INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND INDIGENEITY - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

Legally Speaking

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND INDIGENEITY

J. Sai Deepak

Published

on

In the last piece where I started a conversation on a civilizational approach to “blasphemy” in the context of Section 295A of the IPC, I had ended the piece with the following questions:

“How does one determine the indigeneity of thought? Does this translate to recognition of the concept of terroir of a certain thought i.e. the territory in which a certain position holds sway owing to the nexus between civilization and territory of its origin? Such a question is often erroneously conflated and confused with nexus between ethnicity and territory which, I dare say, is a colonial, superficial and hence skin-deep approach, pun intended. The questions that must engage us are- how is the nexus between a thought and territory established? Is it through conquest or conversion or does it need to be more organic? Or do all three modes have a role to play in carving out a territory or a sphere of influence for a certain worldview?”

Before addressing the scholarly literature on these questions, I think it is important to understand the current legal lay of the land on “indigenous peoples” and “indigeneity”. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations concerns itself with issues relating to Indigenous Peoples and a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was established by it in 2000. In September 2007, the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly, which appears to be the most current international instrument that captures some form of a global consensus on who constitute indigenous peoples and what their rights are. The Declaration has been adopted by 148 countries with 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine). According to the official website of the UN:

“Today the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”

The premises embedded in these claims and the nature of the claims themselves warrant examination. However, let us first get a sense of what the document contains and does not contain before dissecting it for its assumptions. In any case, the assumptions can be understood fully only with reference to its drafting history i.e. its travaux préparatoires. While the Declaration enumerates the rights of “indigenous peoples” in 46 Articles, the term itself has not been defined. Even the International Labour Organization (ILO) which has a longer history of working on the rights of “indigenous peoples” does not have a definition for the term.

The term has been broadly understood by scholars as referring “to the living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others”. While on the face of it this definition is broad and could throw up more questions than it addresses, by and large, such non-legal definitions have evolved based on the consensus that the status of being indigenous has a specific temporal and locational reference to it i.e. those peoples who inhabited a certain geography (which is different from the use of “territory”) prior to the advent of the European colonizer, especially the European settler colonizer, which is between the 15th and 18th centuries. Clearly, indigenous peoples as a term has an oppositional origin which is based on the colonizer’s point of entry into their societies.

Does this mean that the identity of indigenous peoples is necessarily tied to the European colonizer, even if in oppositional terms? Do they not have an independent identity and consciousness of their own, both not being the same? It may help to understand that the need for identification of indigenous peoples has arisen from the factum of colonization and decolonization which devastated their ways of life, perhaps irreparably and irreversibly, given the forced insertion of the coloniality/modernity/rationality complex by the European colonizer in every colonized society. Therefore, the identification of the self in this case is necessitated by the domination of the self by the other to whom othering was central to his worldview. This means othering is inevitable and inescapable if one squares up to history notwithstanding our current-day self-styled professions of universalism, globalism and cosmopolitanism, all of which rest on colonial foundations and universalization of a specific provincial thought, namely European/Western thought.

Having said the above, was the process of othering or the establishing of an othered relationship limited to the transaction between the colonizer and the colonized? Or was the transaction with reference to a third entity? At least from the perspective of the European colonizer, the transaction with indigenous peoples which took the shape of colonization was only incidental to his true objective- acquisition of territory for his worldview and subjugation through conversion or elimination of those who stood in the way. The colonizer had no use for indigenous peoples because they were impediments to his Divine right to establish his dominion over nature/land/territory. The only Divine purpose fulfilled by the colonized indigenous peoples was to present the Christian European colonizer with an opportunity to fulfil his Christian obligation, namely to pierce and save the soul of the savage heathen with the Word of God. Given the tendency to reduce such issues to politics of land and access to resources, which is only one half of the story and is the colonizer’s half, the identity of indigenous peoples and their indigeneity must be understood firstly through the prism of their ontology towards nature/land, and contrasted with the colonizer’s approach to land. I will discuss this in the next piece.

J. Sai Deepak is an Advocate practising as an arguing counsel before the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Delhi.

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.

Legally Speaking

Can government impose restriction on movement?

An analysis of restrictions being put on movement in the light of Covid-19 pandemic.

Published

on

INTRODUCTION

At the end of December 2019, the first case of the Coronavirus was reported from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China. Subsequently, the virus spreads around the globe. Later on, at the end of January 2020, the first case of the Coronavirus was reported from Kerala. Before this first case, Indians including the citizens and the government were indulged in their work and no one was worried about the same. However, the situation gets in its worst form in just two months. Whereby, the cases increased from one to thousands and the government have no option other than to put the whole nation under the Janta curfew. On the 22nd of March 2020, the Janta curfew was announced and from here the entire citizens were directed to remain in their homes. Furthermore, on the evening of 24th of March, 2020, as per the need of the situation, the ruling government announced the lockdown for twenty-one days whereby it restricted the movement of 1.38 Billion citizens of India. Furthermore, during this time every Everything including Shops and all other services like Flights, Buses, Trains, and all other public transport were on the stand. However, very limited things which include the essential daily goods were permitted which was also subjected to a huge restriction. Moreover, as of the 29th of May 2021, it has affected more than 100 million people and resulted in more than 3.5 million deaths globally. During this time many slogans like ‘Ghar me rahe, surakshit rahe’ were also promoted to tackle this unnatural and unwanted pandemic. In this article, we will see the constitutionality of the Lockdown. Furthermore, we will also see whether the government is authorized to infringe the ‘right to Movement’. 

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT UNDER ARTICLE 19 OF THE CONSTITUTION

The Supreme law of the land, the constitution of India by virtue of its article 19 gives the right to movement. Article 19 (1) (d) reads as:- Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc (1) All citizens shall have the right (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India. However, this article is not absolute in nature and the government can impose some restrictions on it. However the same is subject to certain conditions. Article 19 (2 ) authorizes such reasonable restrictions, which reads as:- Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. It means that if the restrictions imposed are reasonable and if it fulfills the other conditions it will not be violative of the rights given under article 19 (1) (d). In the current scenario, the lockdown was the need of the hour, and thereby it was reasonable and hence the government action was legitimate.

EPIDEMIC ACT AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT ACT

Epidemic Act is India’s 123- years old law which was formulated pre-independence mainly to control plague in the late 1800s. This act authorizes the central and state government to take special measures to control the epidemic. Section 2 of the act reads as :- Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease.—(1) When at any time the 2 [State Government] is satisfied that 2 [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the 3 [State Government], if 4 [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as 4 [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.

(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the 2 [State Government] may take measures and prescribe regulations for— (b) the inspection of persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease.

Furthermore, Section 2 A of the said act, talks about the power of the central government, which reads as “:-When the Central Government is satisfied that India or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease and that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, 8 [the Central Government may take such measures, as it deems fit and prescribe regulations for the inspection of any bus or train or goods vehicle or ship or vessel or aircraft leaving or arriving at any land port or aerodrome, as the case may be, in the territories to which this Act extends and for such detention thereof, or of any person intending to travel therein, or arriving thereby, as may be necessary.]

Disaster Management act is an act of 2005. It stipulates the establishment of a National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), State Disaster Management Authorities and District Disaster Management Authorities. It was an special act which was passed with the view to tackle with the disaster including the natural as well as man-made. As per the definition provided under Section 2 (e) of the act, a disaster has been defined :- ‘disaster’ as a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area – arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence – which results in substantial loss of life, human suffering, or damage to and destruction of property or the environment; and its nature or magnitude is beyond the coping capacity of the community in the affected area.

Furthermore, the ‘Disaster management’ under section 2 (e) of the act is defined as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures necessary to prevent the danger or threat of a disaster; mitigating or reducing the risk of a disaster or its consequences; capacity-building; preparedness to deal with a disaster; prompt responses to a disaster; assessing the severity or magnitude of a disaster; evacuation, rescue or relief; and rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Moreover, Section 6 and Section 10 of the Act, PM Modi, who is the chairperson of the authority, declared Covid-19 as a national disaster so that the entire country has uniform lockdown regulations, which are easier to implement, especially on which services and functions are allowed and what are not. Like, just before lockdown was imposed to whole India, the state specific lockdowns and a lockdown of 82 districts by the federal government — both under the epidemics law — were inconsistent about the use of private vehicles. Under the Disaster Management Act, states are required to implement the national plans.

CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, 1973

It is one of the Prominent acts of which are currently prevailing in India. The code of criminal procedure is procedural in nature except for some sections which are substantial in nature. Section 144 of the code plays a vital role in order to tackle the issues where the administration has to prohibit the gathering of the people at one place. This act also helps in order to tackle the current ongoing pandemic. Section 144 of the code prohibits the assembly of four or more people in an area. The competent authority prohibits any presence or movement of one or more persons in public places or gathering of any sort anywhere, including religious places subject to certain conditions. All movement of one of more persons in the city is prohibited between 9 pm and 5 am at many places.

