There would have been times where you would have fought with your brother or sister for the TV remote or for a seat on the computer and during each and every instance, your mom would come and resolve the issue. You wouldn’t be surprised to know that the great, big world out there also works in a similar fashion. Teenagers get raped, young people get slashed in the middle of buses and trains, homes get invaded and the list goes on. Are the people responsible caught? Do some of them get out after spending a night in jail with a newspaper and coffee brought to them by the cops themselves? Is the judicial system so faulty that even the most serious criminal offenders escape the ‘force of justice’? Yes, yes and yes.
The idea behind prosecution is proving the accused doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and the role of the defense rests in showing otherwise. Obtaining a justified conviction in our country seems to be a Herculean task at times. The Indian Judicial system is supposedly an ‘independent judiciary’ – one which does not act on behalf of the executive government and does not make biased decisions for the profit of third parties. But, there have been numerous controversies surrounding the rich and influential bending justice to suit their own needs. The point here is not to elaborate on how the system got corrupted but to see what needs to be done, namely –jury trials.
Every one of us would have heard about the concept of a jury trial, either in movies, TV shows or books. Simply put, it is a set of 10-12 lawful citizens with no criminal background who finally decide whether the accused gets indicted or not. Post colonization era, during the pre-1960s, India too had a jury system in place, but due to a single case, the whole system was abolished; the jurors were influenced by social media and tabloids and let a guilty man walk which led to the demise of this beautiful construct. Why do I think we would be better off with a jury system? Firstly, despite the outrageously high costs of setting up a jury trial as opposed to a bench trial, the former is worth it since the decision is taken for the people and by the people themselves. Secondly, the concept of using a jury lies in the fact that mixed ethnicities and castes cancel out any individual prejudices or idiosyncratic opinions that they would have for the defendant thereby giving voice to the demands of the people at large. Thirdly, the power vested in a judge is concentrated and absolute; this power is easily abused and that is the root origin of judicial corruption. Even before the defense starts putting together the pieces of the puzzle, the judge already has a decision in mind accompanied by the thought of briefcases of cash. In addition, the final verdict can be nullified by the defense if the jurors are found to be prejudiced in any manner by social media and this serves as incentive for them to stay unbiased throughout the trial.
Despite the aforementioned factors, the reason why it hasn’t been done yet is because of the popular opinion that a jury isn’t educated about the law enough to make decisions and will most probably be swayed by painted notions. As a mature democracy, we should be allowed to exercise free and fair judgement, and these reasons are as irrational as the people who give them. All of us adopt some western fad or the other, more than half are utterly pointless yet none of us stop to think; none of us think straight. Adopting their traditions isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there has to be logic accompanying it and in my opinion, Jury System seems like a smart choice.
– Adityan Suresh