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Presumed Guilty: Uncovering The High Cost Of Wrongful Convictions

This paper talks about the wrongful conviction and its effect on the people. This paper talks about how the problem of wrongful conviction is still prevailing in our justice system, I have tried to highlight the reasons to how wrongful convictions can happen, and what can be the effects of it on the person as well as his family. This paper also talks about the remedies available for a wrongfully convicted person and how the current available remedies are not adequate to make the person functional in the society again after his conviction is turned over and he is released.

The very term justice has a deep meaning to it and at the same time it's very simple too, courts are the institutions which provide this justice, it is the responsibility of the courts to properly channelize the justice, it depends on the courts whether the people of the country have faith in the justice system or not. Especially in the criminal justice system where a person's life is on the line and as well as justice needs to be done to the victim.

There is a saying that goes "justice delayed is justice denied" which basically means that not only giving justice is enough but also giving it earliest is required, but many of a time in pursuit of this objective There are instances when an innocent is wrongly convicted, and the real culprit is set free. This is called a miscarriage of Justice or wrongful conviction

Miscarriage of Justice is not a recent phenomenon but has been there since a long time ago. There are many instances in History where innocents were punished by the then judicial system while the main culprits were set aside. The innocent behind bars is a "SCAPEGOAT" in the Criminal Justice System. The "SCAPEGOAT" is punished due to the faulty Judicial Process. That fault may be from the side of the Police or Prosecutor or the Court itself. These kinds of mis happenings leave a very bad impression of the Criminal Judicial System on the General Public and International Image of any Nation. Other than this it also questions the rationality of the Courts.

A wrongful conviction is an injustice or miscarriage of justice when an innocent person spends years behind a bar or on death row. This injustice is occurring every day in the Indian courts. Many of the times innocent is forced to confess for a crime which they have not committed in order to achieve swift justice in the eye of the public. It not only leads to the wrongful conviction of the innocent but also the real culprit is free in the outside world without any liability for the crime he/she committed.

This paper explains why wrongful conviction has become an important issue and a matter of grave concern in our judicial system, the scope of the problem, its causes, and reform in the system. Many states even after a person is proved to be wrongfully convicted and acquitted later doesn't have a law to compensate them, only the courts have the discretion whether to give compensation or not. A person who is wrongfully convicted will face many problems even after getting acquitted, like mental trauma, financial loss, social disapproval and many more. This paper focuses on how a state can help a person wrongfully convicted and get that person back into society.

Statement Of Problem
Wrongful conviction in the Indian legal system is a very serious problem, and the remedies available for a wrongfully convicted person is not enough. We will see how a person is wrongfully convicted and whether the remedies available to him are enough or there needs to be some changes.

Research Question
  1. Whether the existing remedies available for a wrongfully convict enough?
  2. Whether there is a need for a legislation to compensate wrongfully convicted person?

Research Methodology
The current study is mainly based on data and information gathered from several cases decided by the Supreme Court, websites, journals, etc. Doctrinal method has been used to study and examine this research

Literature Review
To complete this goal of safeguarding justice, it is significant that the legal officers and their legal service are available sufficiently to all the distressed victims who come before the court. However, it has been observed through the sequence of wide investigation, that mainstream of the requesters have to pause for endless months and, sometimes years, just to start with the appropriate trial in the courts. Hence our judiciary is not able to achieve its functions of granting fairness to all effectively.

The constitution of India promises to all its citizens the protection of their rights including the remedies for implementation of their rights. The suspect person is often detained in criminal cases and put behindhand bars for years, before the trial of his case commences in the court. Those suspects who are illiterate or does not have the income to pay for their surety bond have to spend at least two to five years as - undertrials in the jail.

Till the time, when their cases come to the court for earshot, these accused have already attended the punishment for the crime they have been detained for. Here the judiciary miscarries to defend the rights of the citizens and the guiltless people have to pay the price for this failure. About the subject of postponement in the clearance of cases in India, Nani Palkhivala once said- "May I turn to the situation in India which has the second-largest number of lawyers in the world?

While it is true that justice is blind in our country, it is also lame. It barely manages to hobble along. The law may or may not be an ass, but in India it is snail; it moves at a pace that would be regarded as unduly slow in community of snails. A lawsuit, once started in India, is the nearest thing to the eternal life ever seen on this earth. Some have said that litigation in India is a form of fairly harmless entertainment.

But, if so, it seems to be a very expensive way of keeping the citizens 24 amused. If litigation were to be concluded in the next Olympics India would be quite certain of winning at least one gold medal." In the case of Motiram v. State of Madhya Pradesh.

What Is A Miscarriage Of Justice (Wrongful Conviction)?

