Justice for Victims: A tussle between Classes

May 25th, 20124:21 pm @    

Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free? Yes. ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see? The answer, my friend is blowing in the wind.

– Bob Dylan

In our society today the term Human Rights is widely acknowledged and most people believe they know what they are. But do most people really understand its concept? When asked what Human Rights are most people will come up with general rights such as the freedom of speech, the right to live or the right not to be tortured without knowing or rather ignoring the fact that these rights include rights of victims as well. This leads to the question what exactly are Human Rights and what role should they play in contemporary society especially in enforcing the rights of victims and where these rights come from?[1]

The adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations, at its 96th plenary on November 29, 1985 of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (hereafter ‘U.N. Declaration’) constituted an important recognition of the need to set norms and minimum standards in international law for the protection of victims of crime. The U.N. Declaration recognized four major components of the rights of victims of crime – access to justice and fair treatment; restitution; compensation and assistance.

‘Justice to Common men’ is the primary objective of the legal mechanism of the country. But in the present situation the common men have no hope of getting justice. In the judicial mechanism there are three players, i.e. Judge, Lawyers and the common men; among which the common men are at the receiving end everywhere. The unspoken law of delays in Indian Courts is the main roadblock in the way of distributive justice. There are more than 3 crore cases pending in different parts of the country, and it will take near about three hundred years to disperse these cases if our courts continue the same speed they are moving on now.[2]

We can take the famous case of Shibu Soren, where the warrants were not being served for some thirty years. In between these thirty years several of the accused as well as complainants are dead and still the case is pending. Now if also the verdict comes it will be of little use.

Earl Warren has once said that “It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.”  But the whole Binayak Sen episode renders the statement to be untrue. A man points out gross human rights violations committed against tribal people including alleged rapes, murders, etc. but the state consistently seeks to cover up the incidents this man exposes, and instead uses a colonial-era law against free speech to sentence him to life in prison. The conviction and subsequent sentencing of human rights activist Binayak Sen and threatening several other outspoken Indians last year show that India’s commitment to democracy is more fragile than anyone believed. [3]

Moreover, even before the nation could get over the shocking news that rights activist Binayak Sen was sentenced to life by a Chhattisgarh court on the basis of questionable evidence, comes the news that that the CBI has filed a closure report in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case. A young girl, along with her domestic help, was murdered in her own house and the CBI could not crack the case. From “No Comments” to “No Clue”, that’s how far the Aarushi case has traveled.  On the one hand, our criminal justice system awards a life sentence to a rights activist, probably to send a message to other Maoist sympathizers and, on the other, allows the killer of two to roam freely among us. If this is not travesty of justice, what it is? The CBI’s closure report is hardly surprising for those who know how the agency works.  It is used by the ruling party to hound its opponents. It can be influenced, silenced and made to do the bidding of its political masters. In many cases, a local police station can do a better job than the CBI. Just because the power is out doesn’t mean we unplug the constitution.  It would be in the fitness of things if the agency was either wound up or revamped to become more effective, efficient and respected. For this to happen, it should become a truly independent agency.

It is an unsaid but mostly felt reality that corruption has become all-purposive in the present system of judiciary. It is a fact that rich and powerful almost never get convicted. In the words of Lady Marguerite Blessington, “The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for error; and those of the poor and lowly, for crimes.”

Let us ask ourselves how many people are convicted for the murders in 1984? The accused of the world’s worst disaster i.e. Bhopal gas tragedy are awarded a meager punishment of 2 years for taking lives of thousands of people and that too almost after 26 years of the tragedy and the only relief provided to the victims is compensation that too paid in installments after 10 to 13 years of suffering. Is this the appropriate use of the provisions relating to victim compensation relief under section 357 of the CrPC, 1973?

Adding to the turmoil in the criminal justice system, witness tampering and public outrage have combined to affect judicial outcomes in a series of high-profile criminal cases in India. Cases like Jessica Lal, Tandoor Murder case, Sahabuddin case, Amarmani Tripathy case, Priyadarshni Matto case, Best Bakery case, Nitish Katara case, all are but examples of failed legal system in India. As the saying goes that “when the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die” and this is what has happened in all these cases. The accused, all belonging to higher class of society have greased the authority’s palm for buying not only the witnesses and evidence but the human rights of the victims as well. Two common themes run through these cases i.e. dramatic changes in witness testimony in response to threats or bribes, and significant media and public involvement. In the Lal, Mattoo, and Best Bakery cases, public action played a major role in the reversal of earlier verdict. After witnessing the series of such cases, one thing is sure in our criminal justice system that we don’t give our criminals much punishment, but we sure give them plenty of publicity.

An unholy nexus between police, lawyers and judges have been developed over the times adding to the agony of common men. Paying bribes have become too common in the functioning of the courts. It is a sad reality that if you want to give bribe to the judge one would need a facilitator and most of the time it is the lawyer who act as the facilitator. In return the Judge also help the lawyer by granting him with a number of adjournments, as the more the adjournment the more is the income of the lawyer. Now where do you find the common men in this scheme? It’s very unfortunate that for all practical purposes there is no place for common men in the existing system.

However, over the years the system has become so complex that the common men has lost his faith. To do away with the problem we need to have a comprehensive look at the whole legal system. Much has been already said on Judicial Reforms, it’s high time that this country witnesses some of the reform process. Speed, cost and fairness are the principal elements of any judicial system, and these must be restored. Everyone must realize that a healthy system of judiciary is necessary to maintain social order. We must develop separate institutions to deal with commercial disputes, land cases, family cases and other regulatory offences, which are not the replica of the normal system of judiciary. On the whole the civil society must wake up to diminishing standards of Judiciary because law is nothing unless close behind it stands a warm living public opinion.

In the end, even after witnessing the whole scenario my hope whispers that

“Some day it may happen that a victim must be found, 
I’ve got a little list–I’ve got a little list.
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed- 
who never would be missed!” 

Article by-

Prachi Bhardwaj

5th Year Student, pursuing BA.LLB from MITS, Sikar, Rajasthan


[2] http://www.boloji.com/analysis2/0111.htm

[3] 2nd January, 2011; The Hindu

Article by

Prachi is a final year student pursuing BA.LLB from Mody Institution of Technology and Sciences, Rajasthan. Her interests include reading and legal writing. She thoroughly enjoys dancing and singing and is an active participant in dramatics.

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