Criminal justice system can’t be unidirectional exercise, veered exclusively to the offender’s benefit: SC

The Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, Feb 11 : The Supreme Court on Monday said that the criminal justice delivery system can’t be allowed to veer exclusively to the benefit of the offender, thereby making it an unidirectional exercise and proper course of balancing the rights of the accused and that of the prosecution.

“Individual rights of accused are undoubtedly important. But equally important is societal interest for bringing the offender to book and for the system to send right message to all in the society — be it the law abiding citizen or the potential offender,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice K.M. Joseph said in a judgment.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sinha said: “Human rights are not only of the accused but, extent apart, also of the victim, the symbolic member of the society as the potential victim and the society as a whole.”

“Law has to carter to wide variety of situations as appear in the society. Law being dynamic, the certainty of the legislation appears rigid at times whenever a circumstance (set of facts) appears which is not carried for explicitly. Expediency then dictates that the higher judiciary, while interpreting the law, considers such exception(s) as are called for without disturbing the pith and substance and the original intention of the legislature,” the judgment said, reminding the higher judiciary of its responsibility in interpreting the law.

This is required “primarily” for the reason to “strike a balance between competing forces — justice being the end — and also because the process of fresh legislation could taker a long time, which would mean a failure of Justice and with it erosion of public confidence and the trust in the justice delivery system.”

The court further said that a proper administration of criminal justice system requires the balancing of the rights of the accused and that of the prosecution.

“We therefore, hold that all pending criminal prosecutions, trials and appeals shall continue to be governed by the individual facts of the case,” the court said.

The court said this while dismissing an appeal by one Varinder Kumar, a resident of Himachal Pradesh, assailing the order reversing his acquittal and convicting him under Section 20(ii)(c) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act B and sentencing him to 20 years in jail.

Kumar was apprehended on March 31, 1995 for carrying ‘charas’ in two gunny bags with varying quantities. He was acquitted by the trial court on the grounds of non-compliance of Section 100(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, relating to independent witnesses.

However, it was reversed by the High Court.

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