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Editorial : CRIMES COMMITTED BY LAW COURTS IN INDIA
– An appeal to honourable supreme court of india
Indian prisons are meant to be reforming schools for the prisoners. By the corrupt practices of the officials , the prisons have become factories turning out hardened criminals.
Say , a person was caught by police on suspicion of pick-pocketing. The police produce the accussed before the magistrate , in turn he remands him for judicial custody. Let us consider , The punishment for this offence pick-pocketing as per law is 6 months imprisonment. However the case drags on for 3 years , finally the court finds him guilty of offence & orders for 6 months imprisonment. Totally, the offender serves 42 months imprisonment sentence in practice. In some cases , the courts consider the time already spent by the accussed behind the bars while giving judgement. In this example , even if the offender is let free taking 6 months imprisonment sentence, the offender has been given excess sentence of 36-6=30 months.
Taking the same example further, say the court finds the accused as innocent, not guilty of crime & lets him free. However , the poor chap has suffered 36 months imprisonment for no fault of his.
As per law, no body not even the courts of law are legally empowered to punish anybody beyond the legal procedures , rules established. In this way, due to delay in our legal system , faulty bail procedures , thousands of under-trials are suffering in various prisons throught India. Arew not the courts which remanded those accused to judicial custody responsible for this illegal act of excessive punishment ? what punishment should be given to those judges ?
The bail procedure in India , is also faulty without considering quantum of offence & financial status of the accused. A person accused of stealing rs.100 has to provide bail surety bond of rs.5000 or personal surety by a wealthy person / government servant. The poor person having personal contacts , friendship with rich persons / government servants is quite remote , so he can’nt secure bail on personal bond. The poor chaps family is not rich enough to spend rs.5000 surety amount. As a result, unable to secure bail the poor chap suffers in jail for years.
Say, a rich industrialist is accused of rs.20 crores tax evasion, he is let free on a personal bond of rs.1 lakh. Stamp paper scam kingpin karim lala telgi has swindled government to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees, only few cases are registered against him. That too in one out of those cases involving rs.45 lakh worth stamp sale , judge has given him rigorous imprisonment plus a fine of rs.50000.
Considering the above examples it is quite clear the bail amount, fine amount are peanuts for the rich just a fraction of quantum of their crime , while for the poor it is huge many times more than the quantum of their crime.. it is biased towards rich & mighty criminals. As a result poor always suffers in jail, while rich are out on bail.
Even within prisons , the number of prisoners per sq.ft area , no of doctors , hospital beds , medicines available, weight of food per day given to prisoners , are all less & much below the statuotary limits. The food , health care , living conditions of prisoners , under-trials are worse than pigs. The prison authorities are utterly corrupt, which has been brought into light again & again by the media. If a poor prisoner questions the illegal acts of the officials , he is subjected to 3rd degree torture , roughed up by rowdy prisoners on the instigation of the officials themselves. Many poor prisoners are suffering from health problems , many are dying due to lack of proper health care & food in the prisons.
Whereas , the rich & mighty prisoners , by payting bribe get non-veg , alchoholic drinks from outside restaurants daily. They even secure drugs . they get spacious VIP rooms , television , mobile phones. They easily get parole & easily gets admitted in outside hospitals & roam free , while on record they are in-patients in hospitals.
The law of limitation which stipulates time limits for filing various cases is also biased towards the government as a party & rich , mighty. For the purposes of evidences , filing of cases one needs various government records. The concerned officials don’t provide those records for years unless bribed & sit over the files for years. Some times by making absurd , illogical file notings , rejects it back. There is no time limit for the performance of duties by public servants. When a commoner donï؟½t get relevant records , files , evidences in time , how can he file cases in time without those records , evidences ?
Nowadays , numerous cases of irregularities , charges of corruption against judges are coming to light. However , in such cases judges are asked to resign from service but no criminal prosecution against them is instituted , only in cases involving lower court judges it is done. When a case of irregularity by a judge in a specific present case comes , there are every possibility that in the past also he has committed the same in cases handled by him which has not come to light. In such instances , all the cases handled by that particular judge throught his career must be reviewed , but is not done why ? does not it amount to cover-ups ?
In many cases the higher courts have turned down the verdicts of the lower courts , let free the innocents , absolved innocents of charges & annulled death sentences when appeals came before them. However , in all such cases , the lower court judges must be punished for giving out wrong judgements, meating out injustice to innocents. Here a fact must be noted , only a fraction of cases goes in appeal to higher courts, as in majority of cases the poor people lack the financial might to make the appeal. The so-called free legal services authority pre-judges the cases before giving legal aid. As a result , many innocents poor people resign to their fates suffer injustice in courts of law , undergo imprisonment punishment , some times even death sentence. So , the urgent need of the hour is to incorporate jury system or some outside monitoring system to review cases as & when decided.
