Miss­ing Feed­back Loop

Find­ings by courts of po­lice and pros­e­cu­tion mis­con­duct must trig­ger pe­nal ac­tion

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page - T K Arun

In­dia’s jus­tice sys­tem badly needs a feed­back loop. We come across an in­creas­ing num­ber of ju­di­cial pro­nounce­ments that find extreme fault with the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion lead­ing to the charges be­ing dis­missed, but the of­fi­cers re­spon­si­ble for the shoddy or, in some cases, fraud­u­lent in­ves­ti­ga­tion so cas­ti­gated by the ju­di­ciary face no pe­nal ac­tion what­so­ever.

Such ac­tion must be au­to­matic. At least in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the con­duct of the of­fi­cers con­cerned must kick off au­to­mat­i­cally.

Nambi Narayanan, a sci­en­tist at In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing on a pro­ject to in­di­genise the cryo­genic en­gine for its satel­lite launch ve­hi­cles, was ac­cused in 1994 of spy­ing, ar­rested and jailed. Some women were said to be in­volved. He lost his job, his fam­ily and his rep­u­ta­tion. The coun­try’s cryo­genic en­gine pro­ject was set back by two decades: it fi­nally yielded a suc­cess­ful satel­lite launch in 2014.

Shoddy Pros­e­cu­tion…

The case, launched by the Ker­ala po­lice, was handed over to the CBI, which rec­om­mended its clo­sure and ac­tion against the po­lice of­fi­cers who framed the sci­en­tist. That was in 1996. Narayanan is still fight­ing a case in the Supreme Court to have ac­tion taken against the of­fi­cers.

Or take the case against the Maran brothers in the Air­cel-Maxis case, dis­missed by the spe­cial court judge O P Saini. The judge me­thod­i­cally went through the ev­i­dence pre­sented by the pros­e­cu­tion and found ma­jor con­tra­dic­tions. Min­is­te­rial de­ci­sions at­trib­uted to Dayanidhi Maran turn out to have been made af­ter he had demit­ted of­fice. Oral ev­i­dence given by some of­fi­cials con­tra­dict the writ­ten record on files.

A for­mer tele­com sec­re­tary who had con­ve­niently died and can­not de­fend him­self is blamed for one ver­bal in­struc­tion af­ter an­other — only, the file signed by the said sec­re­tary says just the op­po­site of what he is al­leged to have in­structed orally.

These con­tra­dic­tions should have been ap­par­ent to the po­lice­men who in­ves­ti­gated the case and mar­shalled the ev­i­dence, and to the pros­e­cu­tion that framed the charge sheet.

Was this an er­ror of omis­sion or com­mis­sion? Does this not war­rant an in­ves­ti­ga­tion?

Two of the three ac­cused of car­ry­ing out bomb­ings in Delhi in 2005 were ac­quit­ted last week. One had an alibi that the po­lice tried to hide from the court and later dis­credit.

Put ‘ter­ror-ac­cused ac­quit­ted’ in Google’s search box and you will get, in the blink of an eye, a long list. Groups of eight, nine, and even larger num­bers of Mus­lim men have been ac­quit­ted af­ter spend­ing seven, eight, 11, etc, years in jail.

They have spent the best years of their youth and life in jail. The stigma of ter­ror stays with them, like the scars of an acid at­tack, long af­ter the wounds have ceased to sear. While they were in jail, moth­ers have died of bro­ken hearts, in the mean­time. Sis­ters have been mar­ried off in­ap­pro­pri­ately, or not at all, and sib­lings have given up ed­u­ca­tion to earn, as the fam­ily for­tune is spent on le­gal expenses on the ter­ror ac­cused.

On May 14, 2014, the Supreme Court ac­quit­ted six men ac­cused of in­volve­ment in the Ak­shard­ham at­tack of 2002. It found the case to have been fabri­cated, built on forced con­fes­sions and forged ev­i­dence. A let­ter pur­port­edly writ­ten by one of the ac­cused and re­cov­ered from the slain body of one of the ter­ror­ists shot dead at Ak­shard­ham of­fered ready ev­i­dence of shoddy forgery. The let­ter was writ­ten on a piece of pris­tine white pa­per, while the clothes of the slain ter­ror­ist had been sod­den with blood and rid­dled with bul­let holes.

…Must be Pe­nalised

At times, “truth is stranger than fic­tion”, blithely philosophised the high court,which­had­con­firmedtheguilty verdict of the spe­cial Pota court. The Supreme Court, for­tu­nately, did not feel obliged to pass over such fail­ure of foren­sic ev­i­dence to com­ply with the laws of na­ture.

The court dis­missed the charges against the ac­cused, in­clud­ing one man who had al­ready served out a seven-year jail term, been re­leased and so had not chal­lenged his con­vic­tion in the Supreme Court. But the po­lice- men who had ex­tracted false con­fes­sions and fabri­cated ev­i­dence against in­no­cent men and crushed their life, lib­erty and what­ever pur­suit of hap­pi­ness they were ca­pa­ble of strut around as dec­o­rated of­fi­cers, get­ting pro­moted or draw­ing pen­sions.

Take the po­lice­men and lower court judges who slap sedi­tion charges on rebels whose dis­sent falls far short of the bar set by the Supreme Court, of in­cit­ing peo­ple to vi­o­lence, for the charge of sedi­tion to sus­tain.

Why should not these po­lice­men and mag­is­trates au­to­mat­i­cally be charged with con­tempt of the Supreme Court, when the charge they read­ily frame against dis­senters, in supine def­er­ence to their po­lit­i­cal mas­ters and sub­ver­sion of con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tees of fun­da­men­tal rights, are dis­missed out of hand by one level or the other of the higher ju­di­ciary?

Re­form­ing the ju­di­ciary is not just a ques­tion of ap­point­ing judges or speedy dis­posal of cases. Light thrown by ju­di­cial or­ders on mis­con­duct by er­rant po­lice­men and un­pro­fes­sional law of­fi­cers must kick off pe­nal ac­tion against the of­fend­ers.

Hum kanoon mein itne chhed karenge…

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