CONCLUSION

Whether the Coronavirus is a natural virus or it is a man-made virus was a controversial issue, which was a hot topic of discussion among prominent scientists around the globe. However, this controversy doesn’t matter at all, what matters is that this virus has not only disturbed the life of people but also have taken many lives around the globe. To tackle such a pandemic Indian government has restricted the movement of its citizens. At the beginning of this article, we have seen that the question before us was that, whether such restriction imposed was legitimate or do the government has any power to impose such restrictions.

In the light of the above discussion we have seen that there are certain laws including the Code of Criminal procedure, 1973, and some special acts like the Epidemic disease Act, and Disaster Management Act which authorizes the central and state government to impose some restrictions and take some special measures to tackle such natural or man-made disaster. We can defiantly conclude ourselves that the act of the government was the need of the hour and the action taken by the government was as per the laws which are currently prevailing in the nation. Thereby, the act of the lockdown was legitimate and no rights of the citizens have been violated. The action of the government was in the interest of the citizens as well as it was justified too.

The Epidemic Act is a 123-year-old law which was formulated pre-Independence mainly to control plague in the late 1800s. This act authorises the Central and state government to take special measures to control the epidemic. Section 2 of the Act reads as: Power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease.—(1) When at any time the 2 [State Government] is satisfied that 2 [the State] or any part thereof is visited by, or threatened with, an outbreak of any dangerous epidemic disease, the 3 [State Government], if 4 [it] thinks that the ordinary provisions of the law for the time being in force are insufficient for the purpose, may take, or require or empower any person to take, such measures and, by public notice, prescribe such temporary regulations to be observed by the public or by any person or class of persons as 4 [it] shall deem necessary to prevent the outbreak of such disease or the spread thereof, and may determine in what manner and by whom any expenses incurred (including compensation if any) shall be defrayed.

Continue Reading

Legally Speaking

Role of experts cannot be undermined in shaping the opinion of courts

Published

on

To start with, before I venture to elaborate exhaustively on the role played by experts in shaping the opinion of the Courts, it is imperative first and foremost to understand who really an expert is. In layman’s language, an expert can be inferred as “Someone (a person) who has special knowledge, skill or experience in any particular field like foreign law, science, art, handwriting or finger impression etc by virtue of having acquired it through years of unremitting focus, learning, practice, observation and proper studies which others don’t have and which is what distinguishes them from the rest.” This alone explains why the opinion of experts is so sought after and is valued immensely in shaping the opinion of not only people but also of the Courts and very rightly so!

Quite ostensibly, Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act also discloses who all can be called experts. It says that, “When the court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science or art, or as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions, the opinions upon that point of persons specially skilled in such foreign law, science or art, or in questions as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions are relevant facts. Such persons are called experts.” Section 45 itself proves beyond a straw of doubt that the court in all such cases when it has to pronounce judgment in a case where the opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science or art, or as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions is required, it prefers to take the opinion of those persons who are specially skilled in it by virtue of which they are called experts and such opinion certainly constitute relevant facts. Also, here it must be borne in mind that the opinion of such experts which constitute relevant facts play a major role in shaping the opinion of the court and in arriving at a reasonable and right decision.

Be it noted, as per the Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary, “Expert witness is one who has made the subject upon which he picks a matter of particular studies, practicing or observation and he must have a particular and special knowledge of the subject.” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, an expert is defined as “A person who, through education or experience, has developed skill or knowledge in a particular subject, so that he or she may render their opinion that will assist the fact hindered.” Sukumar Ray in his book ‘Outlines of Indian Evidence Act’ on page 156 writes that, “An expert witness is one who has made the subject upon which he speaks a matter of particular study, practice or observation; and he must have a special knowledge of the subject.” It is also pointed out by Sukumar pertaining to the object of expert opinion that, “The purpose of expert opinion is two fold. Firstly, to obtain opinion as to the matter of skill or science which is in controversy and Secondly, to exclude the opinion as to the effect of the evidence in establishing controverted facts.”

What’s more, Phipson narrates the role and duty of an expert in his own words in his book on ‘Evidence’ in 14th edition on page 829. He writes that, “An expert is not a witness of fact. His evidence is of an advisory character. The duty of an expert witness is to furnish the judge with the necessary scientific criteria for testing the accuracy of the conclusion so as to enable the judge to form his independent judgement by the application of the criteria to the facts proved by the evidence.” No sane person will ever dare to disagree with what Phipson has said. The sole job of an expert is to furnish the judge with the opinion on any matter with the necessary scientific criteria and logical reasoning by virtue of which a judge can after taking into account the opinion so furnished arrive at a rational and independent decision without getting biased in any manner!

It is worth noting here that Lawson defines expert in his book on ‘Expert Testimony’ in 2nd edition on page 229 as: “An expert is a person who has special knowledge and skill in a particular calling to which the inquiry relates.” The basic parameter of deciding the competency of an expert as put by Lord Rusell in US Shipping Board v Ship “St Albans”, 1931 PC 189 is this: “Is he peritus Is he skilled? Has he adequate knowledge?” Let me tell my readers here that ‘peritus virtute official’ means the holder of some official position which requires and, therefore, presumes a knowledge of that law. Cross in his book on ‘Evidence’ on page 322 writes that, “The courts have been accustomed to act on the opinion of experts from early time.” Thus, the value of experts in enabling the court to determine the right conclusion in any given case especially where the case hinges on the expertise opinion cannot be overstated.

There can be no gainsaying that the Apex Court in Bal Krishna Das Agrawal v Radha Devi, AIR 1989 SC 1966 points out that an ‘expert’ was defined as “a person who by his training and experience has acquired the ability to express an opinion” but an ordinary witness does not possess this quality. In Ramesh Chandra Agrawal v Regency Hospital Ltd (2009) 9 SCC 709 , it was held by the Supreme Court that, “The law of evidence is designed to ensure that the court considers only that evidence which will enable it to reach a reliable conclusion. The first and foremost requirement for an expert evidence to be admissible is that it is necessary to hear the expert evidence. The test is that matter is outside the knowledge and experience of the lay person. Thus, there is a need to hear an expert opinion where there is a medical issue to be settled. The scientific question involved is assumed to be not within the court’s knowledge. Thus cases where the science involved, is highly specialised and perhaps even esoteric, the central role of an expert cannot be disputed. The other requirements for the admissibility of expert evidence are :

1. that the expert must be within a recognised field of expertise;

2. that the evidence must be based on reliable principles, and

3. that the expert must be qualified in that discipline.”

It was also held in this very case that, “The opinion of an expert may not have any binding effect on the court. The court does not become functus officio because of an expert opinion. It is not the province of the expert to act as judge or jury.”

Needless to say, it is not always that the expert evidence is imperative. There have been many such instances where the expert evidence has been dispensed with as it was felt that the evidence of an ordinary witness is sufficient. As for instance, in Rajinder Bajaj v Indian Tanning Industries, AIR 2008 Delhi 62 (D.B.), where glaring discrepancies were visible even to the naked eye in the admitted signature and disputed signature, the Delhi High Court said that the reference to a handwriting expert in such a case was not necessary. Also, there are many such cases where the courts have held that absence of an expert report is not fatal to the prosecution case. As for instance, in Vineet Kumar Chauhan v State of UP, AIR 2008 SC 780, the Supreme Court has held that where fire-arms are used in a crime, the absence of the report of a ballistic report is not always fatal to the prosecution case.

Let me clarify here that experts evidence in no manner helps the court in interpretation of the law and is only an opinion evidence and it is entirely within the discretion of the court whether to accept it or not. In fact, in Forest Range Officer v P Mohammed Ali, AIR 1994 SC 120, it was held by the Supreme Court that, “Expert opinion is only opinion evidence and is not helpful to the Court in interpretation of the law.” Let me point out here that in another case – Fakhruddin v State of MP, AIR 1967 SC 1326, it was held by the Apex Court that, “Both under this Section and Section 47 the evidence is of an opinion, in the former by a scientific comparison and in the latter on the basis of familiarity resulting from frequent observations and experience. In either case, the Court must satisfy itself by such means as are open that the opinion may be acted upon.”

