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Challenges in Indian Criminal Justice System


The Criminal Justice system is based on the cardinal principles of fairness, transparency and Human Rights. But these principles underlying criminal law, criminal justice system in India have failed in attainment of these objectives in reality. The reason for failing to satisfy the basic principles of the justice system does not lie in its purposes or objects, but in proper handling and managing. The problem is embedded in the ineffective mechanism and apathetic officials entrusted with its implementation. The main problem before the criminal justice system is delayed disposal of cases – ‘Justice delayed is denial of justice’ is a basic principle of criminal law and based on the concept of fairness in criminal trials. For coping with the problem of criminality and crime waves it is desirable that guilty persons should be punished without any delay. Apart from this interest of society, the question of life and death of accused lies and in addition to this the rights and interests of aggrieved persons is no matter less important in criminal cases. For proper administration of justice and tackling the problem of criminality in the society, speedy disposal of cases are very crucial. In India, the right to speedy trial has now been recognised as a fundamental right enshrined in Article 21 of Constitution of India. Speedy trial is essential in order to gain public confidence in the criminal justice system. It plays a very crucial role in prevention and control of crime.

Criminal justice system : An overview

The Criminal Justice System is the social control agency that helps prevent and control crime. The members of any society get safety and security through the laws and regulations of the judicial organization.

The opulence of any country relies upon the primary function of the state’s existence of law and order. The quality of civil society depends on how the State fulfills its fundamental role. In the pluralistic and democratic society with ethnic minorities and diversities, there was a need for an evolving criminal justice administration. The rapidly evolving political and socio economic climate has brought massive systemic stresses and strains.

In India the judicial organization was important in ancient times to maintain and defend Dharma. The justice was conducted through the ceremony performed by pandits and in the administration of justice there was elitist racism all over the world. Similar was the case in the medieval era when the country’s invaders, the Mughals in particular, controlled justice to uphold and defend Islam’s ideals. They viewed individuals with differing religious views accordingly. Likewise, the British rulers treated the judiciary as a tool to perpetuate Indian colonial rule. The Indian criminal justice system has undergone several changes in law enforcement. The patriarchal tendency may be found in Buddhism, Islamic law, and colonial laws.

The law has processes incorporated into the system in modern times. Justice has been costly and beyond limited control. It is difficult to consider an average person and takes a lot of time. Moneymen and powerful men can get justice. The law has been made deliberately or unintended to develop a precondition for the poor who are always hesitant to bring their problems to the courts.

The system of Criminal Justice is focused on equity and accountability. However, the judicial organization of our country, which is based on these ideals, did not necessarily achieve these objectives. It is not for its intentions or motives but for effective treatment and management that the basic principles of the judiciary are violated. The question is inserted into the inadequate system and its execution is entrusted to apathic officials. The biggest issue with the criminal justice system is that trials are postponed – the “Deferred justice is obstruction of justice” principle is a common law philosophy focused on the idea of justice in criminal proceedings. It is important for the capable to be prosecuted without delay in order to tackle the question of crime. In addition, in criminal cases the question of life and death of the accused person is not less important than that of society, but also of the rights and interests of the aggravated person. The timely disposal of cases is very important for the proper administration of justice and for resolving the crime problem in society. The right to prompt trials in India has now been recognized as a constitutional right under Article 21 of India’s Constitution. Publicfaith towards the judicial system can be developed through speedy trials. It plays an incredibly important role in crime prevention and regulation.

The way in which crime is operated is generally known as the administration of criminal justice. Where an illegal crime has taken place, the criminal justice department’s duty is to determine if the conduct violates civil rights and liberties and freedoms and, where possible, to take necessary measures to remedy the imbalances caused by a criminal act. In carrying out this position, the criminal justice system typically uses a largely post-oriented approach to solving only one aspect of the crime problem, with an emphasis on prior criminal activity. The need for implementation of criminal justice was felt when the State found it necessary to impose the norms of human conduct expected to protect persons and societies. It seeks to accomplish its goal of security by prosecuting the offense by reducing the likelihood and apprehending the arrest, conviction and sentences of people who breach society’s rules and laws.

Compared with criminal case organization, the conviction rate is very low across India. Public confidence has already been lost in the current criminal justice system. So many cases are still left without hearing for years, and when taken before the judge, they have either been killed or left in some locations, or are unaware of the jury, due to utter lack of evidence. In many cases, the absence of the accused is noted, causing considerable delay in the delivery system of criminal justice. There are many instances of prosecution failure; the principal cause is interlaid retardation. The accused is caused primarily by delays in criminal cases on a number of occasions. But could he use the delay he has caused? It should be modulated to the extent possible to delay the penalty because delay undermines justice. Our judicial organization should be moderated. The current laws should be revised in a way that the accused cannot cause the offenders to be punished with such delay.

