The Law Commission of India submitted its Report No.277 titled ‘Wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice): Legal Remedies’ to the Government of India on 30th August, 2018.
The High Court of Delhi in its Order dated 30th May, 2017 in the case of Babloo Chauhan @ Dabloo vs. State Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 247 (2018) DLT 31, expressed grave concern about the state of innocent persons being wrongfully prosecuted, incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit. The Court highlighted the urgent need for a legislative framework for provided relief and rehabilitation to victims of wrongful prosecution, incarceration and asked the Law Commission to undertake a comprehensive examination of the aforesaid issued and make a recommendation thereon to the Government of India.
Internationally, the issue of wrongful prosecution, incarceration, and conviction of innocent persons is identified as ‘miscarriage of justice’ that takes place after a person has been wrongfully convicted but is later found to be factually innocent basis a new fact / proof coming to light. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’, ratified by India) also creates an obligation on the State parties to enact a law to compensate the victims of such miscarriage of justice.
This report looks at the issue from the context of Indian Criminal Justice system and recommends ‘wrongful prosecution’ to be the standards of miscarriage of justice, as against ‘wrongful conviction’ and ‘wrongful incarceration’. ‘Wrongful prosecution’ would include cases where the accused and not guilty of the offence, and the police and / or the prosecution engaged in some form of misconduct in investigating and / or prosecuting the person. It would include both the cases where the person spent time in prison as well as where he did not; and cases where the accused was found not guilty by the trial court or where the accused was convicted by one or more courts but was ultimately found to be not guilty by the Higher Court.
The Report gives an overview of the remedies available under the existing laws and discusses their inadequacies (also noted by the High Court in the aforementioned Order). The Commission, accordingly, recommends enactment of a specific legal provision for redressal of cases of wrongful prosecution – to provide relief to the victims of wrongful prosecution in terms of monetary and non-monetary compensation (such as counselling, mental health services, vocational / employment skills development etc.) within a statutory framework. The Report enumerates the core principles of the recommended framework- defining ‘wrongful prosecution’ i.e., cases in which claim for compensation can be filed, designation of a Special Court to decide these claims of compensation, nature of proceedings – timeline for deciding the claim, etc., financial and other factors to be considered while determining the compensation, provisions for interim compensation in certain cases, removal of disqualification on account of wrongful prosecution / conviction etc. A draft Bill, articulating the aforesaid, is annexed with the Report as the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2018.