In many cases involving the rich & mighty like telgi , case proceedings are conducted in-camera in judge’s chambers or proceedings are conducted through video conferencing . outside from public gaze. The tapes are not made public and the public cann’t even ascertain the validity of tapes , whether it is edited , doctored .
One of the basic reasons for delayed justice & worse prison conditions in India , is low number of judges , police personnel , higher rate of case adjournments and finally low amount of financial grants made by the government to judicial department / police department. The government states that it doesn’t have enough money to provide for judiciary & police. As a result, fundamental / human rights of innocent commoners are thwarted. The state governments & GOI , is one of either parties in 75% of cases before various courts in India, it is the biggest litigant & is influencing the judiciary by controlling the grants , recruitment to judiciary & by enticing some with post-retirement postings.
The government has got money to spend on lavish parties of VVIPs , IAS officers serving non-veg foods , alchoholic drinks . their foreign jaunts , 5-star bungalows , limousines , interior decorations of their bungalows, etc. which is of higher priority , importance , whether the luxury of VVIPs or the fundamental / human rights of commoners ? the courts should answer. The courts have the legal powers to order governments to provide enough financial grants to it , however it is keeping mum , turning blinds eye to crimes of VVIPï؟½s. the government rewards such judges with salary hikes , promotions , luxury cars , bungalows , perks and post-retirement postings , sites at judicial lay-out , yelahanka , Bangalore , etc.
We at HRW has utmost respect for the judiciary , but hereby humbly bringing the crimes of judiciary before the honest few judges seeking justice to the common folk. JAI HIND. VANDE MATARAM.
Reproduced from The Times Of India August 16, 2007 page10
We do frame people, says NCB official
Sub-Inspector Tell HC How They Plant Drugs On Innocents
Abhinav Garg / TNN
New Delhi:It’s been suspected by many, but confirmation of the police falsely implicating people by planting drugs on them has now come from the policeman himself who has been accused of planting drugs on two innocent people.
Sub-Inspector Ranbir Singh of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) admitted at the Delhi High Court that testing kits for checking banned drugs wereoften defective. What’s more officers often replaced the recovered substance with lethal drugs in order to implicate them. A shocked court has summoned the NCB director to explain the charge.
Ranbir is himself tainted of this grave abuse of authority. There is an FIR against him for falsely implicating rwo persons under the harsh Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances act. He claimed to have recovered 100gm heroin from them which later turned out to be harmless paracetomal powder.
The officer is now seeking to get the FIR quashed and in his defence has claimed that he was not the only one who framed people, several other officers did the same.
The Judge has also summoned the Kamala Market Narcotics Cell in-charge from whose area Singh allegedly picked up the two persons.
The Director and the Cell in-charge will have to explain before the court as to how these two innocents were booked and thrown into jail when two forensic reports clearly stated that the substance in question was paracetomol.
The case in which Singh is involved took place in March last year. Gyanender and Santosh were arrested by him for alleged possesion of heroin. The substance was sent for testing to two CFCL labs-one in Rohini and the other in Chandigarh- and both labs reported back that the powder was’nt heroin but just parecetomal.
After this came to light, the additional sessions judge hearing the case acquited the two men and recommended that an FIR be lodged against Singh as the two undertrials had to languish in jail because of the wanton abuse of authority.
The high court, while hearing a petition filed by Singh seeking quashing of FIR against him found it intriguing that even when the investigating team is equipped with “field testing kit” to test the contraband, they had mistaken paracetomal powder for heroin. Upon which Singh revealed that kits were often defective and that officers also changed the actual recovered substance with banned contraband.
INDIA: Indian judiciary’s contempt for accountability and scrutiny is a shame
The Delhi High Court on September 21, 2007 sentenced the editor, the resident editor, the publisher and the cartoonist of English daily Mid-Day guilty in a contempt of court case. The charge against the convicted journalists was that they published a report and a cartoon concerning the former Chief Justice of India, Mr. Y.K. Sabharwal. The report and the cartoon were published after Mr. Sabharwal retired from service.
The report, relying upon documentary evidence, alleged that the judge’s two sons Mr. Chetan and Mr. Nitin had made material benefits out of their father’s position in the Indian judiciary as a senior judge and also as the Chief Justice of the country. The report alleged that the judge’s sons managed their business from their father’s official residence at 6 Moti Lal Nehru Marg, New Delhi. The report further alleged that the Chetan and Nitin also availed huge loans from a nationalised bank in favour of their business concerns without providing adequate collateral security. There were also allegations that the judge’s two sons were allotted prime land by the Uttar Pradesh state government with heavy price concessions, an act which was under investigation. The investigation was however stayed later by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of India is known for using the constitutional mandate and authority to initiate actions of public interest. The court in the past has even taken note of newspaper reports to initiate suo motu actions against suspected breach of law and misuse of office by public servants. This earnestness and enthusiasm has not been thus far reflected in the Indian courts’ approach against scrutinising the activities of the courts and its judges. On the contrary, the Indian courts have been very parochial in its approach in facing criticism.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of India had forced Mr. Vijay Shekhar, a journalist with a television news channel, who exposed the caucus of a corrupt magistrate, his court staff and some lawyers in Gujarat state in the “Warrants for Cash” scam to apologise to the court or to face a term in jail for contempt of court. The court staff and the lawyers were caught on camera negotiating and accepting bribe for the magistrate for issuing arrest warrants. In the episode which was telecast nationwide, the magistrate after accepting bribes, issued arrest warrants on false charges against the President of India and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court took up the matter and directed the Gujarat High Court to initiate an internal enquiry against the concerned judicial officer and his staff. The judge was however absolved by the Gujarat High Court without examining the complainants. Thereafter, the Supreme Court of India condemned the journalist who had carried out this operation and threatened to send him to jail for contempt unless he apologised.
