In 2000, the government formed a panel headed by the former Chief Justice of Kerala and Karnataka, Justice V.S. Malimath, to suggest an overhaul of the century-old criminal justice system.
The Committee felt that the existing system “weighed in favor of the accused and did not adequately focus on justice to the victims of crime.”
Recommendations of the committee
The committee suggested the following reforms:
Borrowing from the inquisitorial system
The panel was in favour of borrowing features from the inquisitorial system of investigation practised in countries such as Germany and France, where a judicial magistrate supervises the investigation. The committee recommended that courts be bestowed with powers to summon any person — whether or not listed as a witness — for examination if it felt necessary.
Right to silence
The committee recommended modification to Article 20 (3) of the Constitution that protects the accused from being compelled to be a witness against himself/herself. It suggested that the court be given the freedom to question the accused to elicit information and draw an adverse inference against the accused in case the latter refuses to answer. The Committee also felt that the accused should be required to file a statement to the prosecution disclosing his/her stand.
Justice to victims of crime
The Committee made a series of recommendations to ensure justice to the victims.
- The victim should be allowed to participate in cases involving serious crimes and also be given adequate compensation.
- The State should provide an advocate of the victim’s choice to plead on his/her behalf, and the cost has to be borne by the State if the victim can’t afford it.
- A Victim Compensation Fund can be created under the victim compensation law and the assets confiscated in organized crimes can be made part of the fund.
The Committee suggested hiving off the investigation wing from Law and Order. It also recommended the setting up of a National Security Commission and State Security Commissions.
The committee favoured dying declarations, confessions, and audio/video recorded statements of witnesses to be authorized by law.
Courts and judges
The report highlighted the judge-population ratio in India is 10.5 per million population as against 50 judges per million population in many parts of the world. The ratio is 19.66 per million people as of 2017.
The committee suggested every court keep a record of the timestamps such as date of conclusion of arguments, date of pronouncement of judgment, and so on, which may be prominently displayed.
The committee batted for a strong witness protection mechanism – it said the judge should be ready to step in if the witness is harassed during cross-examination.
It also recommended the following
- witnesses get their allowances on the same day
- they are provided with proper seating and resting facilities and be treated with dignity
- Separate witness protection laws are enacted akin to the one in the United States.
The Committee has recommended providing for a Presidential Commission for a periodical review of the functioning of the Criminal Justice System.