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Amnesty for rejection of Malimath panel report

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI SEPT. 19. Amnesty International has called for an outright rejection of the report of the Malimath Committee on reforms of the Criminal Justice System. The international human rights organisation said, ``the report was politically expedient and unmindful of human rights principles, and failed to address the systemic failings of the criminal justice system.''

Announcing the publication of its hundred-page review of the Malimath committee report, the Amnesty's Vijay Nagraj said the ``committee was more concerned with securing easier convictions than making the criminal justice system more just.''

The report, he said, spent three pages discussing the role of Pakistan in promoting terrorism, but was largely silent on the criminalisation of poverty and the criminal justice system's failure to protect the human rights of the poor, Dalits, minorities and other vulnerable sections of society. In doing so, the committee had ignored the injustices suffered by at least 50 per cent of the people of India, who also form the majority of those entering the criminal justice system.

Upendra Baxi, in an introduction to the Amnesty report said that unlike the earlier ``sane and safe thinking'' recommendations on restoration of efficiency and equity in the criminal justice system, the report was a ``wholesale departure from human rights-oriented criminal justice system''.

The committee wanted, he said, to move from a `due process model' to a `crime-control model', and in the guise of reforming the criminal justice system, it was actually ``seeking to revise the Constitution''.

The Amnesty says that the committee's recommendations for change fail to take into account international human rights standards which establish a framework of human rights for criminal justice systems throughout the world. These are standards to which India is a party and is bound to uphold.

The report deals with the manner in which the committee has ``recommended the weakening of the safeguards'' for those in detention (increasing the period of police remand, confessions to police officers admissible as evidence and increasing summary trials) and for fair trial (reducing the threshold of evidence, effectively removing the right to silence, reversing the burden of proof and diluting the presumption of innocence).

In contrast, according to the Amnesty, the report says little about excessive and wrongful arrest, torture and custodial violence, large number of under-trials, impunity and endemic corruption in the criminal justice system.

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