The conviction and sentencing of journalists of Mid-Day for publishing information about the conduct of Mr. Sabharwal has brought to the fore the issue of judicial accountability. The Indian judiciary is one of the most powerful judiciaries of the world. The conduct of the judiciary has a direct impact upon the life of the ordinary people of the country. It is imperative in these circumstances that a state institution of such high powers must be transparent and accountable for its actions. The courts in India have however consistently avoided calls for accountability despite there being many instances of serious allegations of misconduct and misdemeanour. At one time Justice S. P. Bharucha, former Chief Justice of India, admitted that about 20 percent of the higher judiciary in India is corrupt. According to Justice Michael Saldahna of the Karnataka High Court it is 33 per cent. Despite there being such admissions, no enquiry has ever been initiated against any judge for past 15 years.
Under the Constitution of India, the only way to remove a judge from the High Court or the Supreme Court is by way of impeachment. This constitutional provision has failed miserably. Its ineffectiveness was clearly demonstrated in the case of Justice V. Ramaswami. At the same time, despite verbal homilies, the courts and judges have been the most reluctant to evolve even a self-monitoring mechanism for accountability. Such a situation has caused enormous arrogance and abuse of power.
This is reflected in the procedure adopted for appointment of judges in the higher judiciary as well. Even though the appointment is made by the President of India, the selection is made by the collegium of judges. The selection process is non-transparent and all attempts to make the process transparent have been resisted by the judiciary thus far.
Demanding judicial accountability has almost certainly caused initiation of contempt proceedings, thereby, stifling of free discussion on the issues plaguing the judiciary in India. Unwarranted use of contempt of court proceedings in fact diminishes the public perception about the judiciary’s openness and transparency, of which the case against the Mid-Day publishing house is the latest.
There are judicial systems within Asia which are considered to be failed beyond the point of recovery. Of this, the most glaring example is the judiciary in Sri Lanka, which is now facing criticism on all counts including politicisation of the judiciary to meet the ends of a corrupt Chief Justice. The Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, an infamous figure in the country, is feared for abusing contempt of court proceedings against anyone who opposes his questionable actions.
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has now stooped down to a stage where public perception about the impartiality of the court and its competency to decide matters on merits is at an all time low. As a result the general public views the courts in Sri Lanka as a failed state apparatus which in fact adds to the decades long ethnic conflict in that country.
The term democracy implies the notion that the people are supreme. All state institutions, whether it be the judiciary, legislature or the executive are merely the servants of the people. The basic principle behind the contempt of court proceedings is that the use of this authority by the court must be only in circumstances where otherwise the functioning of the court is impossible or obstructed.
In India under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the term ‘contempt’ is not defined. Therefore if any person makes adverse comments against the court or a judge, the power to punish for “scandalising the court…” is frequently invoked. This approach is considered obscure in most established jurisdictions.
The contempt of court action must not be an attempt to protect the dignity of the court, but to promote the administration of justice. The dignity of the court is promoted by the court being humble enough to face criticism, whereas promotion of justice is to be carried out by removing all hindrances in the delivery of justice. By the unrestrained use of contempt of court actions the courts in India are in fact derogating from their duty to safeguard the Constitution of the country, which also guarantees freedom of speech and expression in Article 19 (1).
The honour of the judge and the judiciary – a state institution through which a judge is supposed to serve the people – is promoted and protected by the openness of the judge and the judiciary to face any criticism. Intolerance to scrutiny and lack of openness equates the judge and the judiciary with a dictator.
At this pace the Indian judiciary once known for its eloquence and its contribution to the advancement of free thought and expression will soon be reduced to an egotistical institution. Such a judiciary is definitely not what modern India aspires for. India as of today requires a transparent, accountable and sensitive judiciary.
The imperatives for the judiciary in India are obvious. It has a duty to protect, promote and fulfil the Constitutional guarantees. The judiciary must be open and transparent with a clear conscience that it is not beyond criticism. For this, it must be accountable to the people, which it is bound to serve. The judiciary in India is the last hope of a fragmented society, which when fails to respect its responsibilities, will soon bring insurmountable peril to the country and its people.
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