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Numerical indexing of evidence

The procedure will be a subtle but significant shift and help in making our criminal justice system more transparent

Published: 17th August 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th August 2016 10:40 AM   |  A+A-

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There is a demand to appoint more and more judges with the goal of disposing of every case in this country within five years. It is true that speedy justice is important, but it is equally important to deliver judgments which reflect adjudication on merit. There is a need to have a transparent and objective system with an integral component of on time justice delivery. The legal system that we inherited from the British has continued for more than seven decades. The procedural laws have not undergone changes to suit our modern day needs. Definitely, we have added new laws, but many statutes did not have even a lifespan of a decade.

The only dimension in which the legal system has grown is the volume of litigants and cases. This has choked the legal system. A sine qua non for a vibrant and working democracy is an effective and responsive legal system. Cases pending for years, judgments that are per incuriam, ignored precedents and the salutary principle of stare decisis or subjectivity frustrate citizens who lose faith not only in the legal system, but also in democracy. There has been a persistent demand for better infrastructure and larger manpower to deliver effective justice. Certainly, lack of adequate capital expenditure to create the required infrastructure to ensure a healthy, robust, responsive and effective legal system is one of the ills plaguing the legal system. Setting up huge infrastructure will take time. So, we need a system which needs least infrastructure and is transparent. The nub of the problem does not lie in lack of infrastructure. What is needed is creating a penetrative justice delivery system which is fair, transparent and proactive. The satisfaction of the litigant does not come from only quick-fix justice delivery but also from transparent, reliable and effective service delivery.

There are many facets of this problem but in this article I intend to focus on reform in the administration of criminal justice by numerical indexing of evidences. In their quest to find solutions to this problem, investigating agencies, prosecuting agencies and the judicial system need to work coherently and imbibe new ways and means to improve Criminal Justice System along with simplification of procedures. Yes, this puts a greater onus on all stakeholders to improve the quality of the legal system.

As a simple easily implementable reform for a more transparent and effective legal system in India, I suggest the numerical indexing of evidence. The concept of numerical indexing of evidence is necessary in the Criminal Justice System and, with minor modifications, can also be introduced in civil laws. Numerical indexing of evidence will make a small, subtle but significant shift to a ‘Preponderant Evidence System’, thereby making the criminal justice system much more objective, transparent and less dependent on the whims of the Investigating Officer who may irresponsibly file a slip-shod chargesheet. Such chargesheets are not only a waste of precious judicial time in a system that is clogged by pending cases, but also indicative of the twin malaise of a criminal being acquitted on account of a sloppy investigation and perfunctory chargesheet and, on the other hand, an innocent being persecuted on account of a dishonest investigation and cooked-up chargesheet.

There is a crying need to create an index or grading system of evidences to enable the generation of a score card to make the gleaning of evidence and presentation in courts more scientific so as to make disposal of cases faster in a transparent manner. In case the prosecutor finds that the score card attached with the chargesheet is without sufficient evidence, it will be open to him to ask the investigating agency to further investigate. Similarly, in cases where the accused finds that impeccable evidences have been produced, he may bring in the ‘plead guilty’ phenomenon and ask for mitigating the punishment. Thus, judicial time spent will be economical, judicious and result-oriented.

It is high time we evolve an objective presentation of evidences, their appreciation and bring about mandatory changes in procedural laws to incorporate the system of grading of evidences gleaned by investigating agencies and presented by the prosecution to make the entire exercise objective and transparent. There is a strong belief that the present Criminal Justice System has failed to deliver and is likely to collapse if remedial steps are not taken immediately. The system is exhibiting signs of overload and lack of effective management.

There are four essential prerequisites to generate faith in any Criminal Justice System, namely — (a) Efficiency (b)  Effectiveness (c) Transparency and (d) Fair Play.  The existing system has shortcomings such as — (a) voluminous documentation in various court trials, which make the system least penetrating to prioritise evidences (b) judicial time is mostly utilised in examining oral testimony and (c)  mindset of all the appendages of today’s judicial system is tilted towards oral testimony, not towards scientific testimony.

To make things more simple, some explanatory score indexes can be followed —  for the cross matching of DNA finger prints with sample collected in ideal  conditions, the score may be 10 out of 10; if judicial confession is not retracted, it may be 10 out of 10; the score could be six points for extra judicial confession. This is illustrative only and on the scale of 1 to 10. However, numerical indexing of evidences requires in-depth study of various criminal cases, issues of perception of evidences and admissibility of such evidences.

In simple words, the chargesheets filed in courts are the summary of the statements made, evidences collected and expert opinion. The gravity of the evidence is very seldom given priority. Numerical indexing is an effort to identify the evidences and present it in numerical values which will simplify the entire procedure in such a way that even a cursory reading would be sufficient to arrive at a conclusion. The  procedure is only to make things simpler and Criminal Justice System effective.

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