Urgent need for jail, police reforms

Urgent need for jail, police reforms

Case of TADA accused a mirror of justice system

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo

The Supreme Court’s demand for a report on why charges were not framed against a TADA case accused for 10 years has framed a problem that has always haunted the country’s justice system. The court has sought the report from Ajmer’s TADA court on why a person from Lucknow, Hamiduddin, who was arrested in a case linked to serial blasts on the first anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1993, is still in jail without charges being framed. The man was arrested in 2010, but the case has not moved forward from that point. He has moved the court contending that speedy trial is part of the right to life and liberty guaranteed by the Constitution and it could not be denied to a citizen. The court has taken the matter seriously.

The case of the Lucknow man is not an isolated one. Tens of thousands of people are incarcerated in jails without charges and without a chance to get bail. A tribal person from Assam, Machal Lalung, spent 54 years in jail without facing trial and was released in 2005 after his case was taken up by human rights groups. The tragic case of Stan Swamy received national attention recently. The Supreme Court said, in the Arnab Goswami case that no citizen should be deprived of freedom without due process even for a single day. But the reality on the ground is very different. There are several factors that cause delays. Investigations are not undertaken in time because the police forces are under-staffed, under-trained and under-equipped. Many cases do not reach the trial stage and even when they do, the trials go on for years because of judicial delays. The result is that large numbers of people waste their lives in jail. No one compensates people for their lost lives when they are acquitted of charges after spending years in jail. With 70% of jail inmates being undertrials, the massive scale of injustice can only be imagined.

A suggestion was made to the Supreme Court recently that bail pleas of life convicts who have undergone 10 years’ jail term may be considered sympathetically. But imprisonment without charges and bail for an indefinite period are the worst punishment for any citizen, and most people who are thus punished are from the bottom rungs of society. Deep and extensive judicial and police reforms are needed to ensure that justice is not denied to people and to make justice humane, kind and caring. Jails, as they function now, and justice often do not go together, and the Supreme Court must ensure that those like Hamiduddin get a right to speedy and fair trial.

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