Sunday, May 04, 2008

How long is justice delayed a miscarriage of justice ?

In an order delivered this week in the murder trial of Delhi businessman Krishan Sikand, former army officer Lt. Colonel. S J Chaudhary was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, and spared the death penalty. This was a great deal of comfort to the relatives of the murdered man who had been waging the fight for justice, and who are credited with having the will and patience to carry through the struggle. The murder was because the wife of the army office separated from him and started having an affair with Mr. Sikand, and the army officer did not like this; so he sent a parcel bomb containing a grenade to Krishan Sikand who lost his life. Well, so this is a normal murder trial, what is so special about this ?
Well, get this - the incident happened in 1982, yes you read it right, the murder conviction and sentencing happens 26 years after the incident. And this was after there was an effort by the nonagenarian father of the victim and an admonition by the High Court to speed the trial up. Read this article and the excerpt for more details:

The conviction ended the agonizing wait of the victim's father for justice. H D Sikand, the owner of car showroom Sikand Motors in the capital, made rounds of courts for more than two decades, waiting for the case to conclude. On Monday, however, the 98-year-old could not make it to court due to ill health. His grandson, Sanjay, called him up seconds after the judgment. "I was sure one day justice will prevail. Now I am at peace with myself," Sanjay quoted his grandfather as saying.
Krishan’s plight was first brought to light by TOI which had reported last year how a 98-year-old man was forced to move Delhi high court to press for his right to speedy trial. The protracted trial got entangled with the day-to-day hearings of the Uphaar fire tragedy case which was also being conducted by judge Mamta Sehgal. The judge had, in fact, cited her pre-occupation with the Uphaar trial as the reason behind the delay in this case. It took a nudge from the HC, which asked the judge to ‘‘spare time before lunch’’ to finish the hearings, for the Sikand trial to conclude on Monday.

So even though the victim and his family finally got closure, one can argue as to whether this is really a legal system that works ? After 26 years of the crime having taken place, the sentence is finally delivered. And to do the same, the father of the convict has to put in a lot of effort. Such a long time would tire out the most patient of people, and in many cases, the people who are struggling like this either back out, or in many cases, actually die.
Speedy legal justice helps in preventing influential accused from perverting the system, or from getting witnesses bought off, and also assures society that criminal acts can actually be punished fairly quickly. We need a legal system that can do that; and there are many studies and commissions that have recommended measures that can do that
- Fill in judicial vacancies faster
- The Government is involved in a large number of cases, and can reduce the number of cases by settling many of them
- Use the recently activated system of plea bargaining to resolve cases
- Have more courts such as the evening courts introduced by Gujrat

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 3:22 AM