A state consists of three bodies, the parliamentary, the judiciary and the executive. The judiciary, the weakest of the three bodies, was said to be. It has no powers of the purse, no power of the sword, no money, no patronage and no physical strength to implement her decisions. The people have in the position of courts the power to render justice between rich and poor, powerful and weak, state and citizens without fear or favour. This is the cause of courts’ moral authority and confidence.

Criminal Justice delivery system in India

Crime is not just an experience of recent times. Crime and violence have affected every century. However, the definition of crime has varied between cultures and ages and therefore criminal law represents the prevailing norms and principles of that culture. In all cultures, crime is a natural phenomenon. According to sociologists Prins and Durkheim, ‘criminality is not transcendent but immanent from the very essence of humanity itself,’ he emphasized and said, criminal activity is common in societies because it is logically supposed to be the basic conditions of social organization. A crime-free society would require standardization, which is neither possible nor desirable, in the moral concepts of every person.

Criminal law is regulated in many nations by a common law known as the penal code or penal code. While the criminals’ codes in most English speaking countries come from English law, there was never a criminal code in England itself. English law often consists of a number of laws with a varying background. Codification value wasn’t limited to England. Under British law, a parallel mechanism was maintained in India, and a Penal Code was introduced during the 1830s and finally enforced in 1860. Criminal justice is the representation of popular opinion rather than any other field of justice and the definition of crime was often based on public opinion.

The basic aim of criminal law is to establish a framework for judicial administration. The key aim is to ensure a complete and equal jury for the accused, in compliance with the standards of natural justice developed.

The task before India is to improve human rights by improving its law enforcement system in its domestic criminal administration and, on the other hand, not be swayed at the expense of social growth and the unity of the country. The establishment of the National Human Rights Commission will make a difference if it is genuinely committed to recognizing human rights abuses in crime prevention operations, instead of being a face-saving tool for international criticism of human rights situations and being actively engaged in corrective and remediation steps. Reconciliation lies in the strengthening of the human rights community at home, which, in effect, would also replenish our reputation on the international stage.

Role and power of police in administration of criminal justice in India

The role of police is decisive because the policeman is the first to arrive on the scene of crime. Police, first and foremost, work extensively to maintain discipline and prevent crime, make preventive arrests, conduct investigations and detection, control crowds, control public in festivals, prevent riots and manage vehicle traffic etc.

Attendance of witness:

S.160 of the CrPC empowers the police officer to require the attendance of witnesses who are within the jurisdiction of such a police station. However, where the male person is below the age of 15 years or above the age of 65 years or woman or physically or mentally infirm person, the attendance of such person will be required at his place where he resides.

A police officer making an investigation may require the attendance of any person residing within the limits of his own or adjoining station including the accused acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case. However, no male person below fifteen years or female shall be required to attend at any place other than the place of residence in which such person resides. A police officer can question such a person orally and he is bound to answer truly all questions put to him relating to the case unless the answers to the questions have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge or to a penalty or forfeiture. Such statements can also be reduced into writing by audio-video electronic means by the police officer. The police officer will furnish copies of the statements to the accused.[1]

Examination of witness

As per S.161 of the Code the police officer who has the power to investigate will examine the witness and reduce their statements in writing. This section also empowers to record the stamen in audio-visual electronic means. Moreover, a woman police officer is required to record the statement of the woman against whom an offence is committed.

Any police officer making an investigation under this Chapter, or any police officer not below such rank as the State Government may, by general or special order, prescribe in this behalf, acting on the requisition of such officer, may examine orally any person supposed to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case.Such person shall be bound to answer truly all questions relating to such case put to him by such officer, other than questions the answers to which would have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge or to a penalty or forfeiture.The police officer may reduce into writing any statement made to him in the course of an examination under this section; and if he does so, he shall make a separate and true record of the statement of each such person whose statement he records.[2]

Preparation of charge sheet

A police officer is empowered to submit a charge sheet post investigation. It includes a copy of FIR, statement of the complainant, witnesses, panchnama, dying declaration etc.

