Justice reforms ignored
The biggest problem, Malimath said, was that politicians put pressure on the police. ?Where is the autonomy that I had proposed??india Updated: Mar 05, 2006 00:35 IST
Jessica Lall’s killers could easily have been facing the death sentence. Justice VS Malimath, whose committee’s recommendations in 2003 for reforms in the Indian criminal justice system were ignored, told HT that the accused in the Jessica murder case would not have walked free if some of his suggestions had been incorporated: “My report had plugged the escape routes for the criminals in all cases.”
The former chief justice of the Kerala and Karnataka high courts said his suggestions included ensuring deposition of witnesses before a magistrate at the earliest to insulate them from threats or inducement, autonomy to the police from political interference, new rules for collection of forensic evidence, prevention of tampering of evidence and stringent punishment to witnesses who lied under oath.
“One reading of the Jessica judgment will convince you that it was slackness on these counts that resulted in the acquittal,” he added.
The biggest problem, Malimath said, was that politicians put pressure on the police. “Where is the autonomy that I had proposed?”
The 154th report of the Law Commission, which preceded his recommendations, too, had laid down guidelines on preventing witnesses from turning hostile; he was surprised why these too were ignored. “Witnesses are not made to sign the statements by the police and often retract.
A helpless court goes by what the witness says in court. The committee had recommended that the witnesses record their statement before a magistrate. But that was not considered.”