Yes Milord, the process is often punishment - Hindustan Times
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Yes Milord, the process is often punishment

ByHT Editorial
Feb 29, 2024 09:10 PM IST

Procedural delays are a troublesome feature of the Indian justice system.

The two-judge bench SC order clearing a person charged with abetting the suicide of his wife 30 years ago is noteworthy for two reasons. One, it has stressed an important principle that should guide law officers while invoking stringent provisions, in this specific case, Section 306 of the IPC (abetment to commit suicide). Two, the comment the Court made on the judicial process that “the criminal justice system of ours can itself be a punishment”.

The SC has stressed an important principle that should guide law officers while invoking stringent provisions, in this specific case, Section 306 of the IPC (File image) PREMIUM
The SC has stressed an important principle that should guide law officers while invoking stringent provisions, in this specific case, Section 306 of the IPC (File image)

Section 306, IPC, introduced in the 19th century to combat Sati, has helped to ensure punishment in dowry harassment cases. However, as with many progressive legal interventions, it is often invoked without proper application of mind and wielded as a blunt instrument, often to calm lynch mobs. Suicide is always tricky to adjudicate as the action is influenced by complex social and psychological factors. Laying out the procedural safeguards to be followed, the SC called for “cogent and convincing proof” if abetment charges are made. “The court must remain very careful and vigilant in applying the correct principles of law governing the subject of abetment of suicide while appreciating the evidence on record,” judges said. Police and judicial officers should heed the SC.

Equally important is the SC’s remarks about the process becoming the punishment. Procedural delays are a troublesome feature of the Indian justice system. Many political cases are framed under the draconian UAPA and the accused end up in jails for extended periods. In the 2018 Elgar Parishad case, for instance, it took months for the chargesheet to be filed: Stan Swami, a Jesuit priest afflicted by Parkinson’s disease, died in 2021 after spending three years in prison as an undertrial. This breeds mistrust in the justice system.

The Court’s self-reflective concern is appreciated. The challenge is to resolve it.

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