Needless to state, it thus becomes ostensibly clear that the courts must not believe unflinchingly in experts evidence and before accepting it must satisfy itself completely about whether it is worth to be acted upon or not. The guiding principle for courts who have to deal with experts opinion have been aptly summed up by Supreme Court in Dayal Singh v State of Uttaranchal, AIR 2012 SC 3046 wherein it held that, “The expert is not only to provide reasons to support his opinion but the result should be directly demonstrable. The court is not to surrender its own judgment to that of the expert or delegate its authority to a third party, but should assess his evidence like any other evidence. The purpose of expert testimony is to provide the court with useful, relevant information. The purpose of an expert opinion is primarily to assist the court in arriving at a final conclusion. Such report is not binding upon the court. The court is expected to analyse the report, read it in conjunction with the other evidence on record and then form its final opinion as to whether such report is worthy of reliance or not.” In Kanchan Singh v State of Gujarat, AIR 1979 SC 1011, it was held that credibility and competence of an expert are material questions. Where the High Court did not believe an expert the Supreme Court did not interfere.

Let me reveal here that the expert evidence which is rendered as opinion of the third person is admissible under Sections 45 to 51 of the Evidence Act. Under these provisions a third person even though he/she is unknown to the facts of a particular case is called upon by the court wherever and whenever it feels imperative to seek such opinion on a particular point on which the expert by virtue of expertise on that point is best suited to give an independent, unbiased and logical opinion by virtue of which the court can also rely on it and give a sound and logical judgment based on it. It is however solely the discretion of the court on whether to accept the opinion rendered by expert or reject it and the opinion rendered by expert is not binding on it.

Let me also reveal here that the expert opinion is a very weak type of evidence and is usually advisory in character. It also cannot be glossed over that the Courts generally refrain from passing an order of conviction solely on the basis of expert evidence because they are not conclusive and may be biased in favour of the party who calls him. As for instance, it was held in Gulzar Ali v State of Himachal Pradesh, (1998) 2 SCC 192 that, “It must be borne in mind that an expert witness , however impartial, he may wish to be, is likely to be unconsciously prejudiced in favour of the side which calls him.” Moreover, let us not be oblivious of the palpable fact that a witness who is remunerated always has an unconscious bias in favour of the party who called him even though he may not be tutored. Also, it cannot be lost on us why Wellman had very candidly remarked that, “Expert witness become so warped in their judgement by regarding the subject in one point of view, that, even when conscientiously disposed, they are incapable of expressing candid opinion.”

It is worth paying attention here that Charles Hollander in his book on “Documentary Evidence” in 8th edition in para 21-23 has quoted the observation of Cresswell in the Ikarian Reefer’s Case (1993) 2 Lloyd’s Rep 68(81) to highlight what all precautions an expert witness should take so that it remains unblemished and appears reliable for courts to fall back upon while pronouncing judgment and these are as follows : –

1. “Expert evidence presented to the Court should be, and should be seen to be, the independent product of the expert uninfluenced as to the form or content by the exigencies of litigation.

2. An expert witness should provide independent assistance to the court by way of objective unbiased opinion in relation to matters within his expertise.

3. An expert witness should state the facts or assumption upon which his opinion is based. He should not omit to consider material facts which could detract from his concluded opinion.

4. An expert witness should make it clear when a particular question or issue falls outside his expertise.

5. If an expert’s opinion is not properly researched because he considered that insufficient data is available, then this must be stated with an indication that the opinion is no more than a provisional one. In cases where an expert witness who has prepared a report could not assert that the report contained the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth without some qualification, that qualification should be stated in the report.

6. If after exchange of reports, an expert witness changes his view on a material matter having read the other side’s expert’s report or for any other reason, such change of view should be communicated (through legal representatives) to the other side without delay and when appropriate to the court.

7. Where expert evidence refers to photographs, plans, calculations, analyses, measurements, survey reports or other similar documents, these must be provided to the opposite party at the same time as the exchange of reports….”

Let me tell for my esteemed readers exclusive benefit that while it is true that in many cases the courts have refrained from convicting a person solely on the basis of expert evidence or opinion but what cannot be denied is that it has also accepted expert opinion many times. As for instance, in Murrarilal v State of MP, AIR 1980 SC 531, it was held by Apex Court that the opinion of finger print expert is of higher value in comparison to the opinion of handwriting expert because science of identification of finger print is so perfect and therefore the rise of an incorrect opinion is practically nonest. In Jaspal Singh v State of Punjab, AIR 1979 SC 1708, it was held by the Supreme Court that the science of identifying thumb impression is an exact science and does not admit of any mistake or doubt. So, the opinion of an expert regarding identification of thumb impression is relevant within the meaning of Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act. Also, in Kanbikarsar Yadab v State of Gujarat, AIR 1966 SC 821, it was held by the Supreme Court that opinion of hair expert is admissible in evidence because by the microscopic examination of the hair it is possible to say whether they are the same or of different colours or sizes and from the examination it may help in deciding where the hairs come from.

We must also bear in mind that there have been many such cases where when there is any inconsistency and the direct evidence is not satisfactory, the evidence has been corroborated by that of expert in a particular field. As for instance, in Gurucharan Singh v State of Punjab, AIR 1963 SC 340, it was held by the Supreme Court that where the direct evidence is not satisfactory or disinterested or where the injuries are alleged to have been caused with a gun and they prima facie appear to have been inflicted by a rifle, undoubtedly the apparent inconsistency can be cured or oral evidence can be corroborated by the evidence of a ballistic expert.

It is worth noting that there have been many cases where opinion of expert have been relied upon when corroborated by circumstantial or other evidence. As for instance, in Lall Chand v State of Punjab, 2010 CrLJ 699, it was held by the Supreme Court that opinion of a handwriting expert can be relied upon when due corroboration of such opinion through ocular and circumstantial evidence is provided. In yet another case – Shashi Kumar v Subodh Kumar, AIR 1964 SC 529, it was held by Apex Court that, “Expert opinion is opinion evidence and it cannot take the place of substantive evidence . It is a rule of procedure that expert evidence must be corroborated either by clear direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence.”

All said and done, it can be said with considerable certainty that the role of experts in shaping the opinion of the courts cannot be undermined as they form an inescapable opinion even though they cannot be always relied on unflinchingly and this is more true in case of handwriting experts which I have already discussed above in considerable detail. But at the same time we have also seen that on many occasions the courts have not refrained from basing their conviction on expert evidence as in the case of fingerprint expert. So it all varies from case to case but it must be underscored here that no court will ever take the risk of completely undermining the evidence of expert and whatever opinion is given by them in front of court is always taken with full seriousness and very rightly so!

Continue Reading

Legally Speaking

No ‘honour’ in killing the young & innocent: Fighting a long, arduous battle

‘Religion’ and ‘culture’ cannot and must not be used as excuses for murdering women, because religion and its rules are always a subjective interpretation. No ‘culture’ has the right, based on their sense of morality or integrity, to murder or mistreat women. Unfettered faith does not imply free killing and activist laws are thus the only remedy to such dishonest activities.

Published

on

The so-called ‘honour crimes’ are acts of violence, typically killings, perpetrated by members of the family against women who have brought the family into supposed ‘disgrace’. A woman may be targeted by (persons in her own family) for a number of reasons, including: refusal to enter an arranged marriage, being the victim of sexual assault, seeking divorce even from an abusive spouse or in cases of adultery. The mere notion that a woman has acted in a manner that “dissonates” her family is enough to assault her life. Our nation was extremely selective of the kind of development it underwent. At the world level with the nuclear agreement, 8% growth rates, and India’s acknowledgment of its position, it appears that ‘India shines.’ But delving deeper into this growing country’s dark secrets, we still discover widespread murder of young couples by their family members in order to preserve their ‘honor’ because of the couple’s differential social status.

The “traditional” khap panchayat claims that marriage between individuals of the same village is deemed incestuous since they are considered siblings, and thus these weddings are not ethical. The panchayat thus orders the assassination of the couple and hangs their bodies at the village crossing as an example to other prospective couples. Two adults are allowed to marry and, according to the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, speaking out against honor murders in India,

“No third person” may harass or injure them. Women are regarded as property and the vessel of family honor in India, with its patriarchal culture. And any conduct that may block the prestige of the family gives the male members an unequivocal right to kill the girl, ‘correct’ their mistakes and gain back the honor.

