By Mehmood Pracha
All of us have resolutions for the New Year. As a person having been elected to govern the third-largest state in the country, presuming your mind would be overcrowded with numerous issues to wish and have resolutions for, as a conscious citizen, I wish to make suggestions to help you choose your New Year resolutions.
Having some experience in working in the field of dispensation of criminal justice in our society, I feel that there is an urgent need to address the functioning of our investigation agencies, especially the police. Arguably a common citizen’s daily life is dependent the most on the police’s role in her or his circle of existence. The police’s negligence in investigating crimes and protecting commoners, on one hand, and its excesses on innocents during maintenance of law and order and investigations, on the other hand, is only getting worse by the day. Due to multiple factors, including overburdened courts, erosion of the institution of public prosecution, which of late is only acting as a mouthpiece of the police, and lack of availability of trained trial lawyers for the poor, even the judicial system in the country is now on the verge of being rendered ineffective in protection of basic human rights of a free and fair investigation of crimes and trials.
It would not be an exaggeration to brand this as the single-most potent reason to erode the faith of common citizens in our democratic set-up of governance.
Undoubtedly, the weaker sections of the society, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities and poor citizens, bear the brunt of police excesses and unfair criminal trials more than the others. Police treatment of these weaker sections most definitely fails us on the test stone of the saying, ‘True measure of a democracy is the way it treats its minorities’. Treatment of weaker sections of society being the real test of the strength of finding a solution can baffle any prudent mind and, I guess, this would be one of your wishes and New Year resolutions.
Although the situation is grim and the challenges seem to be insurmountable, even the most complex of problems can have a simple solution if the root cause is addressed. The root cause of this problem is that the police, prosecutors and trial courts are not performing their roles as per the procedures laid down in the Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Evidence Act, Police Manuals and the High Court Rules. These mandatory provisions are necessary Constitutional safeguards which have been put in place to ensure free and fair trials and justice for everyone regardless of his position and stature in society and also to protect citizens from any excesses of the state machinery, especially its law-enforcing agencies. The other disastrous fallout of non-adherence to these mandatory procedures is seen in the form of acquittals in more than 90 per cent of criminal trials as even the guilty get the benefit of these procedural lapses.
It can be safely said that adherence to the above procedures would give our society twin benefits of saving the innocents from illegal incarceration and, at the same time, ensuring that the guilty do not escape the punishment they deserve as per law. This would not only uphold the most sacrosanct democratic principle of ‘rule of law’ but would also be in direct consonance with the motto of Maharashtra Police, “Protecting the Righteous and Controlling & Annihilating the Evil”. This is my suggestion to you for your New Year wish.