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Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on plea seeking compensation for victims of wrongful prosecution

A three-judge bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Indira Banerjee and K.M. Joseph sought the Centre’s response on the pleas filed by BJP leaders Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and Kapil Mishra.

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre on a plea seeking a direction to frame guidelines for payment of compensation to victims of wrongful prosecution and implement the recommendations of Law Commission Report No. 277 on the miscarriage of justice.

A three-judge bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Indira Banerjee and K.M. Joseph sought the Centre’s response on the pleas filed by BJP leaders Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and Kapil Mishra while it refuses to issue any notice to the State Governments and Union Territories for now. Today, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria and Arijit Prasad appeared for the petitioners.

Giving the example of the recent acquittal of a man after 20 years he spent in prison on false rape charges, the petitioners submitted that it is the need of the hour to have specific guidelines and for the state agencies to prevent such police and prosecutorial misconduct which is rampantly destroying lives of innocents falsely implicated and then acquitted after years of turmoil in the guise of “the prosecution could not prove beyond doubt”.

The petitioner, Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, said there has been a spurt in false cases. Wrongful prosecution and incarceration of innocent persons with no effective statutory and legal mechanism available to the innocent persons to address the same, is causing “miscarriage of justice” and has created a black-hole in the criminal jurisprudence of our country.” Kapil Mishra, in his plea, highlighted the case to contend that false cases had led to suicides of innocents who are victims of police and prosecutorial misconduct.

“The Allahabad High Court had acquitted Vishnu Tiwari, who spent 20 years in jail on rape charges with no compensation awarded, ignoring even the public law remedy which shows the necessity of effective compensation and legal mechanism for malicious prosecutions and the wrongful incarceration of innocents,” stated in the petitions.

The petitioner has highlighted the laws of various countries which comprehensively dealt with the “miscarriage of Justice” and provide compensation to the victims of wrongful conviction. He said that the United Kingdom has incorporated the obligation of Article 14(6) of ICCPR into its domestic legislation; the Criminal Justice Act 1988, under Part XI subtitled “Miscarriages of Justice”, sections 133, 133A, 133B which provide compensation to a person who has suffered the punishment due to wrongful conviction. The Section 88 of the UK Police Act, 1996 deals with the ‘Liability for wrongful acts of constables” and vicarious liability of State for tortious acts of the police.

In Germany, he said, the issue of the miscarriage of justice resulting in wrongful convictions etc. is primarily dealt with by assigning the liability to the state and by providing compensation to those wrongfully convicted which is dealt with by various Laws- “Law on Compensation for Criminal Prosecution Proceedings, 1971” dealing with the claims of compensation. In the United States of America, most of the states have their own respective laws providing for compensation – monetary and/or non-monetary assistance to victims of wrongful conviction, incarceration with some states having laid fixed amounts to be paid, depending upon the period of incarceration while others having given discretion to appropriate forums.

The petitioner averred, “Surprisingly, India with a population of around 1.5 billion has no effective statutory/legal mechanism for the wrongful prosecution due to police and prosecutorial misconduct resulting in a pandemic of false cases which has not only destroyed the social fabric of the nation but also affected the over-burdened judiciary with alarming pendency of over 40 million cases as on date making it impossible to secure justice for the hapless innocents who spend their precious years running around courts, with monetary compensation rarely even awarded for their wrongful prosecutions being done and any punitive actions taken against prosecutorial and police misconduct leading to miscarriage of justice.

The petitioner has claimed that due to no fear of being prosecuted by courts and growing tendency to frame innocents for ulterior motives there has been an unprecedented surge in filing of false cases these days by vengeful vexatious complainants who falsely implicate innocents who are acquitted after a protracted trial and have to bear the ignominy of society with no compensatory mechanism.

He said the state is responsible for the tortious acts of its employees and must repair the damage done to citizens by its officers, by adequate monetary and non-monetary compensation. Defence of sovereign immunity isn’t available against the constitutional remedy.

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“Centre cannot shy away from its obligation to safeguard and protect the right to life, liberty and dignity to every citizen. Thus, it is for the Centre to evolve a suitable statutory and legal mechanism to address and safeguard citizen rights guaranteed under Article 21 against wrongful prosecutions and incarceration of innocents by addressing the miscarriage of Justice by suitable amendments in the IPC and CrPC on utmost priority. States have to implement them,” he added.

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