JUDICIAL PRECEDENT IN HOMICIDE, ‘HONOUR KILLING’

Honor killings, as defined by the Human Rights Watch, are “acts of violence, usually murder, perpetrated by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonour to the family by being romantically involved with or choosing to marry men outside their caste, class, or religion.” Frequently camouflaged and reported as suicides by relatives, women account for over 97 percent of honour killing victims in India itself, because “the regime of honour is not able to forgive a woman on whom suspicion has fallen” and remove the stain on their honour by attacking the woman.” Often named as homicide, Honour killing is a heinous crime and a greater evil, homicides may affect public interest whereas the offence of Honour killing shakes public conscience. The lack of a specific law to deal with these particular crimes, in which ‘honour’ is the common motive, results in them being reported under myriad laws, making them nearly impossible to track. These crimes against honour being grossly violative of the constitution, attract the violation of various enactments like-

• The Indian Majority Act, 1875

• The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

• The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

• The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

• The Special Marriage Act of 1954 and

• The Indian Penal Code, 1860

In spite of being violative of the law on so many levels, honor killings are notoriously underreported – not by the media, but by the State. The institutional reluctance to enact specific laws, fearing a sway on political outcomes, results in a convenient scapegoat and the resulting underestimation.

To discover a remedy for such atrocities, it must be investigated from the very heart. The fundamental foundation of such a marital taboo in the same “gotra” is that it’s considered incest. The 1954 Hindu Marriage Act prohibits the marriage of sapindas, individuals falling in the third generation of the mother and the fifth generation of the father. In addition, marriage between specific ‘degrees of forbidden connections,’ including between sisters and brothers, is also prohibited. The law thus sets out the components for a legal marriage and excludes marriage between close family members.

THE HONOUR AND TRADITION BILL: POSITION IN 21ST CENTURY

Although the state action against this crime has been active, most of the state reforms have died in latency. The Prevention of Crimes in the Name of Honour and Tradition Bill, 2010, was introduced in Parliament, however it never progressed from its embryonic stage. On August 2010, the Supreme Court imposed the capital punishment in the case of U.P. v. Krishna Master & Ors to three defendants in the event of the ‘honour’ killing of six people in a district of Uttar Pradesh in 1991. The Divisional bench of Justices, H.S. Bedi and J.M. Panchal overturned the judgement of acquittal issued by the High Court of Allahabad after which, death penalty was handed over to them by the court. The Bench upheld the decision of the trial court and stated that: “murdering six people and squandering nearly the whole family on the weak basis for preserving the family’s honour would be one of the most unusual instances” As a condemnation of the crime,in the case of Lata Singh Vs State of Uttar Pradesh and others, a single Judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Markandey Katju had said, ‘’Honour killings are nothing but barbaric cold blooded slaughter and no honour is involved in such killings.’’ Thus, the stance of the judiciary, executive and the legislature on such cases, analyzed with the help of judicial precedents and other codified laws, hold such practices unacceptable. Honor killings violate various provisions and there exist distinct legislation and punishments against this, however each of these sections offer certain exceptions, and aren’t cut out for adept dealing of these crimes. For example: the Indian Evidence Act puts the burden of proof on the victims, this makes most of the crimes go unreported, as the victims don’t live to testify. A suggestive reform would be to amend it to place the burden of proof on the accused, however amending each of the provisions to meet the demands of penalizing this crime would be a futile exercise. The IPC, offers an exception for homicides, triggered by sudden provocation and honor crimes, done by family members through brutal, clever planning mostly hidden behind this. Thus is the requirement for a distinct law so that no innocent voice is stifled in demand of justice.

THE INDIAN STANCE: STILL FOGGY?

The government steadily took steps to prohibit honour killing by the time various laws were modified. We end our piece by referring to the most distinguished example given by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who made a substantial improvement in the case of Shakti Vahini against the Union of India in 2018, one of the most significant cases and judgement by declaring that “liberty, using the word in its practical connotation includes right to choose.” Feudal thought must dissolve into darkness and provide the pleasant path towards freedom. The right to freedom must be kept constantly and fiercely to blossom with power and splendor. Rajasthan Government has adopted strict measures and changes by adopting a new bill on the prohibition against interference in the freedom of matrimonial alliances in the name of honour and tradition in 2019. ‘Religion’ and ‘culture’ cannot and must not be used as excuses for murdering women, because religion and its rules are always a subjective interpretation. No ‘culture’ has the right, based on their sense of morality or integrity, to murder or mistreat women. Unfettered faith does not imply free killing and activist laws are thus the only remedy to such dishonest activities.

The remedy to this problem is largely to eradicate the myths in people’s thoughts. They need to be informed about the requirements of the Hindu Marriage Act and what types of weddings are truly invalid. Given the difference in the idea of Gotras and Sapindas, they should be clarified.

‘Honour killings’ violate various provisions and there exist distinct legislation and punishments against this, however each of these sections offers certain exceptions, and isn’t cut out for adept dealing of these crimes. For example, the Indian Evidence Act puts the burden of proof on the victims, this makes most of the crimes go unreported, as the victims don’t live to testify. A suggestive reform would be to amend it to place the burden of proof on the accused, however amending each of the provisions to meet the demands of penalising this crime would be a futile exercise.

Continue Reading

Legally Speaking

Sexual violence and victim’s story: Believed or blamed?

Aprajita Singh

Published

on

Introduction : “Violence is defined as the use of physical force against another person with a high likelihood of resulting in murder, injury, psychological harm, or other undesirable consequences. Furthermore, it is the intentional or probable intentional use of physical force against oneself, another person, or a group that results in or is likely to result in damage, death, psychological harm, poor development, or deprivation. Physical, sexual, or psychological violence, as well as acts of deprivation or carelessness, are all examples of violence. Sexual violence is without a doubt one of the most deadly forms of violence. Physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner or another criminal is a threat to women all over the globe. Medical injuries, deterioration in mental health, and particular chronic physical illnesses may all result from sexual assault and IPV. In rare instances, such acts of aggression may result in the victim’s handicap or death. Sexual violence occurs in all cultures throughout the globe, but it is defined differently. Physically forcing another person to have sexual intercourse without their permission, having sexual intercourse out of fear of the partner, and/or being forced to perform a sexual act considered degrading are all examples of sexual assault. Although both men and women are victims of sexual assault, women are more likely to be victims, and the offenders are usually male and known to the victim. Because sexual assault is a frequently underreported occurrence, statistics are unlikely to reflect the actual scope of the issue. The data that is accessible is sparse and scattered. For example, police data is often inadequate and restricted. On the other side, data from medico-legal clinics may be skewed toward more violent cases of sexual abuse. Furthermore, the percentage of individuals who seek medical help for acute issues linked to sexual assault is minimal. Shame and humiliation, fear of not being believed, fear of the perpetrator of the crime, fear of the legal procedure, or scepticism that the police would be able to assist them are all reasons for not reporting. Due to severe humiliation and worries about other people’s views, their masculinity, and the fact that they were powerless to prevent the attack, males are much more hesitant to disclose sexual violence. As a result, data on the prevalence of sexual assault against men is particularly scarce. Sexual abuse of children is also frequently unreported. The majority of the information comes from individuals who were asked about their previous experiences.”

Bombay High Court : Sexual violence knows no boundaries, it occurs in every country, across all parts of society, Bharati Dangre, J., while noting a case of sexual harassment caused to a child aged 17 years due to which she took the step of ending her life, rejected the bail of the accused.

THE REASONS FOR THE RISE IN SEXUAL VIOLENCE INCIDENTS IN INDIA ARE AS FOLLOWS

• One of the reasons for India’s sexual violence problem could be the lack of female cops. When a woman is raped, she is more likely to report it to a female cop. In the past, just 7% of female police officers had worked in New Delhi. In fact, there is only one female station house officer in each of Delhi’s 161 district police stations.

• In Indian society, improper dress is blamed for the victim’s situation. This was demonstrated in an Indian judge survey, in which 68 percent of respondents agreed with the same premise. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s also the truth.

• Domestic violence is seen as deserving in Indian society. According to UNICEF, 57 percent of Indian boys and 53 percent of Indian girls believe that beating a wife is justifiable in one of their reports.

• No public safety- In most Indian societies, women who drink, smoke, or go late-night partying are considered as immoral and are the cause of rape. Women in India are obviously not safe in public areas if the general populace believes and accepts this kind of justification for rape. Victims of rape are discouraged from compromising because no family in Indian society is willing to accept that a member of their family has been raped. As a result, victims are frequently advised to avoid the chaos that follows rape in the police station.

• The majority of rapes in India are not even recorded. Despite the fact that laws are being drafted to protect rape victims and provide them with legal rights, there is still a problem with the laws’ execution.

WHAT OBSTACLES DO SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN INDIA FACE IN GETTING JUSTICE?

Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, published in 2021, revealed that rape laws are still poorly implemented, and survivors, particularly those from vulnerable populations based on caste, class, or ethnicity, face numerous barriers to justice, including: Corruption among law enforcement officials, the failure of the police to register cases of sexual violence, the continued use of the two-finger test, difficulties in obtaining support services for survivors, such as compensation and victim and witness protection, pressure from families, community, and panchayat members to enter into extra-legal settlements, and many other issues. Control and patriarchy, as well as masculine entitlement, are at the heart of sexual assault. In India, society still frequently places blame on survivors, forcing survivors and their families to remain silent. This is especially true for people who are already on the margins of Indian society, making them particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. The culture of shame follows survivors into law enforcement, the legal system, and hospitals, silencing their voices even more. 2021 report, Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, you can learn more about the legal and other barriers to justice for survivors in India.

BACKGROUND

A young girl aged 17 years jumped from the balcony of a flat and succumbed to injuries.

After a span of 96 days of the said incident, mother of the girl lodged a complaint against the applicant attributing to him that he had abetted a commission of suicide by her daughter on a fateful day.

Mother of the deceased got to know through the friend of her daughter that she had been receiving dirty messages from the applicant. On enquiring the same, daughter also showed her mobile phone which had the messages and a folder in the gallery, right after that the deceased barged out of the room. On inspecting, the screenshots were found in the mobile phone and immediately, by keeping mobile on the bed, the informant followed her daughter, who by that time, jumped from the gallery of another bedroom. On realizing the severity of the shocking incident, the informant became unconscious and she was informed that her daughter was taken to the hospital. The informant recollected that in the hospital, her daughter was little conscious and on being inquired as to why she took the extreme step, she murmured that it was because of “Gaurav uncle”. She did not utter anything further and was administered treatment in the hospital. A Chit which was found on the dressing table of the daughter was also given to police and then the CR was registered invoking Sections 306, 354A, 354-B of Penal Code, 1860 and Section 4 and 8 of the POCSO Act.

FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN ON THE CHIT

“Mummy, I have not told you about one person, Gaurav Uncle in our house. For no reason, he often came close to me and attempted to touch my private parts. I concealed the same from you, but that was my mistake. I kept mum because I thought if I disclose it to you, it would result in quibble. However, he messaged me. Before one week ago, he was talking to me about bad things. The screen shots of the said message are stored in my mobile in the folder ‘SS’. On receipt of the message, I blocked him, but yesterday night, he texted me. I was unable to understand what I should do and how I should disclose it. After you come to know about this, please do not quarrel and let the things continue to remain as they are. You and Papa should not fight. Bye, Take care. Because even if I blocked him on the mobile, I will have to face him some day. I carry no feelings for him in my mind, still he said so and further Kaki narrating it to aunt and no matter how much I tolerate, I will be blamed”

ANALYSIS, LAW AND DECISION

Bench noted that the deceased was a young girl who was hesitant to disclose the ill-intentions of the applicant, who was her own uncle.

The present matter revolved around an intimate relationship of the deceased with her own uncle, which posed a barrier for the victim girl to report the said incident to anyone in the family, but she chose to disclose it to her close friend. The chit which was scribed by the deceased referred to a message and screenshots of which were found in the mobile phone. From the screenshots, it was evident that a message was forwarded by the applicant which was responded to by the deceased by typing that she was not interested in talking to him. The unhappy tone was set and in the note which was scribed, the deceased had opened her mind to her mother where she spoke about his ill-deeds and also offered an explanation as to why she concealed it from her mother.

Court noted that the deceased had expressed her helplessness since she was apprehensive that even if she had blocked him, she would have to face him again and take the blame though she had no feeling in her mind. “screen shots from the mobile make it apparent that the applicant was harassing the deceased and in spite of her strong protest, was seeking something from her, leaving her in a despondent state.”

“The offence of abetment by instigation depends upon the intention of the person who abet and not upon the act which is done by the person who was abetted.”

“Abetment as contemplated under Section 107 of the IPC, may be by instigation, conspiracy or intentional aid and the words uttered in feet of anger or omission without any intention being attributed cannot be termed as instigation.”

The High Court stated that the young girl felt cornered by the conduct and demeanor of her own uncle, which was unexpected since she held him on a high pedestal as her own father and was unable to vent her anguish on account of the close proximity of the family with that of the applicant.

DECEASED SUFFERED THE CONSEQUENCES MUTELY FOR A YEAR

While concluding the matter, Court made certain significant observations that, a child may be subjected to sexual abuse or exploitation at home too.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to create an atmosphere in the Society where parents, teachers and adults in the company of the child can identify signs of abuse and make sure children receive care and protection. In the present matter, the fear of stigma, not being believed and being blamed, found the deceased in a precarious situation and left her isolated and insecure and which persuaded her to end her life. In view of the above stated discussion, the accused does not deserve liberty and another reason would be his close proximity with the family of the deceased and there would be every likelihood that on release he may pressurize them. [Gaurav v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Bail]

CONCLUSION

Every year worldwide, many drive it, social, cultural, and economic contexts. Sexual violence has a core inequality between men and women. Interventions for resource-poor to objectively examine programmes in both developed and emerging nations. Professionals in the health care assisting sex assault victims medically and psychologically – and gathering help prosecutors. The health- abler in places where case-management protocols and guidelines collecting evidence with well-trained workers and where there is good co-operation legal system Finally, the firm commitment government and civil society involvement, as well as a coordinated response throughout to end sexual violence. In many nations, data on sexuality there is a tremendous need everywhere for sexual research violence.

To sum up, sexual violence undermines peace and security. It prevents women and children from engaging in post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation activities. It is a tool of war that may become a way of life, long after the bullets have fallen silent. Violence costs many women their health, livelihood, spouses, families, and social networks. This can undermine the transfer of communal values to subsequent generations. Rape-addicted children can develop into rape-addicted adults. Every year, millions of people are victimised by sexual violence. Interventions are also vital. These are the essential ones. concern main sexual violence prevention, interventions for both men and women strategies to help sexual assault victims to encourage rape perpetrators to be caught and punished, and changing social norms and elevating women.

Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors, published in 2021, revealed that rape laws are still poorly implemented, and survivors, particularly those from vulnerable populations based on caste, class, or ethnicity, face numerous barriers to justice, including corruption among law-enforcement officials, the failure of the police to register cases of sexual violence, the continued use of the two-finger test, difficulties in obtaining support services for survivors, such as compensation and victim and witness protection, pressure from families, community, and panchayat members to enter into extra-legal settlements, and many other issues. Control and patriarchy, as well as masculine entitlement, are at the heart of sexual assault. In India, society still frequently places blame on survivors, forcing survivors and their families to remain silent.

Continue Reading

Legally Speaking

REFORMATION IN INDIA’S PUNISHMENT AND SENTENCING POLICY: A SINE QUA NON

Published

on

“Giving punishment to the wrongdoer is at the heart of the criminal justice delivery system, but in our country, it is the weakest part of the administration of criminal justice.”

– Soman v. State of Kerala

The above mentioned lines are very well depicting the significance of awarding proportionate punishments in the domain of criminal justice system. At the same instance, it is showing its current situation. Nowadays, the problem that is underlying in the criminal law is that the very purpose of punishment is not being fulfilled. Most often, Punishment is considered as the stage where all functionaries as defined by the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (2 of 1974) as well as the victim and the convict acquired the central position. It serves as a link between the criminal justice system and the society as “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done”. Punishments play a guiding role in avoiding harm to our society, in proper implementation of morals and values and in attaining a peaceful society.

This is not something that is recently developed. From ancient times, the concept of punishing the person who breaches the rules and regulations were in existence. Since then, this mechanism was used in order to regulate the social order and maintain harmony and peace in the society. Back then, the provisions of punishment and sentences were more stringent so as to set the example, giving it the deterrence effect. With the change in the perspective of the society and development, this notion of punishment became rational and tilted more towards the concept of reforming the convict rather than deterring them. Punishments can be divided into various types such as deterrent, rehabilitative, restorative and retributive. The purpose of each type of punishment is different but the ultimate goal is same, that is, to safeguard the society. All this will become crystal clear when in the initial section of this article, we will carefully analyze the meaning of sentence and punishment and policies, thereof, prevalent in India. This will pave the way for the discussion of major challenges faced by current sentencing policy and the need for well-defined sentencing policy as in England, Whales and America. The concluding section of this write-up will talk about the measures enshrined by the legislature, the judiciary and the committees also focusing upon their suggestions.

PUNISHMENT & SENTENCING: MEANING

Punishment and Sentencing, though, two distinct entities but at the end, they both form the union. Most often, they are used interchangeably which lead to contradictions and confusions. That’s why, here, it becomes essential to know what exactly punishment and sentencing constitutes and how they differ from each other.

According to Britannica“Punishment is the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed (i.e., the transgression of a law or command). Punishment may take different forms ranging from capital punishment, forced labour, flogging, imprisonment and fines.”

