Do we need a law to compensate those implicated in false cases?

Context: In October 2021, Aryan Khan, son of actor Shah Rukh Khan, was arrested in Mumbai by the Narcotics Control Bureau in a drug racket case.

Now, on May 28, he and five others were given a clean chit by a special investigation team from Delhi.

Besides highlighting the torment suffered by him and his family, Aryan Khan’s case also threw the focus on the countless victims of malicious prosecution, many of whom are resourceless.

In this article, the participants have discussed the following:

– whether those who have been implicated in false cases should be compensated?

– reasons for wrongful and malicious prosecution, the role of investigating officers and agencies along with the judiciary, and

– whether India needs a new law to decide on the quantum of compensation?

Why do falsely implicated persons need to be compensated?

There are several reasons why a person should be compensated if there is false implication

– Our justice delivery system is painfully slow. There are instances where persons have spent eight, 10 or more years under trial.

– There is the mental trauma that not only a person, but also their family and children undergo.

– There is social stigma. In a village, where people know one another, maybe not intimately but they know who’s who, the family of the one who is falsely accused gets ostracised. It may not happen in a big city like Mumbai or Delhi.

Children also suffer. A child who is going to school and if the teacher or some other child says that this boy’s father is a terrorist, and he’s in jail, it is bound to affect the child.

The Delhi High Court on a couple of occasions has said the person needs to be compensated for having been kept in jail, even though he’s entitled to bail and all the papers are in order.

What needs to be done to prevent false implication of people?

More professional scrutiny by the senior officers of enforcement agencies. For instance: In Aryan Khan’s case, a senior officer could have applied his mind and maybe advised the overenthusiastic officers on the professional lines of investigation.

Role of the prosecutors – They are neither with the police nor with the investigating agencies; they are independent officers of the court. When the investigating agency or police are saying that a person is involved, and want his custody, the prosecutors can point out to the enforcement agencies that they are wrong; so they should not ask for custody.

There can be a departmental inquiry against an errant officer or he can be dismissed from service.

The state must also take responsibility in case of wrongful confinement.

If the judicial officer feels or thinks that the investigating agency does not have enough evidence, or it’s going blatantly wrong, they should not hand over the custody either to the agency or to prison.

Does India need a new law to ensure disbursement of compensation?

Legislation must be brought on this issue to ensure a standard practice of compensation disbursal. It is possible that one court in a small State may think that giving ₹5 lakh compensation to someone is a good idea, but a High Court in a bigger State may say, what is ₹5 lakh? It’s nothing, we should give at least ₹10 lakh.

Section 211 of the Indian Penal Code talks of a false charge of offence made with an intent to injure. It can lead to two years of imprisonment, or up to seven years. This section is valid for malicious prosecutions, but further legislation for compensation would be a welcome step.

Source: This post is based on the article “Do we need a law to compensate those implicated in false cases?” published in The Hindu on 3rd June 22.

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