Nothing affects our lives and our liberty more directly than criminal law, and yet, nothing has been treated with greater disdain as far as law reform is concerned. We've talked about it a lot indeed. It has just not been important enough to implement, for some reason. We've forgotten that what separates a 'Criminal System' from a 'Criminal Justice System' ("CJS") is Justice and an antiquated CJS can't be expected to do justice.
Criminal law, I've always argued, should be an area of greater concern, and its reform – the top-most priority. Unfortunately, CJS reform in India, historically, hasn't received the attention that it really deserves. At least not until recently. Arguably, the primary reason for this disdain is the fact that most people who find themselves in the throes of the CJS are people who don't really have much of a voice. Also, certain vested interests have always gained from the system being weak, lest it starts questioning them and bringing them to justice. Whatever may be the reason, we can all agree that there is a lot to be done. CJS reform has been in the news lately. A committee has been formed to look into this. This was long over-due and is surely a welcome step.
In a three-part series, I seek to share my views on the changes that are urgently needed in our CJS. This part is dedicated to recommendations in the context of Procedural Criminal Laws. Why so much attention to the procedure, you ask? Well, as a Magistrate, and now as a defence lawyer, I've often seen procedure becoming the handmaid of injustice, instead of justice – as it is really supposed to be. Procedure and design can defeat or serve justice. It can frustrate or protect due process. This column is an attempt to just put some ideas out there; things that I feel would ensure that the CJS really protects due process while, at the same time, not impacting the pursuit of truth. Here are some thoughts:
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Just some points to kindle an active debate. Discussing these, I feel, is important. Some points are consciously framed so as to be assaults on our senses and the status quo, which, I feel, is unsatisfactory in many respects and ought to be re-examined and made better.
Views are personal only.
(The Author is a Former Judge, Delhi, currently practising as an Advocate in Delhi)
*A huge shout-out to Shreyash and Rohit for their valuable inputs.
 P. Chidambaram v. Directorate of Enforcement, 2019 SCCOnline SC 1549
 Kamlesh Gurjar v. The State of Madhya Pradesh MCrC 10345/2019
 Sagar Through Guardian v. State of Rajasthan, SB Crl Misc Bail Appln No. 11432/2019
 Sakiri Vasu v. State of UP (2008) 2 SCC 409
 Doongar Singh vs The State Of Rajasthan (2018) 13 SCC 741
 Mahender Chawla v. Union of India (2019) 14 SCC 615
 Paramvir Singh Saini v. Baljit Singh SLP (Crl) DN 13346/2020
 Ritesh Sinha v State of UP (2019) 8 SCC 1
 Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma vs State (NCT Of Delhi) AIR 2010 SC 2352
 V K Sasikala v. State (2012) 9 SCC 771
 Nitya Dharmananda v. Gopal Sheelum Reddy (2018) 2 SCC 93
 Dharambir vs Central Bureau Of Investigation 148 (2008) DLT 289
 Gopalakrishnan v. State of Kerala AIR 2020 SC 1
 Dayawati v Yogesh Kumar Gosain 243 (2017) DLT 117
 National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India AIR 2014 SC 1863
 Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India AIR 2018 SC 4321
 Badshah vs Sou. Urmila Badshah Godse & Anr (2014) 1 SCC 188
 R Narayanan vs. State 2019 CriLJ 1761
 Court on Its Own Motion vs. State Crl.Ref. 4/2019
 Soman v. Kerala (2013) 11 SCC 382
 State Of M.P vs Bablu Natt AIR 2009 SC 1810
 State Of Punjab vs Prem Sagar & Ors (2008) 7 SCC 550