Macmillan Dictionary defines the term Sentencing as “an occasion when someone who has been found guilty in a court of law is told what their punishment will be.”

In general parlance, ‘Punishment’ is a method which is legally approved to control the task of crime. ‘Sentences’ are statements contained in the judgments which lay out the punishments for a particular offence according to the law. And, when the sentences get operationalized, it is known as ‘punishment’. The term ‘Punishment’ can be considered as the way of not only penalizing the one who commits any guilt but also a process to prevent the offender repeating further commission of heinous crimes. Thus, it can be rightly said that both sentences and punishments are closely interlinked, where former one is said to be the predecessor in order to actually inflicting the latter one.

SENTENCING AND PUNISHMENT POLICY: FRAMEWORK

Every country has a different set up of criminal justice system. Some are more focused towards harsh punishment that should be inflicted to the perpetrators of the crime where as some nations are concerned about rehabilitating or reforming the convict. Some nations are more concerned about the victims whereas some are concerned about the offenders. However, sentencing and punishing the criminal is most important component of any criminal justice process. For imposing accurate, just and proportionate punishment, a systematic procedure is something must that should be formulated. This structured process adopted by a specific country commonly known as ‘sentencing policy’. The sentencing policy is the culmination of many things like it contains the formula in order to calculate the right or appropriate punishment for a particular offence. Also, it reflects certain principles and other factors which must be taken into account by the court while deciding punishment. Thus, the prime objective of the justice system of any nation is to adopt a fixed regime of sentencing policy which, in turn, regulates all the inhumane activities happening in the society.

Indian justice system stick towards the reformative approach of giving punishment where primary aim of law is to promote rehabilitation, re-educate and reshape the personality of the criminal. Despite of such an inspiring approach, still, there exists no strict set of guidelines for regulating the sentencing policy in India. This is considered as a major lacuna, which not only hampers the basic purpose of criminal justice delivery system but also give rise to numerous violations of various fundamental and human rights. As said by the prominent judge D.P. Wadhva J, “Reformative theory is certainly important but too much stress to my mind cannot be laid down on it that the basic tenets of punishment altogether vanish.” However, the main legislations in India governing the sentencing and punishment system as well as criminal law are The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), The Indian EvidenceAct, 1872,The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC),Probation of Offenders Act, 1958. Some provisions relating to Indian punishment and sentencing are described below-

Section 53, Chapter III of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 specifically states the different kinds of punishments which can be given by the Criminal Court to the offenders liable for various offences. The six mentioned punishments are–

1) Death

2) Imprisonment for life

3) Imprisonment – Rigorous with hard labour or Simple

4) Forfeiture of property

5) Fine

According to the Section 60 of the IPC, it is the discretion on the part of the competent court to decide the description of the sentences to which an offender is punishable. Further, it lays down the following types-

1) Wholly or partly rigorous; or

2) Wholly or partly simple; or

3) Any part to be rigorous and the rest are simple.

Section 235 of CrPC talks about judgment of acquittal or conviction under which it ensures that first accused will have an opportunity of last say then the judge after adjudicating upon relevant mitigating and aggravating factors shall pass sentence on him.

Section 354(1)(b) of the CrPC impose duty on judges to record the reasons for the decision of awarding a particular sentence and clause (3) of the same section states that whenever the conviction is for an offence punishable with life imprisonment or death penalty, special reasons must be recorded for passing such sentence.

SENTENCING POLICY: CHALLENGES AND ISSUES

Prima Facie, the existing sentencing policy does not seem to contain any flaws in it. However, a careful study shows that there are many challenges faced by this unregulated policy of sentencing. Let’s throw some light on the issues faced due to the lack of pronounced sentencing policy in India. The defects can be broadly categorized into following heads –

• Absence of fixed punishment: Under the Indian Criminal Law, the pattern that is prescribed for the punishments of all crimes contains only minimum and maximum penalty for a particular sort of offence. Due to this, a wide gap is generated which majorly affects the administration of sentencing. Exactlywhat sentence should be given from this gap to the offender solely depends on the judge’s discretion. Thus, judge while deciding the cases and awarding the punishments enjoys the latitude of power.

• Discretion of Judge: In India, no doubt several general factors such as severity, liability, guilty mind, etc. must be taken into account by judges while concluding cases. However, final decision is based on the judge’s personal experience, prejudice and considerations. Here, it is not wrong to refer judge as a king because the ultimate discretion lies in his hand only.

• Lack of consistency and faulty rationales: Due to the lack of structured guidelines, many times conflicts and contradictions arises when the courts awards different sentences in cases having almost same circumstances, using different reasoning. This leads to the inconsistency.

• Lack of binding force: While the court from case to case attempt to create a framework to limit discretion of judges and prevent arbitrary award of sentences but the larger bench observed that guidelines mandated by judiciary would go against the intent of legislature. This is the reason why, the apex Court highlighted that guidelines are indicative rather than exhaustive in nature. Therefore, courts have not followed their own sentencing guidelines strictly.

• Immense Disparity and Discrepancy: It has been noticed that in many cases judges imposes the different type of sentence on offenders while being tried under the same offence. This is because of the fact that every judge has their own considerations and reasons to believe whether a particular factor constitutes aggravating or mitigating circumstances for a particular case. Thus, due to the discrepancy and disparity, there exists an imbalance in the criminal justice system which is highly undesirable. As a result of it, offenders spend unnecessary time in prison.

• Indefinite and Scattered procedure: In India, the procedure of criminal law is disintegrated into enormous sections such as CrPC has 484 sections, 2 schedules which in turn contains 56 forms and IPC has more than 500 sections which increase the burden that is already present on the judges due to vast range of pending cases.

• Not defined reliable standards of proof: When it comes to produce sentencing material upon which Court will rely for giving the sentence to the accused still the Courts in India have not well established reliable standards of proof.

• Extracting sentencing material: Indian Courts have placed the whole burden of producing the sentencing material on the parties. If any of the party is not able to produce the sentencing material then the Court without any hesitation take the ex-parte decision. In many instances, the decision is delivered after only considering aggravating factors because of the simple reason that the defence have not produce sentencing material on mitigating circumstances with respect to the accused.

• Ambiguity in the quantum of sentences: In hierarchy of the judicial system, the quantum of sentences entirely changes from up and down. In absence of any proper guidelines, the Trial Court, the High Court and the Supreme Court mostly differ in awarding sentences, thereby causing confusion.

These challenges throw a serious concern on the part of the Indian legislature. This gives a red signal to the Parliament and other authorities to formulate a well-structured sentencing policy to safeguard the rights of the parties involved in a particular case.

NEED FOR STRUCTURED SENTENCING POLICY

From the above presented material, it can rightly be inferred that in India, there lies a huge disparity, inconsistency, arbitrariness and unguided discretionary power when it comes to deciding the punishment and awarding a sentence for a particular offence. It is an undisputable fact that there is a dire need of regulated sentencing policy for curtailing number of lacunas that are already discussed above. There exist the need of well-defined policy for sentencing and punishment even after the completion of the trial while determining the probation period of offenders. Section 360 and section 361 governs the principle of releasing the convicts on the basis of good behaviour and conduct and also states that special reasons must be recorded for the same. Here again, there is noclear-cut definition of ‘good conduct’, it varies from one jail authority to the other and also depends on the circumstances and type of offence committed by the offender. The implementation of the same legislation over two persons resulting in the different consequences despite of having same set of circumstances violates the right to equality defined under article 14 of Indian Constitution. When the person detained in the custody for a longer term than required, it violates another constitutional right. Thus, here, it becomes important to implement the policy which is well regulated, formulated and structured.

COMMITTEES’ REPORTS

Apart from the members of legal fraternity such as lawyers, advocates, judges, activists, various committees also recognized the need for a statutory sentencing policy. On various occasions, several committees have emphasized on the need of well-regulated policy for governing the sentencing and punishment system in India. The committees also stated that punishment should not be harsh rather it must be moderate enough to be effective. The reports of the committees suggest various other aspects which will improve the sentencing and punishment mechanism. In general, committees have pointed out the need to adopt such system that will ensure certainty during the whole process of giving sentences. Let’s briefly take alook on the report published by various committees –

In 2000, the Ministry of Home Affairs established the Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, popularly known as the Malimath Committee for giving recommendations on the prevalent system of criminal justice. In March 2003, Committee issued the report which is of the view that despite of having provisions of maximum and minimum punishment in the Indian Penal Code, the judge enjoys the wide discretion within the statutory limit while inflicting sentences. With regard to selecting the most appropriate sentence, there is no proper guidance provided anywhere for the judges. The members of committee went on to criticize this unguided power and felt the need to minimize it to the some extent by using the law force and authority. Further, the Committee also noticed the fact that not every judge has the same set of mind and attitude while deciding the sentences, for instance, something may be grave for one judge but at the same time may not be as grave for other one. For the depth study of this matter, committee asserted that there is a requirement of an expert committee, which will evaluate the whole concern. This committee consisted of experts pointed out the need for a new code which classify the offences other than the parameters of cognizable and non- cognizable and a policy having the goal of social welfare should be adopted.

