In the last two years, lower courts in Mumbai have ordered acquittals in 11,120 cases and the state has not appealed even in 1% of the cases. This data, which has been provided by the state government to a right to information (RTI) applicant, states that only 61 of the 11,120 cases have been challenged in higher courts by the prosecution.
The number is even more startling in acquittal cases in judicial magistrate courts across the rest of the state between January 1, 2009, and January 1, 2011. In Gadchiroli, just one of the 19,394 acquittals was challenged during the two-year period. In Yavatmal and Wardha, 11 acquittals each out of 37,530 and 19,058 cases respectively were challenged by the state.
“Most public prosecutors argue that they don’t file an appeal due to lack of evidence or witnesses as the case gets diluted. But, the numbers are shocking and they could leave the aggrieved parties with no scope to fight further,” said Mumbai-based RTI activist Jeetendra Ghadge, who had sought the information.
Ujjawal Nikam, who has been a special public prosecutor in several high-profile cases, said, “There could be a possibility that public prosecutors didn’t pay attention in some cases. Public prosecutors have to send a report to the government or director of public prosecutions to decide whether the case deserves to be appealed or not.” And, sometimes the state decides not to challenge the acquittal after scrutinising the case, added Nikam.
Concerned officials said shortage of staff is a major reason for not filing appeals. While four out of 15 additional public prosecutor posts are vacant, just 19 out of 48 assistant public prosecutor posts have been filled.
“Each public prosecutor handles two courts, which is burdening,” said Hemant Jadhav, in-charge of assistant director and public prosecutor office, Mumbai.
“As a result, preparing for an appeal and being present for the hearing becomes difficult,” added Jadhav.
Additional chief secretary (home) UC Sarangi said that the government is currently in the process of hiring more public prosecutors.
“Within two years we will have enough staff,” said Sarangi.