Stories of Changes

Not only justice be done, it must also be seen to be done

Case Background: On 21.10.2018 a young man aged 22 years was apprehended by the Railway Police on accusations of theft and was put behind the bars. He was booked under Section 379/411 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 i.e., Theft, which prescribes punishment of up to three years or a fine or both. His bail application was rejected by the lower court after which he knocked on the doors of Sessions Judge, Patna where he was granted bail on 25.05.2019. But due to his inability to furnish bail bond, he was not released on bail and languished in jail thereafter.

In January 2022 while a usual visit to Jahanabad Sub-Jail for identifying prisoners in need of legal aid we came across this alleged prisoner who was still imprisoned. He has served the total punishment prescribed for theft being an under-trial prisoner whose trial was not concluded yet.

Legal Recourse: Panel Advocates of LAW Foundation filed an evidence close petition in the Railway Judicial Magistrate, Patna Jn. for him after knowing his tyrannical journey with the justice system. This application was rejected without considering the struggle and conditions faced by him all these years. While giving him legal assistance, we did not give up hope. The pathway to justice is always difficult, it’s just the hope that keeps up boosted to fight the injustice prevailing in the system. In February 2022 a new magistrate was appointed in the Railway Court. Without wasting any time, we approached the newly joined magistrate for getting relief. He very well understood our concerns and agreed to entertain this petition in light of justice. Thereafter, he closed all evidence in this case and acquitted him, on the lack of evidence.

Gaps Analysis and Conclusion: This particular case shows us the several loopholes and gaps that our criminal justice system is filled up with. Despite getting bail the person is languishing in jail and the judicial officer has no checks and balances in this regard. The chargesheet was filed, the cognizance was taken and the charge was also framed in-spite of all this the case is never put on trial. A person can only be punished for the prescribed term of punishment. Once he serves the prescribed time, he cannot be apprehended but, in this case, the accused is serving in prison more than the prescribed tenure while he is an undertrial. Justice was never served to him. He is a big example of the negligence bar and the bench towards prisoners languishing in jail. He was acquitted after 3 years and 6 months, which is not justice but his right to be freed.

Negligence is a threat to Justice

Case Background: Md. Amir, a boy who left his hometown Araria, to hunt for jobs in a big city, never knew would land up in jail because of the powerful people who misuse their position. Can someone’s face describe his intentions ever, if yes then the jails would have more people there. But, here in this case the police merely on the basis of their suspicion that the boy would commit a cognizable offence under Sections of I.P.C. arrested him and sent him to judicial custody. While our visit to Samastipur jail for the identification of inmates who require legal aid, this boy came up to us and was crying profusely. He stated that he used to earn in Jaipur but due to the lockdown he was forced to return back to his hometown. Once this COVID situation cooled down he decided to return back to work, and for this, he came to Patna to meet a friend while he was searching for him police arrested him under Section 109 of Cr.P.C. He was incarcerated under a bailable section that requires the bond and not custody. He was there in that prison for near about six months in a single piece of clothing. He also shared his mother’s and sister’s contact numbers.

His family was contacted and they turned up soon and narrated the agony they had gone through. How they were fooled by people in the name of help, and the trust issues they had while we contacted them. The family had suffered a lot because of the loopholes the justice system has.

Legal Recourse: Panel Advocates of LAW Foundation tracked the case very well and carried out all the necessity that was ignored by others. They then filed a bail petition for the beneficiary, called the family to be the bailor, spent one whole day making the case a priority, and succeeded in getting bail for him on 24.02.22.

Gap Analysis and Conclusion: This case shows the pathetic structure of our justice system, and how innocent lives are merely ruined based on assumptions. Assumptions can’t be a basis for arresting a person because police do not have the capacity to read a person’s mind. When the police take someone in their custody the first step, they need to take is to inform the family or close ones of that person which was totally neglected. Where the friend or relative of the person arrested lives outside the district, the time and place of arrest and venue of custody must be notified by police within 8 to 12 hours after arrest. This should be done by telegram through the District Legal Aid Authority and the concerned police station. When his family reached searching him no information was surpassed to them properly all they received were in bits and pieces. No heed was paid towards his fundamental right of liberty and was kept imprisoned until and unless we intervened.

