The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, granted bail to an accused, charged with molestation, on the ground that he shall extend to the victim an olive branch by celebrating the festival of “Rakshabandhan”. The Court asked the accused to forever “protect his sister” and give her an amount of Rs.11,000 as part of a “customary ritual”.
This order released by the Court brings to light a shift of Ideology from Retributive to Restorative Justice.
India follows a system of Retributive justice wherein the accused is punished for the offence committed. Under the restorative form of justice, the victim and accused reconcile with each other and try reaching an amicable solution.
Under retributive justice, the accused is severally punished for his acts, but the victims of crime, are often left desolate, clinging to the memories of darkness and forever left with a question, ‘why’? The complainants are often ‘victimised’ and pushed to the rims of justice, only to be a mere spectator of their advancing case. They are denigrated to a lower position, and given the status of a ‘witness’. Their destiny is now at the mercy of trained legal officers while they accept their fate voicelessly.
Restorative justice on the other hand, gives a chance to the victims to find answers to the questions that haunt them. They become the riders of their own path to justice and liberation of soul. By adopting a positive approach, the victims can accept the apology of the accused, and by stepping into his shoes can understand his share of struggles and worries.
Words like ‘repair’ and ‘healing’ are often associated with this form of justice, making it a more psychological and philosophical concept. Retributive justice is guided by precedents, logic, legal skills and thoughtfully framed statutes. Restorative justice proves to have a holistic approach whereas retributive justice touches upon the fragments of pragmatism in society.
Despite the promise of a more fulfilling legal system, restorative justice is still a far-fetched system in India with many opportunities and obstacles. It still is a wavering concept that leaves many open ended questions unanswered.
Some questions that come to my mind are, whether the fear of law in the eyes of the accused will reduce? Whether victims are ready to face the perpetrators? Whether the accused through feelings of guilt and remorse will transform or will he apologise only to escape punishment? And then comes the final question, Whether the victim will be forced to pardon the accused because of influence, pressure or coercion?
Whatever may be the answer, peace should be the guiding factor to unite society and end brutality.