Largescale acquittals in criminal cases erode faith in courts: Anand

Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, on Thursday expressed concern over largescale acquittals, almost 80 per cent, in criminal cases.

He said this trend was eroding the public confidence in the criminal justice delivery system.

"When people see persons accused of heinous and ghastly offences getting acquitted, they believe that courts are either too liberal or pro-criminal or are not functioning the way they ought to function. Unfortunately, they do not know nor do they try to know the reasons for such acquittals."

Delivering the 26th Bhimsen Sachar Memorial Lecture here, Justice Anand said: "When a crime goes unpunished, the criminal is encouraged, the victim of crime is discouraged and society in the ultimate analysis suffers, which has an adverse impact on the law and order situation in the country."

The delay in disposal of cases resulted in the citizen getting tempted to take the law into his own hands and take recourse to extra-judicial methods to settle scores and seek redress of his grievance.

For efficient discharge of the responsibilities of courts, the broad confidence, which people had in them, should be maintained and not allowed to be eroded.

One of the challenges before the judiciary was its failure to deliver justice expeditiously, particularly in subordinate courts.

"It has brought about a sense of frustration amongst the litigants. Human hope has its limits and waiting endlessly is not possible in the current life style." The delay "gives rise to many other aberrations which hit at the basic credibility of the institution."

Plight of undertrials

Expressing his anguish at the plight of undertrials, Justice Anand said despite several pronouncements by the Supreme Court and the High Courts, they were languishing in jails in large numbers all over the country. "[The] slow progress of cases in courts and the operation of the system of bail to the disadvantage of the poor and the illiterate prisoners are responsible for the pathetic plight of these forgotten souls, who continue to suffer all the hardships and incarceration although their guilt is yet to be established."

On terrorism, he said, "The spectre of terrorism is haunting many countries. It has acquired a sinister dimension. The terrorist threats that we are facing are now on an unprecedented global scale. But it must be remembered that the fundamental rationale of anti-terrorism measures has to be to protect human rights and democracy. Counter-terrorism measures should not undermine democratic values, violate human rights and subvert the rule of law."