Missing Feedback Loop
Findings by courts of police and prosecution misconduct must trigger penal action
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.
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…