Constitutional Law

Right to Fair Trial in India

By Shubhi Shukla

Introduction

Indian constitution is the longest written constitution in the world in its English language version there exist 146385 words. The direct and indirect intention of all these laws is to make sure that there lies a fair and impartial trial of the accused. It is a foundational stone to the law and Justice. There is a provision that the defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable suspicion. According to the world justice project Rule Of Law Index 2021, India stands at 79th position out of 139 countries.

Right to Fair Trial

The Right to Fair trial is incorporated in the Indian constitution. This provision is a must-have in every democratic country of the world. No one in a democratic country can be denied his right to personal liberty or life, whether it be the innocent or the accused. As per  Article 21 of the Indian constitution fair trial is rendered as a part of personal liberty and life. In the case of Rattiram v. State of Madhya Pradesh, it was held that a Fair trial is the heart of criminal jurisprudence. It is a fundamental right over which no one has the authority to deny.

There are some principles of a Fair trial. And those are:-

1. Presumption Of Innocence

This principle is of utmost importance for the Indian criminal justice system. Under it, every accused is believed to be innocent until his guilt has been proved beyond a reasonable suspicion. The burden of proof that the accused is guilty of a crime lies on the prosecution. However, some exceptions undermine this principle and place the burden of proof on the accused party instead of the prosecution.

There is a very famous saying of jurist Blackstone that it is better to let go of 10 guilty accused than make a single innocent suffer. As our society is developing, we are being introduced to some very new tactics and crimes. So now between several cases coming every day to the court, it is very important to punish the accused based on facts and proof rather than punishing them on mere suspicion. Because our justice system is the major reflection of how our society works and functions.

2.  Independent, Impartial & Competent Judge

In a democratic nation, it is very significant that the individual judges are independent and make decisions based on right and wrong. They must work freely without any external force and pressure that is capable of influencing their opinions. When judges work impartially, it builds public confidence in the judicial system. Which otherwise would have raised so many questions on it. The pressure does not only mean the government is in power but it also includes media, other judges, his interest, etc.

The independence of the judiciary in the Indian constitution is ensured by differentiating the three organs of law

  • Legislative – the one which makes the law.
  • Executive– the one which executes the law and
  • Judiciary– the one which helps to keep a check on proper maintenance of law and order and punishes people for its breach.

In Shyam Singh v. The State Of Rajasthan it was held that the concern is not whether an influence has affected the judgment or not but its whether there exists a circumstance according to which a litigant is capable to apprehend that an influencing attributable to a judicial officer is operated against him in the final judgment.

3. Expeditious trial

Expeditious in Literal terms means something done with speed and efficiency. So, the expeditious trial is a significant feature of a fair trial. There is a very famous saying that justice delayed is justice denied. The speedy trial makes sure that there is no unwarranted harassment of the accused is involved. In the case of Husainara Khatoon v. The State Of Bihar, it was held that speedy trial is like a basic brick on which Article 21 of the Indian constitution was built. But fast judgment doesn’t mean it to be ineffective. In such a case where the justice is speedy but inefficient, it is of no use. So, the judgment should always be efficient. This provision ensures that the people of a country trust their laws and have faith in the justice system of the country.

4. Hearing should be in open court

 This principle wants the court proceedings to be open and accessible to the public at large and the media. This openness of the court ensures that the justice provided is fair. And it’s not only the right of the accused but also the general public for the judgment to be open and accessible to them. But there is also an exception in which the judge can contradict the conduct of a criminal trial to be held in an open court according to his discretion. This feature of the Indian constitution brings transparency in the administration of justice. The parties get to know what is happening and inculcate discipline and caution in the minds of all those involved in administering justice.

5. Knowledge of Acquisition and Adequate Opportunity

As mentioned in Article 22 (1) of the Indian Constitution every person has the fundamental right to be defended by a non-bias legal prosecutor. And this fundamental right can only be utilized when the accused knows about the acquisition. Free trial signifies that the accused person is given a chance to defend himself but for the same, he must be aware of the acquisition against him. The accused of a case must be informed about the acquisition in his language, the one which he speaks and understands.

6. Trial in presence of accused

To ensure a free and fair trial it is significant that the accused is present in all the proceedings of the case. It is significant for the accused to understand his case and also the perspective of the opponent so that he can prepare his defense accordingly. And this could only be done when he is present in the trial. The absence of the accused in a criminal trial is contradicted by the principle of natural justice.

7. Evidence to be taken in Presence of Accused

It is very significant that all the evidence that is involved in a case, the accused is aware of it all. Therefore, all the evidence must be accepted in the presence of the accused or his legal representatives or if he has one. It is also important that the evidence that is involved in the case be in a language understood by the accused otherwise it will be of no use.

8. Cross-Examination of Prosecution Witnesses

To ensure that the witness involved in the case are credible its interrogation is mandatory. The prosecution has to tell about the witness in advance, whom he wants to bring in. It is an important principle to provide fair justice to the accused.

In the landmark case of Badri v. State Of Rajasthan (1976) the Supreme Court of India held that where a witness of the prosecution was not denied to be interrogated on a material point concerning his previous statement given to the police, his evidence stands untested by interrogation and was denied as validating his earlier made statement.

9. Double Jeopardy – Not Allowed

Indian Constitution works on the principle of aut-refocus convict or double jeopardy. In simple terms, it means that any individual cannot be punished for the same offense twice and if he is punished twice for the same offense it is termed to be double jeopardy. Forbidding double jeopardy is a fundamental right and it is safeguarded under Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution.

Under this provision, the people who cannot afford a legal representative and cannot have an approach to the Indian court system are assisted for the same. This provision ensures equality before the law and the conduction of a free and fair trial. Section 303 and 304 of the Cr.P.C talks about providing free legal aid by providing legal counsel to the accused.

In the case of  Khatri v. State Of Bihar court held that the accused is obliged to receive free legal counsel at three points first at the stage of the trial second when he is bought before the magistrate and third when he is remanded.

Conclusion

Indian constitution consists of all the ingredients it requires to ensure a free and fair trial however India’s performance in the Rule Of Law Index isn’t very appealing. This is because of several loopholes, retard, and crooks in the implementation of all the above-mentioned principles of a free and fair trial. If we ask people who have ever come across a case that is dealt with within a year or two almost 90% of them would say no. Similarly, there are n number of irregularities such as delayed investigation, corruption in the judiciary, complex and expensive legal process.  To improve India’s performance, it is very important to work on all the above-mentioned principles and make sure that every person in the country whether it be accused or innocent goes through a free and fair trial.

Categories: Constitutional Law

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