is not reduced to a mockery. Else the norm of the day would be, ‘kill me!! and bury the consequences…’
Photograph retrieved from: http://mathcaddy.com/history/2004/04/the_bizzarely_i.html
[i] Exodus 20:13, The Holy Bible, King James Version, American Revised Standard.
[ii] The Indian Penal Code, 1860.
[iii] Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh and Another v. State of Gujarat and Others, (2004) 4 SCC 158.
[iv] A.Hariprasad, Director, Kerala Judicial Academy, “WITNESS PROTECTION-Bird’s-eye view”, (2006) 1 J.V., available at: http://kja.nic.in/article/witnessProtection.pdf (Last Visited: April 22, 2011).
[v] AIR 2000 SC 389: 2000 Cr LJ 497.
Student, Amity Law School, Lucknow
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]