Instant justice is not the way of a civilised society 

News: Recently, there have been bulldozing of residential or commercial dwellings of people. This incident has raised eyebrows over the criminal justice system and the menace of “Instant Justice” in the case of Indian society. 

Trends in the criminal justice system 

In the second half of the 19th century, criminals were given instant justice and exemplary punishment, that too publicly. For example, a criminal was stoned, beheaded or hanged to death in full public view.  In fact, there were very few rights available to the person facing the “judge”. 

The understanding about the criminals, crime and punishment have changed with time. For example, LGBT people are not seen as deviants.  

Why criminal justice system has evolved over time? 

The changes have been driven by changes in the value systems of society. The states have moved towards civilisation.  

There have been changes in the sociology of crime and the rationale of society punishing the “criminal”. 

Civilised societies have also recognised the rights of the accused as part of natural justice. The “rights of a person charged to defend himself reasonably” have been recognised as part of natural justice.

For example, an accused is generally considered innocent until proved otherwise. He is provided a lawyer, and is given the right to appeal his sentence.  

The civilised society is more compassionate towards a delinquent. It doesn’t want to destroy the soul and body of the criminal. But want to make him an integral part of the nation. Therefore, Nation-states that top the human development ladder have abolished capital punishment. In India, the courts award such punishment in the rarest of the rare circumstances. 

What are the issues in the delivery of justice in India? 

In independent India, instant justice has been abolished from the books but is deeply entrenched in the psyche of the people.

– For example, the average Indian never misses the chance to give a blow to the pickpocket caught at a bus stop. 

– In Nagaland, a mob pulled a rape accused out of the jail and lynched him.  

The Indian state government often displays such tendency at times.

– For example: In UP, important political and executive functionaries spoke publicly in favour of instant justice. There have been reports of fake encounters by the police department.

Why the idea of instant justice is popular in India? 

There is a traditional attraction and public acceptance of instant justice due to the inability of the justice dispensation system to punish such heinous criminals in a short time frame.  

The state governments are alleged to have accepted this practice because bringing fundamental changes in police procedures, prosecution and courts will involve expenditure, and instant justice is cheap 

Way Forward 

The time has come when the nation has to choose between an expensive civilised justice dispensation system or a brute tradition.  

Instant justice makes an individual barbaric and similarly, instant justice makes a society barbaric. The rule of law should be upheld. 

Source: The post is based on an article “Instant justice is not the way of a civilised society” published in the Indian Express on 29th April 2022. 

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