- Ask any concerned individuals, experts, opinionators, civil society activists, human rights crusaders, upright officials, and other common citizens, none of them will oppose but extend wholehearted support for the subject matter. Such has been the demand and expectations from the Indian people’s point of view that we can expect no less than a passionate conversation on the matter. It only goes to imply unambiguously the necessity to have in place the long-delayed judicial and police reforms for the ultimate betterment of the law and order situation in the country.
PC: Saddam Hussein
- Nobody refutes the crying need for these reforms which should be enough to ensure the last man standing feels secure and believes injustice will not be meted out. Unfortunately, the ground reality is anything but ideal, to say the least. Despite the Supreme Court taking on the onus to castigate the government authorities to usher in reformist measures concerning police, the reluctance of the political class is quite evident where there is a sure lack of intent to push ahead. The common man has become cynical about the judicial process too for the eternal wait seeking justice is cumbersome and long-winding.
- Millions of undertrials languishing in jails is a sad story in itself. Yes the less said the better about the burgeoning cases awaiting to be heard at various levels of the judiciary starkly mirroring the challenges facing the nation on this front. The National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) latest Crime in India report for 2021 is another iteration of the dismal story of justice delivery. Note that a rise in serious crimes hasn’t been accompanied by proportionate systemic upgrades. From 2020 to 2021, kidnapping and abduction cases increased by 20% and crimes against women, children, and senior citizens increased by 15%, 16%, and 5%, respectively.
- True, statistics cannot tell us if we are living in more unsafe times or whether crime recording has improved, or, perhaps most likely, a combination of the two. Sadly, statistics clearly show the need for more and better-trained police and judges. Mind you, nearly 20% of sanctioned policing posts are vacant according to the Bureau of Police Research and Development. Yes, the pendency burden for cops is much less than that for courts. Unfortunately, by yardsticks like conviction rates in murder, sexual offenses, rioting, and kidnapping, the police come off very poorly. Look at the statistics. The conviction rate is just 28% in rape and 42% in murder cases.
- As mentioned above, the real scandal is the slow legal process. Of 1.85 lakh rape cases pending trial in 2021, courts could dispose of just 12,000 cases against 26,000 sent for trial during the year. Matters are not helped by silly or questionable laws leading to thousands of cases like Covid related, prohibition, and possessing small amounts of marijuana perennially clogging the system. Prosecuting and investigating all these small offenses, all of them owe their existence to laws that should be reformed, further clogs up the criminal justice system perilously. Needless to mention, politicians need to recognize this and undertake a serious review of criminal codes, just as many other democracies have. Will our netas budge? Your guess is as good as mine.