Hot News

Guilty, Unless Proven Otherwise

Guilty, Unless Proven Otherwise

Juvenile crimes in India have shown an unprecedented rise in the recent past.

While the revelations have been shocking, it is the juvenile justice system in the country that has come in for flak from various quarters primarily because the emphasis has always been on the care and protection of the minor-offender leaving a distinct feeling that the victims and their families have been denied justice.

Take the Delhi Nirbhaya case for instance!

The most aggressive of the lot who brutalized the girl walks free after three years of detention in a special home for delinquents, while the other convicted rapists are awarded capital punishment for the same crime!

Within hours of his release there were apprehensions that he had relocated himself in some other part of the country. One dare say ‘a general feeling of uneasiness’, because the authorities were not absolutely certain that he wouldn’t attempt similar criminal acts in future. What reformation has he undergone in the correction house one wonders!

The term ‘released on probation’ hence ceases to be irrelevant in this context considering that in the absence of a system in place to keep a check on his activities after he is released, the purpose of ‘deterrence and reformation’ of the delinquent is hardly served.

The purpose here is not to dwell on the deficiencies in the juvenile justice system in the country. Far from that! If the spate of crimes involving young children has been quite disturbing, it is the regularity with which children are being implicated in criminal cases that has been more alarming!

It becomes all the more intriguing to have crimes committed within school premises to have class prejudices deciding the way the investigating agencies arrive at a conclusion about the culprit. Usually drivers, conductors, watchmen and utility staff in the school face the brunt of police questioning with the possibility of one of them being indicted in the crime.

Not that the investigating agencies delving into various criminal cases have been deft with their probes either, resulting in offenders going scot-free and at times not even coming into the radar of the detectives! What is it that prevents the investigating officers from going beyond these limitations to solve the case! 

One such case that stands out as a glaring example of this lacuna in investigations is the Aarushi Murder case that saw the Talwar-couple spending time in incarceration for a crime in which their complicity was always in doubt.

Was it a case of ‘organizational politics’ getting the better of the CBI investigations that saw the need for scapegoats for the Bureau to close the case? So many inconsistencies on the part of the premier investigating agency in the country, and that after having wrapped up the whole case with the most plausible explanations for the motive and the manner of killing, leaves no doubt whatsoever in any one’s mind that the whole investigation was shrouded in mystery.

With the ‘why, how and when’ of murder investigations appearing to be conveniently overlooked, instances where even before an investigation into a murder case runs its full course, deciding who the perpetrator of the crime is going to be in spite of prima facie the evidences suggesting so otherwise, have not been rare - and of late there has been a sudden spurt in such cases!

Egoistic approaches of superior officers, coupled with the politics that is enacted between various factions within the organization, often results in investigations into cases being compromised with. 

Although a celluloid creation, but one with enough of posers for the audience, the Bollywood production,  Talwar, gave the public a lot to ponder about. In the movie the protagonist is shown coming very close to solving the double-murder case, but before his efforts could bear fruit, much to his indignation he is moved out of the case by his superiors. The film very rightly reminded people about the Aarushi- episode.

For building-up such a story, writers need to perceive certain amount of truth in the matter. Imaginations can run wild, but fictitious accounts cannot sound so believable if the element of truth is absent in the narration.

Now with contrasting lines of investigation, have the Haryana Police and the CBI combined to botch up the Ryan International School murder case exposing the rot in investigation agencies! 

Almost two months after a bus-conductor was arrested on allegations of sexual assault and murder of a seven-year-old student of the private school in Gurugram, the sensational case that shook the entire education system took a dramatic turn the other day with the arrest of a class XI student of the same school by the CBI with the accusation of murdering the child.

While in mood to question the integrity of the elite investigating agency in the country, it becomes highly impossible to believe the theory put forward by the CBI officials while arresting the senior student from the school for the crime. A murder, and a despicable one at that, for as trivial a reason as the postponement of a PTA meeting and the ensuing term examination!

First the Haryana police indicts the bus conductor and the CBI then arrive to implicate the class XI student in the case, setting the bus-conductor free. In both the cases, the enquiring officers were quick to take credit for solving the case in a jiffy! Quite puzzling!

This will naturally set a trend where claims by our sleuths to have cracked a case will henceforth be taken with a pinch of salt considering that the arrests they make are in no way substantiated by fool-proof evidences establishing the guilt of the accused.

Usually, high-profile cases invite media and political glare forcing the investigating agencies to act in haste to show progress. But this undermines the case and the very idea of justice bringing the criminal justice system to ridicule, as has been happening lately.

While it takes the crime-busters time and perseverance to bring culprits involved to justice, the practice of propping up ‘distractions’ to buy time into the investigations have cost many innocents their freedom, not to mention the blotch on their fair names. 

Retracting on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he/she has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence,” our investigating agencies appear to presume one guilty of the crime much before his/her innocence is established conclusively.

(Published on 20th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 47)