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Reform with caution - on criminal justice system: THE HINDU EDITORIAL

 Reform with caution - on criminal justice system: THE HINDU EDITORIAL

The Centre must act on the Malimath report on criminal law revamp, but with due care
It is not a bad idea to revisit old committee reports with a view to considering their possible implementation. However, such an exercise must be pursued with care and caution. The Centre’s decision to revisit the 2003 report of the Justice V.S. Malimath Committee on reforming the criminal justice system needs to be examined through the prism of civil rights. It includes controversial recommendations such as making confessions to a senior police officer admissible as evidence, and diluting the standard of proof required for a criminal conviction. It also contains valuable suggestions to revamp the administration of criminal law, covering the entire gamut of the justice system from investigation to sentencing, from matters of policy to the nuances of criminal procedure and the law of evidence. The committee made 158 recommendations, and since then some of these have become law. Its suggestion on permitting videography of statements has been implemented. The definition of rape has been expanded and new offences against women have been added. Its advocacy of substantial witness protection has not been realised, but victim compensation is now part of law. The Centre would do well to ignore the recommendations relating to making confessions to high-ranking officers admissible, and increasing the period of police custody from 15 to 30 days. These provisions were available only in anti-terrorism laws that are now no more in force. There is no need to bring them into general criminal laws. The Malimath report suggests a standard of proof lower than the current ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard. It moots a ‘clear and convincing’ standard, that is, it is enough if the court is convinced that something is true. Such a measure would have adverse implicationsfor suspects, and requires considerable deliberation. There is some understandable disquiet about the state of criminal justice administration in the country and there is a crying need for a wide range of reforms. As the Madhava Menon Committee’s ‘Draft National Policy on Criminal Justice’ (2007) noted, such popular dissatisfaction arises from the low rate of conviction, the apparent role of money and influence in the outcome of cases, delayed and denied justice, lack of protection to witnesses and inadequate attention to crime victims. The widespread perception that there is corruption on the one hand and a deep nexus between crime syndicates and politicians on the other, has added to the erosion of public confidence in the justice delivery system. Despite all these considerations, any move to make substantive changes in the way criminal justice is administered will have to be done with great circumspection, lest vital constitutional safeguards against abuse of police and judicial powers are violated in the process. In the name of revamping the law, investigation and trial should not be altered in a way that undermines the principles on which the justice system was founded.

 LEARN VOCABULARY FROM THE HINDU EDITORIAL 

1) Examined
Meaning: Inspect (someone or something) thoroughly in order to determine their nature or condition.
Example: “a doctor examined me and said I might need a caesarean”
Synonyms: Inspect, Explore
2) Prism
Meaning: Used to refer to the clarification or distortion afforded by a particular viewpoint.
Example: “they were forced to imagine the disaster through the prism of television”
3) Confessions
Meaning: A formal statement admitting that one is guilty of a crime.
Example: “he signed a confession to both the murders”
Synonyms: Admission, Disclosure
Antonyms: Concealment, Denial
4) Admissible
Meaning: Acceptable or valid, especially as evidence in a court of law.
Example: “the tape recording was admissible as evidence”
Synonyms: Allowable, Permissible
Antonyms: Inadmissible
5) Diluting
Meaning: Make (something) weaker in force, content, or value by modification or the addition of other elements.
Example: “the reforms have been diluted”
Synonyms: Diminish, Reduce
Antonyms: Intensify
6) Conviction
Meaning: A formal declaration by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law that someone is guilty of a criminal offence.
Example: “she had a previous conviction for a similar offence”
Synonyms: Sentence, Judgment
Antonyms: Acquittal
7) Revamp
Meaning: Give new and improved form, structure, or appearance to.
Example: “an attempt to revamp the museum’s image”
Synonyms: Renovate, Recondition
8) Gamut
Meaning: The complete range or scope of something.
Example: “the whole gamut of human emotion”
Synonyms: Range, Sapn
9) Sentencing
Meaning: Declare the punishment decided for (an offender).
Example: “ten army officers were sentenced to life imprisonment”
Synonyms: Punish, Convict
10) Nuances
Meaning: A subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.
Example: “he was familiar with the nuances of the local dialect”
Synonyms: Gradation, Modulation
11) Advocacy
Meaning: The profession or work of a legal advocate.
Example: “solicitors should have a record of advocacy in the lower courts”
12) Implications
Meaning: The conclusion that can be drawn from something although it is not explicitly stated.
Example: “the implication is that no one person at the bank is responsible”
Synonyms: Suggestion, Inference
13) Deliberation
Meaning: Slow and careful movement or thought.
Example: “he replaced the glass on the table with deliberation”
Synonyms: Care, Caution
Antonyms: Haste
14) Disquiet
Meaning: Make (someone) worried or uneasy.
Example: “she felt disquieted at the lack of interest the girl had shown”
Synonyms: Agitate, Disturb
Antonyms: Calm
15) Apparent
Meaning: Seeming real or true, but not necessarily so.
Example: “his apparent lack of concern”
Synonyms: Seeming, Ostensible
Antonyms: Genuine
16) Perception
Meaning: Intuitive understanding and insight.
Example: “‘He wouldn’t have accepted,’ said my mother with unusual perception”
Synonyms: Insight, Sharpness
17) Nexus
Meaning: A central or focal point.
Example: “the nexus of any government in this country is No. 10”
18) Syndicates
Meaning: A group of individuals or organizations combined to promote a common interest.
Example: “large-scale buyouts involving a syndicate of financial institutions”
19) Circumspection
Meaning: The quality of being wary and unwilling to take risks; prudence.
Example: “circumspection is required in the day-to-day exercise of administrative powers”
Synonyms: Caution, Wariness
20) Undermines
Meaning: Lessen the effectiveness, power, or ability of, especially gradually or insidiously.
Example: “this could undermine years of hard work”
Synonyms: Subvert, Threaten
Antonyms: Enhance, Improve
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