GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 07 October 2020 The disintegration of the criminal justice system(The Hindu)

The disintegration of the criminal justice system (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level: Criminal justice system
Mains level: Issues and challenges to Criminal Justice System in India


  • A well-established textbook on the principles of criminal law in the United Kingdom painstakingly establishes various theoretical bases for justifying what should be a crime — that it should involve some harm, must carry a certain degree of seriousness, and so on. 
  • But then, revealingly, it undoes this edifice in a single section by telling us that at the end of the day, criminal law and crimes are whatever the state says it is. 
  • In India, this political nexus is arguably more pronounced: A majority government makes the laws and controls the investigative machinery, which means that not only does it define what a crime is but it can also selectively pursue only those crimes which it cares about and forget about the rest.

In disarray across India:

  • Pursue those crimes to what end, you ask. Ultimately, the idea of “crime” is hollow without the accompanying punishment. The loss of liberty upon imprisonment we are all taught to dread. 
  • However, it is often forgotten that this punishment can only arise upon a judgment of conviction at the end of a trial. 
  • There is, then, a synergy between the crime, its pursuit by an investigation, and the calling to account of those found guilty, which is colloquially referred to as a criminal justice system. And wherever one looks across India, it is in a shambles.

Govt.-judiciary disconnect:

  • The growing disconnect between the government and judiciary in matters of criminal justice; 
  • The bolstering of executive power as a result of this growing disconnect, and third, the unsurprising imitation of executive-mindedness by the judiciary. 

Crime in India data:

  • The Crime in India data for 2019 confirm a trend that has been on display for decades now: our police are seemingly super-efficient, but our courts are super-slow. Let us continue with Uttar Pradesh as an example. 
  • Its police have a pendency rate for cases at just above 15%, but the courts have pendency rates just above 90% (for IPC crimes). 
  • This exacerbates the natural time-gap between the incident and any potential punishment, and reduces the importance of courts in the criminal justice system. 
  • Among other things, this disconnect also reduces whatever value condemnation through trial might have had, as people move on and so does life in almost all cases.
  • Just how severely this tendency is magnified in an era defined by the 24-hour news cycle is anyone’s guess.

How does a system fill this gap between incident and eventual judgment? 

  • By slowly legitimising the idea of punishments without condemnation or any kind of being called into account. All that matters, is solving the problem, and moving on.
  • This system where judges lose sway is where the executive gains more power. It is the arrest, and not a conviction, which becomes the seminal moment in the criminal process. 
  • Victims do not even think as far as proving anything in court, at times, and all that matters is arrest and an indefinite incarceration, or even an encounter if the allegation is heinous enough. 
  • At the same time, the executive tries to legally bolster powers of pre-trial arrest and custody, while also arrogating to itself more powers to punish without condemnation — asset forfeiture being a key power.

Presumption of innocence:

  • The transformation stands complete, when judges try to regain some of their lost footing by trying to imitate the now popular branch. 
  • Courts become happy to look at facts, in detail, at the stage of bail itself. What is more, courts also become willing to help arrive at settlements through this stage by using incarceration as a bargaining tool to force errant accused persons to make reparations. 
  • In doing so, courts actively replace facts established through cross-examination of a witness with her untested allegations that the police decided to pursue, because even courts no longer have the time for the process either. The presumption of innocence be damned, so long as the problem is solved and a victim can go home satisfied.

Way forward:

  • Amidst this pandemic and the spiralling chaos that it has brought, there has been a comforting background score that has steadily played on. 
  • This is the systematic disintegration of any criminal justice system worth its name across India, and its gradual replacement with a problem-solving system where initial accusations and their handling by the executive branch becomes most critical and values such as the presumption of innocence and establishing truth through trials have long ceased to exist. 
  • That certain States are at the vanguard of this progression could, perhaps, cynically be seen as yet another symptom of their development which makes many others envious.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1)Consider the following statements with respect to "Ayush Grid project":
1. The Ayush Grid project was initiated by the Ayush Ministry in 2018 for creating a comprehensive IT backbone for the entire sector.
2. Under the Ayush Grid, a customised IT course for Ayush Professionals was developed in collaboration with C-DAC, Pune
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Criminal Justice System in India (CJSI) has been in a state of peril. Identify the major issues and suggest policy measures to reform the CJSI.