Justice delayed is justice denied, goes the popular cliché. But what about justice misplaced? Higher judiciary has time and again expressed concern at the misuse of the Criminal Procedure Code by clever operators to settle scores, intimidate adversaries,
Justice delayed is justice denied, goes the popular cliché. But what about justice misplaced? Higher judiciary has time and again expressed concern at the misuse of the Criminal Procedure Code by clever operators to settle scores, intimidate adversaries, take undue advantage and even corner unpliable Government functionaries. These are times of information revolution and it is difficult to discriminate between use and misuse of law. But that is all the more reason to tread with caution as judicial officers may be misled by the crooks who use some provision of law to falsely implicate soft targets like professionals or working people who have less free time to spare and are thus easily cornered. There is a growing tendency these days to file complaint petition against innocent people and frame them in criminal cases. A case in point is Section 498 A. However, these days other provisions are also misused equally rampantly.
These were earlier more prevalent tactics of village politics where ignorance for the law was high. The irony is that these practices are being adopted in the cities, too, despite efforts to create legal awareness. The basic principle in law is that every person is innocent till proved otherwise. But what is happening is contrary to this spirit. A judicial officer may be easily carried away by the plea of a complainant and take at face value the witnesses produced, taking cognisance under various sections of CrPC. The assumption is that taking cognisance does not tantamount to pronouncement of guilt. But there is a basic issue. The mere issuance of summon by the court is damaging to the framed person and the agony and trauma an innocent person faces is itself a punishment. Then the running about, the search for lawyer and the cost involved, all these add to his woes. Given the weakness of our law of torts, the victims suffers while the person framing him enjoys. Is there a way out?
Reforms are not only about privatisation. And if one area that needs maximum reform it is the law, which still is a vestige of the British Raj that treated Indians as subjects and not citizens. It is time we made the laws more responsive. If the lawmakers are busy with other business, the custodians of law must take the call. Creating legal awareness among citizens is the basic first step. But this has to be strengthened by other steps. The most important step is to sensitise the members of legal profession for being ethical.
Almost all cases are lodged through lawyers. Even the false cases. If the lawyers can discourage their clients against false cases the problem can be arrested to large extent. A question of professional commitment may arise. But professional commitment cannot overlook unethical conduct. All professions have professional ethics. And the crux of all such ethics is to support the right and discourage the wrong. The problem of our society is falling ethical standards.
Ethical training must be a significant input in legal education with high credit points. The other step is to make legal practitioners understand, like the Chartered Accountants, that client’s interest cannot be above national interest or societal interest. The judicial officers also need to be trained and empowered. Rule of law is more about justice. It is there in the spirit rather than the letter of the law. It must be understood that judgements are more than just reading the law.
The writer is a professor of management and public speaker. He can be reached at [email protected]