UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 02 March 2022

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What's the article about?

The article taking Bastar district of Chattisgarh explains the impact of covid-19 on the Criminal Justice System.

Syllabus: GS2, Structure, Organization, and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary.

What is the criminal justice system(CJS)?

  • Criminal Justice refers to the agencies of government charged with enforcing the law, adjudicating crime, and correcting criminal conduct.
  • That is police for enforcing and protecting the law, courts to punish the criminals, and prison to bring change and reformation in the criminals.
  • Covid-19 has shown the gaps in the criminal justice system by pointing out issues in each organization I.e police, judiciary, and prisons. 

Covid-19 and its impact on CJS

  1. On Police
    • Increase in police brutality and torture levels during covid-19. Ex: Custodial death of father and son in Tamil Nadu.
    • Increased burden on police due to short in personnel impacted their health(mental/physical).
  2. On Judiciary
    • Increased pendency of cases in the judiciary that is around 4.5 cr pendency cases.
    • Delay in the justice delivery system as courts are not functioning due to lockdown.
    • Judicial appointments stalled resulting in vacancies and direct impact on cases' pendency.
    • Quasi-judiciary stopped working violating the right to justice to many people across the societies.
  3. On Prisons
    • Humanitarian crisis: Jails became the breeding ground of covid due to congestion and overcrowding of prisons.
    • Rejected/Delayed bails making prisoners' condition worse. Ex: Various lower courts refused to release prisoners on bail in Maharashtra.
    • Isolation from family: Due to social distance norms and covid protocols, reduced the time and members to meet the people in prison.

Chattisgarh case study:

  • In the Naxalite-dominated Bastar region, throughout the COVID-19 crisis, intermittent suspensions of court work and jail visits have created enormous hardships for prisoners and their families. 
  • The decision to decentralize NIA courts the decentralization process required hundreds of files to be transferred to the different courts in the respective districts. 
  • Overcrowding in prisons, already a serious problem in Bastar prisons, worsens every time court hearings are suspended. 
  • In Naxalite-dominated regions, the accused are mostly charged under Acts such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act, and also other sections of the Indian Penal Code, or IPC, mostly based on fabrications. 
  • After a Maoist attack or incident, a large number of people from the surrounding areas, male and female, get arrested and charged in this manner. 
  • Bail, a possible relief, is rarely granted in these cases and almost never to those charged under the UAPA. This is so common that it has become unwritten law.
  • Corruption by lawyers by falsely creating hope of bail and looting money from the poor people.

Hence there is a need for holistic reforms in the criminal justice system to ensure that honest and innocent people are protected by the law.

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