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Wrong side of the courtroom?
There has been some impressive fast-tracking of cases; now the courts need to ensure that the treatment of undertrials improves, more so inside the court

There are several faults and deficiencies that are associated with India’s legal system, and the treatment of undertrials is just one of them. On January 6, 2012, Asif Balwa, who is accused in the 2G spectrum allocation case and is also the Director of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Ltd., was ordered by a special judge O. P. Saini to stand in the dock for more than half an hour because his lawyer asked some irreverent questions to a prosecution witness. The judge reportedly proceeded to threaten other defence lawyers too that he would make all the defendants involved stand in the dock if the ‘faulty’ questioning continued.

The aforementioned incident invites the glaring question – has humiliating the accused become so accepted a norm that judges now assume the accused to be guilty? Three college students (arrested for protesting against a proposed SEZ) were allowed to appear for their examinations only after their ankles were restrained to the desk in Nashik in May 2011. A similar incident was reported in August 2011, when a prisoner was handcuffed & tied with ropes while being moved from CST to Hutatma Chownk, Mumbai. Commenting in the context of a similar case in AP last year, the Andhra Pradesh HC Judge C. V. Nagarjuna Reddy clarified that prisoners can’t be handcuffed without written permission. Yes, the most terrible predicament for an undertrial really is the delay in justice. Under former law minister Veerappa Moily, a remarkable feat was achieved when fast tracking of cases led to 5.6 lakh prisoners being released on bail, 77,940 being discharged and 68,744 getting convicted. But now the ministry must also take cognizance of the treatment meted out to undertrials by judges. The Asif Balwa example is the case in point.

By:- Amir Hossain

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