Sunday, June 1, 2008

Universalising justice

Justice delivery in our country is not just slow but elitist too

Recently a report got published which talked about the status of jails in Delhi. Though there isn’t anything surprising about the report as the state of Jails in our country had been in an appalling state since years. It has been reported that most of our jails are currently packed twice their capacities. And Delhi is no different. But that’s just one concern, the bigger concern is with respect to the fact that more than 80% housed in our Indian Jails are under-trials, who are yet not convicted of any crime. And the bigger crisis is the very fact that of these 80% more than 60% are people who are below 30 years of age. The same holds true for women as well. Researches also state that of these 80% under-trials almost 2% of them have served more than 2 years in jail, even when their crime has not been proven.

The state of affairs clearly indicates that just like other social deliverables, even justice delivery in our country has become elitist!! For researches state that most of the under-trials languish in jails mostly on account of high amount of bail and their inability to hire lawyers on account of their socio-economic status. As a result even for small petty crimes, a majority of them end up spending years in the jail. It is shocking that in majority of the cases under-trials have been serving a term which is even more had they been sentenced.

No doubt the judicial delays have obviously being the most potent reason for the state of under trials, but more than that it has been a feeling of all round indifference towards them which has created such a havoc. Starting from the civil societies and the governments at large, knowingly or unknowingly, all consider them as convicts and criminals of society. As they also don’t represent any vote bank, so even elected governments also seemed to be quite reluctant to do anything for them. Moreover, with such high degree of criminalisation in our political system today, no-one wants to intervene into this elitist, slow moving judicial system that has been created for their own convenience.

But then in this environment of justice of convenience, it is the unfortunate under-trials and the civil society, who are paying a heavy price by no fault of theirs. As there isn’t any doubt that this over-stretched tenure with or without conviction creates havoc in the minds and personalities of these under-trials. Anguish, agony coupled with the company of already present seasoned criminals in jails, tends to even criminalise their minds too.

So in the process the one who is freed becomes a bigger criminal than the same when detained, further crimilnalising the society at large. Also in effect, a process which is ideally meant to reduce criminalisation in society is instead ending up in breeding more criminals. In the given scenario, why our courts can’t set free the under-trials who have been booked under some petty crime, once they have served a minimum tenure in jail. This way at least we can deliver the much needed justice to a section of people, and move a step forward towards universalising it!


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