A Fair Trial – These three words are the crux of a fundamental right to a convict and one of the significant principles of Human Rights Law and Rule of Law. An open trial by an impartial judge is constituted as a fair trial. All parties are to be treated equally in this regard. However, the question arises – does the Indian legal system ensure a fair trial to each convict
An essential of a fair trial is the need of fair disclosure of Evidence in Indian Legal System. It can act as a remedy to any discrepancy in the Indian Prosecution system.
II. LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS
Recently, the importance of disclosure of evidence has been highlighted in America. “In the American Criminal System, the landmark case of Brady v. Maryland1, decided by the US Supreme Court, laid down the contours of the fair disclosure principle. It was stated by the Court that non-disclosure of information is to be construed as a violation of the due process right of the accused."
There parameters were also laid down by the bench in this case. These parameters acted as
“checkboxes" to constitute a piece of information – relevant or irrelevant. Thus, according to the parameters, a piece of information would be qualified to be relevant if it can be proved that :
i. Was not disclosed by the prosecution;
ii. Is favourable to the accused; and
iii. Is material either to guilt or punishment.
Taking cue from this landmark American judgement, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India. “Yash Giri v. Union of India, was filed in the Supreme Court of India to formulate a law to compensate the victims of wrongful incarceration. Instances of wrongful
Prosecution are not a rarity in the Indian criminal legal system. The arena of wrongful prosecution due to absence of fair disclosure by the prosecution has been a twilight zone for a long time."2
III. NEED FOR SIGNIFICANT STATUTES TO ADVOCATE FAIR
DISCLOSURE OF EVIDENCE
Section 239 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 gives the power to the magistrate to discharge the accused. The magistrate is enabled to do so after they take into account the charges and crimes of the accused. This is stated under Section 173 of CrPC. The magistrate does this after proper investigation
The magistrate also has the power and authority to determine whether a case can be filed against the accused or not. This is decided by the magistrate on the basis of the charge sheet submitted by the accused. “Section 173 of the CrPC does not mention revealing all the relevant details, including the self-serving and exculpatory material which can favor the accused or render a new dimension to the case."3
The Indian Criminal System does give a chance the defendant to present their case. The opportunity to present the case and his/her stance is provided under Section 91 of the CrPC. However, this is only provided to the defendant after charges has been framed. It has also been observed that the accused generally don’t have required means and resources to gather information or evidence to supplement his or her claim.
“The apex court in State of Orissa v. Debendra Nath Padhi4 has held that in the pre-trial procedure, it is the discretion of the prosecutor to provide the material that has the potential to exculpate the accused. Thereby, the prosecution is unintentionally bestowed with the unquestionable right to produce selected evidence, witnesses, and documents."
A fair trial is probably one of the most important fundamental rights that a state can bestow upon its citizens. “In India, any procedure which prevents a party from receiving a fair trial would violate Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India."5
Thus, it is in the best interest of the state and the Indian Criminal System to introduce statutes for fair disclosure of evidence in Indian Legal System.
- 1 Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)
- 2 Shreya Iyer and Sanchit Khandelwal, Fair Disclosure: An Antidote to Wrongful Prosecution in Indian Criminal Legal System, JURIST – Student Commentary, June 26, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/06/iyer-khandelwal-fair-disclosure-wrongful-prosecution/.
- 3 Ibid
- 4 State of Orissa v. Debendra Nath Padhi ,Appeal (crl.) 497 of 2001
- 5 Dwarka Prasad Agarwal v. B.D. Agarwal, (2003) 6 SCC 230, 245–46; ECIL v. B. Karunakar, (1993) 4 SCC 727, 773.