The Law Commission of India in its 47th report by reasserting the same states that an appropriate sentence is a culmination of different numerous factors such as the nature and circumstances under which offence is committed; the age, background, mental health, character, education, etc. of the offender; prior criminal record of the offender; prospective of rehabilitation, training or treatment and so forth. Further, the commission recommended for a committee that must be statutory in origin, to lay out the regulation under the Chairmanship of a former judge of Supreme Court or a former Chief Justice of a High Court, whosoever experienced in criminal law and with such other member as necessary. The summary of the report states that there should be a punishment harsher than imprisonment for life but at the same time it must kept in mind that it should be lenient than capital punishment.

Later, the Committee on Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice, popularly known as the Madhava Menon Committee also recognized the need to have a radical change in the law of sentencing. The committee in its report states that there is a need to re-think on the philosophy of sentencing in the criminal justice administration. Equality in every aspects of sentencing must be pursued vigorously. In news report of October 2010, the Law Minister stated that Government of India is in a stage of preparation where it is planning to establish ‘a uniform sentencing policy’ similar to the policy of that USA and UK. However, even after all such recommendations, no effort has been taken towards its creation.

JUDICIAL VIEWS ON SENTENCING POLICY

While the legislature has not given any particular guidelines regarding the sentencing and punishment, the higher Courts from time-to-time have enunciated certain principles regarding this. The Indian Courts, over the period of time, through inconstant and faulty decision making process have indirectly pointed out the need for a sentencing policy. The Courts recognizing the absence of any such regulatedpolicy have provided judicial guidance by setting out certain factors that courts must look into while deciding punishments.

In Soman v. State of Kerala the Court put emphasis on the principles such as proportionality, deterrence and rehabilitation that need to be taken into consideration while giving judgment. Here, proportionality factor also contains the mitigating, aggravating and such other factor. Also,the Court noted that it is not good that our criminal legislation has no legislative or judicially laid down regulations to guide the court trial.

Further, most importantly the court in the State of M.P v. Bablu Natt said that the imposition of the principles laid down in the above case vary from case to case and depend on facts and circumstances of each case.

Moreover, the apex court in the Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik v. the State of Maharashtra acknowledge these above mentioned principles but at the same time held that since they are not absolute rules, the judiciary cannot be restrained with them.

In the case of State of Punjab v. Prem Sagar,it was pointed out by Justice S.B. Sinha that our legal system has so far not been able to develop certain principles as regards of sentencing and even the apex Court just made observations to this regard and left the matter untouched whereas other developed countries have done so.

In the famous case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab, the Hon’ble Supreme Court apart from the constitutionality of death penalty also addressed on the issue of lack of sentencing guidelines. The majority is of the opinion that it is upon the legislation to standardize the sentencing discretion if it deems fit. However the Court went ahead and formulated the guidelines for imposing death penalty and specifically defining the term ‘special reasons’ in Section 354(3) of CrPC thus set forth the doctrine of ‘rarest of rare case’.

Later, the court in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v.Mehtab, pointed that there is a development of guidelines by judiciary, but the implementation is so far from reality which raises the major concern regarding the methodology of sentencing in India. Also,it stated that the development of a strict policy would lead to an obstruction of justice. So it is important to have a look on a larger picture which will improve our justice system and a major method through which same can be achieved is the development and implementation of a uniform sentencing policy.

CONCLUSION

Indian criminal justice has no doubt adopted the mechanism of sentencing as a restorative justice. But it is not considered much by the judges. Indian system, depending upon its convenience often fluctuatesbetween the three theories of punishment, namely, deterrence, retributive and reformative. This itself shows that justice system, particularly criminal, is in a state of ambiguity and is also directionless. There is a huge docket explosion in the statistics of the crime rate all over the world and India is no exception. Apart from this, India has also been experiencing an alarming increase in delay and arrears of pending cases. There are many reasons responsible for this problem. One of the major concerns is requirement of a fixed sentencing and punishment policy, a concept on which this whole article is based.

As we have already discussed, in detail, the number of infirmities faced by the current sentencing and punishment policy. There exists an exigency to fix those shortcomings to get an effective policy. There is a need for a policy which strikes balance between the rights of an accused and the rights of the citizens. So this is the high time that legislature must come forward to prepare a road map and take vital steps to draft a systematic and clear policy. While formulating a policy, the legislature should also take aid from the successful policies of various other jurisdictions such as US, UK and embed it in India according to the Indian needs. It is also mandated that this draft must be in the line to the proposals and work done by the Malimath Committee, the Madhava Menon Committee and the Law Commission of India in this regard. It is important to note that legislature cannot do this task in isolation. The judiciary would also play an important role in this exercise by ensuring that discretion power vested with them must be used in the interest of justice and should not be misused.

The criminal law mostly contemplated as an expression of the relationship between the society and its subjects. Therefore, it becomes necessary to revise this law through the principled and guided amendments. As said by Justice Chandrachud, “The need of the hour to mitigate the problem of pendency is to think out of the box”. Thus, policy makers must take immediate steps to counter the problems arising from indefinite punishment and sentencing system so that the people of the nation don’t lose their faith in the judiciary and also judiciary serve justice properly. With the help of this article, an endeavour is made to build a proper legislation for executing just and fair sentence and removing any kind of disparity before, after and during the trial.

Continue Reading

Legally Speaking

Young police officer lynched to death by mob has put humanity, spirit of Kashmiriyat to shame: J&K & Ladakh HC

‘It is a case where a young police officer has been lynched to death by a mob of miscreants of which the appellant is alleged to be a part, thereby putting the humanity in general and spirit of Kashmiriyat in particular to shame. Bail in such heinous and serious offences cannot be granted as a matter of course.’ If bail is given even in such cases then who will fear the ‘rule of law’?

Published

on

In a brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment titled Peerzada Mohammad Waseem Vs Union Teritory of J&K in CrlA(D) No.10/2021 that was reserved on 26.08.2021 and then finally pronounced on 02.09.2021, the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has denied bail to a man accused of lynching a Deputy SP of 3rd Battalion Security after observing that his act has put humanity and spirit of Kashmiriyat to shame. While calling it a heinous and serious offence, Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar observed most candidly, commendably, cogently and convincingly that, “It is a case where a young police officer has been lynched to death by a mob of miscreants of which the appellant is alleged to be a part thereby putting the humanity in general and spirit of Kashmiriyat in particular to shame. Bail in such heinous and serious offences cannot be granted as a matter of course.” If bail is given even in such cases then who will fear the “rule of law”? The best example to cite here is what happened in Kashmir Valley in 1990 when lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were either killed or forced to leave as refugees in their own country as their houses were burnt, women were raped and still we saw little action on the ground! This was when Kashmiriyat was worst vandalized and burnt in reality as we all saw for ourselves!

To start with, this learned, laudable, latest and landmark judgment authored by Justice Sanjay Dhar for himself and Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “Through the medium of instant appeal under Section 21(3) of the National Investigation Agency Act (hereinafter referred to as the NIA Act), appellant has challenged the order dated 12.05.2021 passed by learned Additional Sessions Judge, TADA/POTA (Special Judge Designated under NIA Act), Srinagar, whereby bail application of the appellant has been dismissed.”

While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then puts forth in para 2 that, “The facts giving rise to the filing of the instant appeal are that on 22.06.2017, while the holy festival of Shabe Qadar was being observed in Jamia Masjid, Nowhatta, the appellant and the co-accused raised inflammatory slogans against the Government of India and they caught hold of deceased Mohammad Ayoub Pandit Dy. S. P. of 3rd Battalion Security, who had been deployed in the area to supervise the manpower for access control at Jamia Masjid on the occasion of Shabe Qadar. The deceased was beaten up, dragged and lynched to death by the mob, of which the appellant was a part. His pistol was also snatched and the dead body was dragged and left at Batagali Nowhatta. Police registered FIR No.51/2017 for offences under Section 302, 148, 149, 392, 341 RPC read with 13 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and investigation of the case was set into motion. After conducting investigation of the case, the challan was presented before the trial court against 20 accused. Out of these, 17 accused were arrested and produced before the trial court at the time of presentation of challan whereas one accused Sajad Ahmad Gilkar was killed in an encounter prior to presentation of the challan. Two more accused including appellant herein absconded and they could not be produced before the Court at the time of presentation of the challan.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then enunciates in para 3 that, “In terms of order dated 12.12.2017, the learned trial court framed charges for the offences mentioned in the charge sheet against 17 accused who had been produced before it at the time of presentation of the challan. During pendency of the trial, the appellant was also arrested and produced before the trial court. Charges against him for offences under Section 302, 148, 392, 341 RPC read with Section 13 ULA(P) Act were framed by the trial court in terms of its order dated 16.05.2019. The appellant/accused pleaded not guilty and trial against him also commenced.”

