Onus is on judiciary; it should use technology


Kiran Bedi, the country’s first woman IPS officer who is now an activist, is credited with reforms in Asia’s biggest prison Tihar Prisons located in New Delhi. Bedi, its former former director-general, says victims are looking for early justice while accused are looking for easy closure. She believes use of technology will help in speedy trials. She spoke to Shemin Joy of Deccan Herald. Excerpts:

The problems faced by undertrials have come to limelight once again with the Supreme Court taking up the issue. Over the years, it seems, authorities have not done enough to deal with the issue.
One has to remember that the authorities include courts. The undertrials are in judicial custody. The custodian of prisoners is the judiciary itself. The question is why judiciary should not use technology to find a solution. If they have a proper technology, any district sessions judge would know who is in the prison for a longer period. To my mind, the onus is much more on the judiciary. They can issue an order to the executive and say that this has to be implemented in the next one year. All they have to do is to ask for resources from the executive.

There are many court rulings, amendments to law to ensure better treatment for undertrials. However, many are not followed properly.  
Again, the onus is on courts. If the courts issued directions, shouldn't they monitor its implementation? If somebody is lacking in this, then it can take action. Why did not they do it? One should respect judgments. The lower courts, high courts and Supreme Court each one of them can play a role.

Over 2,000 undertrial prisoners are in jail for over five years. What should be the course of action to deal with the situation?
The course of action is entirely up to the courts. Will the executive release them? Will police release them? No. It is the courts, which have to release them. Trial is in the hands of the courts. Certain trials are delayed due to the delay on the part of the executive, and then courts can take the executive to the task.

Our jails are bursting at the seams. The
occupancy rate is 112 per cent as per latest records and undertrials are 66 per cent of
the total inmates.
Every district sessions judge, every court has to be conscious of delays. Some courts are very
expeditious, some are very slow. I think the judiciary should be dynamic. They have solutions. They can ensure resources at their disposal.
Otherwise, they can issue directions. Courts should be sensitive about speedy trials. Have you ever audited which are the fast and slow courts? Who is fast? Who is slow? Some take years in writing judgments. Why is it so?

Is not the overcrowding in jails violation of rights?
Of course. Delayed trial is justice denied. Let us remember, we are not just talking about the rights of the accused, we are also talking about the rights of the victims. Delayed trial is violation of rights of both the accused and victims. Victim is looking for faster justice and quicker punishment. Accused is also looking for faster closure.
Amendments in law allow release of undertrials on a personal bond after they complete half of the maximum possible prison term for the offence they allegedly committed.
The point is that we cannot forget the rights of victims. Crime is a crime. What is needed is expeditious trial. It is not they should be freed because the system is a failure. That is not correct. That would reduce the bite of punishment.

Do you think the responses of jail authorities in dealing with undertrial prisoners are
We were informing courts that the trial is delayed. How much we can do? Technology can be used. You can have courts inside the jails using technology.
You can do video conferencing. If it is only a matter of appearance, why bring the prisoner all the way to the court for just another date. You can differentiate the cases for appearance and use technology.

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