Violence leads to injustice

The prison visit to Beur Central Jail exposed us to the injustice present in our judicial system. Pratibha Devi a lady who is standing on the doors of her old age is locked behind the bars in her 50s. She was booked under Section 498A, 324, 326, 307, 304 (B) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. These offences are serious in nature and prescribe a punishment of up to 10 years or life imprisonment.

It was alleged that Pratibha along with her elder sister in the month of November 2009 sprinkled Kerosene on her sister-in-law and put up her on fire. Thereafter in January 2010, she got arrested for this offence, while her sister fled away. Pratibha was imprisoned since then.

In 2021, during the regular prison visit, the case of Pratibha Ji came to our notice. After this Adv. Santosh the Senior Counsel of the organization went to Danapur Court and pursued the records and found that in all these years nobody from her family hired an advocate to secure bail for her, neither she was given any advocate from DLSA. In 2017, in this case, a Non-Bailable Warrant was issued against the informant and other witnesses of the case but none turned up. Thrice NBW was issued against the informant and witnesses but neither of them appeared to the court on any prescribed date. Then Adv. Santosh Kumar along with Adv. Shalini scrutinized the case details and interacted with Pratibha Devi through jail officials and procured her signature on Vakalatnama. Then, an application was filed to close evidence in this case. The court ordered police officials at Shahpur to file aa service report at earliest in this case. As per the report prepared by the police investigating the case, neither the informant nor the witnesses ever resided at that place according to the locals thereby.

Prabha Devi was like a soul waiting for the day to be freed. She had lost her mental capacity for understanding. But the judicial system never functions on the emotion of prisoners rather it sticks to the judicial policy. Yet, the team comprising Adv. Santosh Kumar, Adv. Shivshankar and Adv. Shalini never lost hope of a new beginning in Pratibha Ji’s life.

On the day of International Women’s Day, the court acquitted Pratibha Devi from all charges in the present case on the ground of lack of evidence. She was then released on 9th March 2022. Her brother came to receive her and it was an emotional re-bonding of the siblings. Though she lost a major part of her life in the twelve years of imprisonment, she did not forget her family her husband, her father, and especially her siblings. She has paid a heavy amount in all these years. Her mental health has been adversely affected because of this. She does not remember her children. She is not aware that she has lost her husband in all these years nor she has the understanding to accept this fact. Justice came to her no doubt, but at a heavy cost of 12 years of her life. Maybe she will return to society but will she be accepted into society, will her kids accept her, or will she ever get to normalcy with her mental condition?

Delayed but Justice delivered

The case began at Hanuman Mandir situated at Patna Junction in Patna. Md. Rehan a 19-year-old boy was arrested by Kotwali Police in October 2021 for the offence of committing theft of a mobile phone. He was sent to judicial custody thereafter. In February 2022, when the team of LAW Foundation visited Samastipur Jail, they met him. After returning back to Patna they pursued his case records and found that no bail has been filed in the last 4 months on his behalf. A bail application was filed by the advocates of LAW Foundation which was heard by the magistrate and allowed, but there was no bailor on his behalf. After regular meetings and counseling Adv. Shalini gained his trust and he shared the proper address of his family and also his father’s mobile number. Without wasting any time, she then contacted his father, but his parents hardly cared about his existence. His father said I do not have money; I cannot spend my everything on him since I have to take care of my wife and other children too. After constant effort, we came to know that his mother died years ago, and his father and his stepmother and children disliked him, because of this he left home and started working in a restaurant near Patna Junction and landed up behind bars.

Court Procedures: Although the team secured bail but failed to get him out of the jail, thus they moved ahead with the trial of the case. In the court, they facilitated in the framing of the charge after which the witnesses were summoned. But the witness did not turn up after two summonses. The SHO was ordered to serve a service report but failed to do so. Thereafter, the court issued a bailable warrant, and later in June 2022, an NBW was issued against the witness to appear on the next date.

On 29th June all four witnesses were asked to appear again After which they appeared. None of them identified the accused and had various discrepancies in their statements. There was no eye witness to the case, the case was not investigated by the I.O. properly. Then, on 1st August 2022, the magistrate pronounced the judgment in favor of the accused and acquitted him of all the charges.

The trial, in this case, was completed in just a span of five months. Although, the accused had to remain in jail for nine months yet the best thing is that now he is a free bird and has a chance to start with new beginnings. The experience he had with the criminal justice system would make him realize the bitter truths of life.