While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then envisages in para 4 that, “It appears that after recording of statements of some of the prosecution witnesses, the appellant/accused moved an application before the trial court for grant of bail on the ground that material prosecution witnesses to the extent of his case have turned hostile and, as such, he deserves to be enlarged on bail. The bail application came to be dismissed by the learned trial court vide its order dated 16.09.2020. The appellant preferred an appeal against the said order before this Court which was registered as CrlA(D) No.17/2020. Vide order dated 26.02.2021 passed by this Court, the order of learned trial court was set aside and the appellant was given liberty to move a fresh application before the trial court.”

As we see, the Bench then observes in para 5 that, “It appears that the appellant moved another application before the trial court on similar grounds as were projected by him in his earlier bail application and the same has been rejected by the learned trial court vide the impugned order dated 12.05.2021.”

Be it noted, the Bench then points out in para 9 that, “The contention of learned counsel for the appellant that the appellant was impleaded as an accused at the time of filing of supplementary challan and he was not an accused in the original challan is factually incorrect. In the first charge sheet itself filed by the Investigating Agency before the trial court, the name of appellant is shown in Column No.2 indicating therein that the said accused has not been arrested. In fact, after the presentation of the challan, the learned trial court has, vide its order dated 16.10.2017, issued general warrants of arrest against two accused including the appellant herein after recording satisfaction that there are no immediate prospects of his arrest. So, it is not a case where appellant/accused has been implicated in the case after presentation of the charge sheet but it is a case where involvement of the appellant/accused is based upon the evidence collected by the investigating agency which forms part of the first challan itself.”

Furthermore, the Bench then hastens to add in para 10 that, “The record further shows that the contention of the learned counsel for the appellant that he has moved an application before the learned trial court in terms of Section 272 of J&K Cr. P. C, wherein he has admitted the remaining part of the evidence which the prosecution proposes to lead in support of its case, is also factually incorrect. We could not lay our hands on any such application on the trial court record nor there is any interim order of the trial court evidencing the said fact.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then remarks in para 11 that, “That takes us to the merits of the contention of the appellant that material witnesses who have deposed about the involvement of the appellant having turned hostile, as such, no amount of evidence that may be led by the prosecution in support of its case would lead to his conviction. In this regard, a perusal of the trial court record shows that protected witnesses Mark E, F and K, who, during investigation of the case, have in their statements recorded under Section 164 of Cr. P.C, deposed about the involvement of appellant in the occurrence being part of the unlawful assembly, have turned hostile when their statements were recorded before the Court. All these three witnesses have admitted having made statements under Section 164 Cr. P. C before the Magistrate in which they have implicated the appellant/accused. Protected witnesses Mark F and K have stated that they made these statements under pressure from police whereas protected witness Mark E has stated that he does not recollect what was stated by him. These three witnesses have been cross-examined by the prosecution as well as by the defence. The question arises as to whether at the time of considering the bail application, it is open to this Court to give a finding even on prima facie basis with regard to reliability and evidentiary value of the statements of these witnesses.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then makes it a point to state in para 12 that, “At the stage of granting bail, a detailed examination of evidence and elaborate documentation of the merit of the case cannot be undertaken. What is the effect of statements of hostile witnesses would be a moot point to be decided during the course of trial of the main case and cannot be decided during bail proceedings. The mere fact that material witnesses have turned hostile, in our opinion, by itself is not sufficient to grant bail because of the simple reason that this Court cannot imagine what would happen till the disposal of the case. If the Court were to accept or to rely upon the evidence of the prosecution recorded by the trial court, it would amount to appreciation of evidence on record which is impermissible in these proceedings. Till the completion of evidence and the trial, appreciation of evidence at the time of granting or rejecting bail, this Court cannot step into the shoes of the trial court for the purposes of appreciating the material on record.”

Adding more to it, the Bench then makes it clear in para 13 that, “What would be the effect of prosecution evidence led so far, is an issue which cannot be determined by this Court and the same has to be determined by the learned trial court at the conclusion of trial. Even the Investigating Officer, who is a star witness in the case, is yet to be examined and without examining him, this Court cannot even frame a prima facie opinion as to the merits of the prosecution case. It is a settled law that conviction of an accused can be based even on the statements of hostile witnesses and the Investigating Officer provided the same inspire confidence. This question can be determined only by the trial court and not by this Court in these proceedings.”

As an aside, the Bench then brings out in para 14 that, “Learned counsel for the appellant has contended that the appellant has been in custody for quite some time now and in the face of the fact that material witnesses have turned hostile, it may work harshly against the appellant if he is kept in custody till the remaining evidence of the prosecution is recorded, particularly when there are no chances of his conviction.”

Truth be told, it cannot be just glossed over that the Bench then specifically points out in para 15 that, “A perusal of the trial court record shows that it is only in May, 2019, that charges have been framed against the appellant/accused and until that date, he was absconding. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the normal work of trial courts got seriously hampered and in spite of this, a large number of witnesses have already been examined by the prosecution in the case. Therefore, it cannot be stated that there has been any delay in trial of the case.”

Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this remarkable, robust and rational judgment is then illustrated best in para 16 wherein it is held that, “Apart from the above, we also need to take into account the gravity of the offence and the circumstances in which the offence has been committed by the accused including the appellant herein. It is a case where a young police officer has been lynched to death by a mob of miscreants of which the appellant is alleged to be a part, thereby putting the humanity in general and spirit of Kashmiriyat in particular to shame. Bail in such heinous and serious offences cannot be granted as a matter of course.”

Finally and as a corollary, the Bench then holds in the last para 17 that, “For the foregoing reasons, we do not find any merit in this appeal and the same is, accordingly, dismissed.”

In conclusion, every Indian must feel proud that this notable judgment by Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has made it absolutely clear that there has to be zero tolerance for mob lynching. Kudos to them for this! The Court very rightly refused bail to the offender. If they are not deal most firmly then we will only see the rise of Talibani forces in our country also whom even hard line Muslims like the most famous AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi demands should be declared a terror organization!

Of course, it goes without saying that Owaisi has hit the “biggest and tightest slap” with “full force” on the ‘face’ of all such “Muslim Maulvis” and “other Muslims” and so called “secular leaders” who are welcoming Taliban like former CM Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti among others who are demanding that India maintain bilateral relations with Taliban as they have become a reality now! Shame to UN if it watches all this like a mute and helpless spectator! Violence in any form can never be justified and if India starts justifying Taliban then this will ensure the return of hardline Islam in India just like it existed prior to the advent of Britishers during Aurangzeb’s rule among others which India can never afford under any circumstances as it will ensure that democracy is buried and India is converted into a hard line Islamic state or India is partitioned again and again which no true Indian no matter whether he is a Hindu or Muslim or anyone else would ever justify under any circumstances just like imposing monogamy on Hindus alone in 1955 can never be justified under any circumstances and this my best friend Sageer Khan resented most!

It is high time and monogamy also must be imposed on one and all straightaway as the population explosion is rocking our country and hitting us hard which alone explains why Sageer Khan felt most strongly that it should be abolished for one and all as this will ensure that India progresses, prospers and emerges powerful! Even Delhi High Court had recently called for uniform civil code! If uniform civil code is going to take time then why can’t polygamy be outlawed just like Pandit Nehru most commendably outlawed polygamy and polyandry for Hindus in 1955 even though Dr BR Ambedkar in his Hindu Code Bill favoured retention of polygamy among Hindus in his Hindu Code Bill 1951 due to which I term Pandit Nehru as “Real Father And Real Reformer Of Hindus”?

It merits no flogging again and again that law must be same for one and all as Sageer Khan used to often underscore so that no Hindu like eminent film actor Dharmender among others are forced to convert to Islam just for the sake of marrying and same was the case of son of former Haryana Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhajan Lal! Kowtowing in front of “hardline Islam” which Taliban preaches will definitely destroy our nation as Sageer Khan often pointed out way back in 1993-95 and now even Owaisi just recently has gone all out in making it absolutely clear and thundering that Taliban is a “terror organization” which has to be mocked with full force and it must be declared so by the Centre right now without wasting any time! Very rightly so!

Continue Reading

Trending