The word 'Miscarriage' means 'Failure' whereas 'Justice' means 'Just or righteous'. Miscarriage of Justice means when there is a failure by the Judicial System to be right or just. There are many names to this like Wrongful Conviction, False Conviction, Judicial error, Unfair Ruling, and many more. The main aim and motive of the judicial system is to convict the real culprit and acquit the innocent, if it fails to do so then it leads to miscarriage of justice.

It is important to understand that not only the wrongful conviction is painful but also the whole process, for instance the innocent person has to face the social wrath and it leads in total distrust in the criminal justice system. Not only the person getting wrongfully convicted but also the family of the person also faces a lot of issues, like social boycott and many more.

For founding faith in the people of any country towards the legal organizations, the truth and attitude of the criminal justice system need to be protected. This can only be understood when the guilty are convicted and the innocents are absolved from punishment. It is a well-known belief that searing injustice and consequential social injury is caused when the law turns upon itself and convicts an innocent person various fundamental principles like presumption of innocence and other principles have been incorporated in the criminal procedural code, to ensure that such injustice is not caused. One of such grave injustice is when an innocent is accused of a crime, he never committed.

Cases Of Wrongful Conviction

Hussainara Khatoon &Ors vs Home Secretary, State of Bihar
This is a very famous case where many of the under trial prisoners of Bihar. A writ petition was filed in the supreme court of India, where it was said that many of the prisoners have been in the prison for 5 ,7 or 9 years without even getting a fair trial in the court of law. In this case it was observed that the prisoners from poor income background couldn't arrange for bail and had to suffer the injustices of the criminal justice system[1]

Mohammad Nasiruddin case
In this case a young 19year old boy was charged under Terrorist and Disruptive Act (TADA), the sessions court found him guilty under the act. When this matter reached to supreme court the boy was found not guilty and the supreme court acquitted him of all the charges, but by the time he was found not guilty he had spent 23 years of his life in jail because of false charges. He was not given any compensation for it, even though he had spent 23 years in jail while he was innocent.

Akshardham terror attack case
In this case six men were arrested and wrongfully convicted of terror charges, later when this case reached the apex Court they were found not guilty, but by the time they had already spent a decade of their life in prison. Later these six men filed a case for getting compensation for it, but the court dismissed it on the grounds "that it will set a bad precedent". [2]

Vishnu Tiwari case
In this case a man was arrested under the charge of rape in the year 2001, he spent 20 years of his life in jail, later the Allahabad High court found him innocent and acquitted him of all charges, it turned out to be a false rape charge for which he had to spend two decades of his life in prison.

Major Reasons For Wrongful Convictions

Mistake by Eye-witnesses- the testimony of an eye witness plays a very important role in the criminal justice system, eye-witness's testimony is a vital part of evidence to convict someone of the offence. In many cases the eye-witness i.e. the victim or any other person might make a mistake in identifying the offender and might identify an innocent person as the offender. In a report by West Michigan University, 72% of the convictions based on eyewitnesses were overturned after DNA testing. This shows how mistake by the eye-witness can change or ruin a life of an innocent person.

False confessions- this is one of the major problems faced by our criminal justice system in today's times. When a crime is committed and it draws the attention of larger public then a pressure is built on the investigative officers and the police to solve the case and punish the culprit as soon as possible. In pursuit of that police uses certain methods and brutality to get the confession from the accused, many of the times not able to tolerate and bear the brutality, innocent person might confess to the crime which he didn't even commit. By this an innocent person is falsely convicted and the real culprit walks free.

Systematic Biasness- when it comes to the basic notion that who might've committed the offence, there's always a pre conceived notion that it might have been committed by a person of a particular community. Especially color, caste, religion and economic status of an individual plays a very important role in the criminal justice system. There are many cases where Dalits are wrongly convicted by the lower courts and later gets acquittal by the Higher Courts.

However, many of them are not so privileged to approach the higher part of the Judiciary. According to the data muslims are the highest who are in prison without any conviction i.e. they are kept undertrial for many years.

Impact Of Wrongful Conviction

The first and foremost effect of a wrongful conviction is that the trust of a person in the criminal justice system is shattered, the person who is wrongfully convicted have zero confidence in the criminal justice system, which is an alarming sign for a need for reforms in the system. When one person is wrongfully convicted, his many generations lose confidence and doesn't have trust in the criminal justice system. Other than this there are many impacts of wrongful conviction.

Psychological impact
the psychological impact of being wrongfully accused of a crime was described as extreme and long-lasting. A study found that people who had been wrongfully convicted experienced permanent change in their personality, being anxious and paranoid Other changes included rejection of altruism and no longer wanting to help people and becoming hostile and mistrustful.