As soon as an investigation is completed the officer in-charge of a police station shall forward a report to a magistrate empowered to take cognizance of the offence on a police report in the form of the prescribed manner by the State Government stating the names of the parties, nature of the information, the names of the person appeared to be acquainted with the circumstances of the case, whether any offence appears to have be committed and if so, by whom, whether the accused has been arrested, whether he has been released on his bond or sureties, whether he has been forwarded in custody under S.170 of the CrPC. He shall communicate to the informant the action taken by him.

Search by Police officer: S.165

Whenever an officer in charge of police station or a police officer making an investigation has reasonable grounds for believing that anything necessary for the purposes of an investigation into any offence which he is authorised to investigate may be found in any place within the limits of the police station of which he is in charge, or to which he is attached, and that such thing cannot in his opinion be otherwise obtained without undue delay, such officer may, after recording in writing the grounds of his belief and specifying in such writing, so far as possible, the thing for which search is to be made, search, or cause search to be made, for such thing in any place within the limits of such station.

A police officer proceeding under Sub-Section (1), shall, if practicable, conduct the search in person.

If he is unable to conduct the search in person, and there is no other person competent to make the search present at the time, he may, after recording in writing his reasons for so doing, require any officer subordinate to him to make the search, and he shall deliver to such subordinate officer an order in writing, specifying the place to be searched, and so far as possible, the thing for which search is to be made; and such subordinate officer may thereupon search for such thing in such place

The provisions of this Code as to search-warrants and the general provisions as to searches contained in S.100 shall, so far as maybe, apply to a search made under this section.

Copies of any record made under Sub-Section (1) or Sub-Section (3) shall forthwith be sent to the nearest Magistrate empowered to take cognizance to the offence, and the owner or occupier of the place searched shall, on application, be furnished, free of cost, with a copy of the same by the Magistrate.

S.157 of the Code lays down the procedure of investigation to be followed by the police, for collection of evidence. The investigation of a cognizable case begins when a police officer in charge of a police station has reason to suspect the commission of a cognizable offence on the basis of FIR or any other information so received. It requires that prompt intimation of the FIR be sent to the Magistrate. The officer shall then proceed in person to the spot for investigation of facts and circumstances, or shall depute one of his subordinate officers for the same, and if required, measures for the discovery and arrest of the person shall be taken.

When the information received by the police officer is not of serious nature, the officer need not proceed in person or depute some subordinate officer to investigate on the spot. And if no sufficient ground exists for entering on an investigation, he shall not investigate the case. And shall state in its report for not complying with the requirements of this section, and notify the informant that he will not investigate the case or cause it to be investigated.

A report is sent to the Magistrate which is called the police report. It is sent by the superior police officer, so as to make the Magistrate aware that a particular case is being investigated by a police officer. The main objective of sending a report is to enable the Magistrate to control the investigation and give directions if required under S.159 of the Code.

The report should be sent to the Magistrate without any delay. In Swati Ram v. State of Rajasthan, it was held that mere delay in sending the report does not throw away the prosecution case in its entirety.

At different stages of an investigation, different reports are to be submitted by the police to the Magistrate. These reports are:

S.157 of the CrPC requires the officer in charge of the police station to submit a report to the Magistrate, called a preliminary report.

S.168 of the CrPC requires a subordinate officer to submit a report to the officer in charge of the police station.

S.173 of the CrPC requires that a final report is to be submitted to the Magistrate as after the investigation gets over.

Right of Police to Interrogate:

It is a legitimate right of the police officer to interrogate any person on some credible information. It is also true that such persons seldom willingly furnish quick and correct clues to the crimes. A certain amount of coaxing and promising may, therefore, be necessary. That does not, however, mean that the police is at liberty to use third degree method, beat a person or resort to any physical torture. Interrogation should be purposeful to make the investigation effective. Use of force is barbaric and contrary to law. Police officers are custodian of law, if the themselves commit crime than no one would be safe in the society[3]


The maxim “justice delayed is justice denied” succinctly captures the essence of the issue of delayed justice in India. Speedy trial is the core of the criminal justice system and there is no doubt that delay in trials by it constitutes denial of justice. Anyone has rights to infringe the basic rights of citizens which are provided by the Indian Constitution. The state is the custodian of basic privileges of every person which ensures the right to speedy trials and to keep away from the delayed trials of criminal cases. Speedy Trials are an insistent requirement of criminal reform as there are many cases pending in the court, pendency of many under trials. There must be fair speedy trials. There must be a restricted time period for the disposal of cases. For all crimes there must be a time specified. There must be speedy trials; it would also provide good messages to the public.

The criminal justice system should be a beacon of hope and positivity uplifting the oppressed class and restoring peace. 

Journal by
Advocate Deepanshu Sharma

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