Along with changes in personality, they also experienced various other losses related to their sense of self-esteem, for example loss of dignity and credibility, loss of hope and purpose of the future.

Social impact
One of the studies has found that people who had been wrongfully convicted reported damaged reputations or feeling stigmatized by others. Another study found that wrongfully convicted struggled with managing stigma and suspicion from others. They also reported that many participants felt their standing in the community had been affected negatively. People don't accept the person wrongfully convicted even after he is found innocent, society labels them as the culprits and even the family of the accused faces such behavior from the society.

How Wrongful Conviction Can Be Reduced

Wrongful conviction is a serious and growing issue in the Indian criminal justice system, it is the duty of the judiciary to bring changes in the system so that the wrongful convictions are reduced. In order to solve this issue, the state has to be strictly held liable for their actions which leads to wrongful conviction of an innocent person, for example if the police doesn't do their work properly then it might lead to inadequate investigation and delay in the process of trial.

The main problem is that there is no legislation for the compensation for wrongful conviction. There is an absence of strict law to award compensation for a person who has lost years of his life because of the criminal justice system even though he was innocent. Our Indian constitution in Article 19 and Article 20 provides right to liberty and right to life, but these fundamental rights are violated when a person is wrongfully convicted of a crime which he didn't commit. the victims of justice transfer system often knock on the doors of courts to seek redressal , judiciary over the years has grown the compensatory jurisprudence wherein the state is levied with accountability for the violations of human rights.

Public law remedy
The Indian constitution through chapter III which includes fundamental rights has guaranteed right to life and liberty in Article 21 and 19 subsequently. If a person is wrongfully convicted, then his fundamental rights have been violated, so the person can approach the supreme court under Article 32 and High court under Article 226 of Indian constitution.

The person can claim for compensation in the court, countless cases have been decided by the Supreme Courts and High Courts, however, there is no set outline for shaping the virtues of right to compensation. Compensation as a form of public remedy for violation of fundamental rights is not expressly provided in the Constitution of India. It is a remedy that is single-minded on a case-to-case basis and thus is very much reliant on the facts and conditions of each case.

Private law remedy
Wrongfully convicted person can approach the court with a civil suit for the wrongful acts of the state administrators which is provided under Article 300 of the Indian constitution which provides that the government of India can be prosecuted in its title.

Criminal law remedy:
Apart from Constitutional and Civil laws, Criminal laws also provide remedies in case of wrongful conviction. There are provisions in the Indian Penal Code 1860 and Criminal Procedure Code 1973. Chapter Nine of the Indian Penal Code 1860 deals with the offenses committed by the Public Servants. Section 166 punishes Public Servants who disobey the laws to cause injury to other people. Section 167 deals with an issue when the Public Servant frames any incorrect document intending to cause injury. Section 193 provides punishment for fabricating any false evidence. It is important to note that intention (Mens Rea) is the most important element.

From all of this we can say that wrongful conviction is a very serious issue in our Indian criminal justice system, which is crippling our system and affecting the faith of people in the criminal justice system, we can say from analyzing various cases that if a person is wrongfully convicted then it will destroy his whole life and can have many repercussions which can be irreparable in many cases.

It can also be highlighted that the injustice of being wrongfully convicted is most of the time suffered by marginalized communities for example, person from economically weaker section of the society, people from lower castes, and from minority community as well.

Even though it's a very serious issue, we still don't have any concrete legislation to safeguard from wrongful conviction or at least providing compensation to those who have been wrongfully convicted. So as evolving democracy we should always keep in mind the fundamental rights of people, we have to have a concrete legislation to compensate people who are wrongfully convicted.

  • There should be a compensation scheme
  • There should be a legal mechanism by which the state can be penalized or punished for the harm.
  • There should be concrete legislation for it.
  • An independent board should be established for such complaints.

Index Of Authorities
  • Article 19 of Indian constitution
  • Article 21 of Indian constitution
  • Article 32 of Indian constitution
  • Article 226 of Indian constitution
  • Article 300 of Indian constitution
  • Section 166 of Indian Penal Code 1860
  • Section 167 of Indian Penal Code 1860
  • Section 193 of Indian Penal Code 1860
  • Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs Home Secretary, State of Bihar
  • Mohammad Nasiruddin case
  • Akshardham terror attack case
  • Vishnu Tiwari case
  • Motiram v. State of Madhya Pradesh

  1. Hussainara Khatoon &Ors vs Home Secretary, State of Bihar 1979 AIR 1369
  2. Adambhai Sulemanbhai Ajmeri & Ors vs State Of Gujarat AIR 2012

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