27 Aug 2023 4:27 AM GMT
Delhi High Court judge, Justice Siddharth Mridul, yesterday said that personal liberty is the paramount essential and sine qua non for human dignity and human happiness and that the principle or presumption of innocence is recognised as a fundamental right in India. “The presumption of innocence is the very elixir of the criminal justice system. It is evidently today recognized legal right....
Delhi High Court judge, Justice Siddharth Mridul, yesterday said that personal liberty is the paramount essential and sine qua non for human dignity and human happiness and that the principle or presumption of innocence is recognised as a fundamental right in India.
“The presumption of innocence is the very elixir of the criminal justice system. It is evidently today recognized legal right. I would go so far as to say that in India, it is a fundamental right. In the earlier days it was considered by the by the honorable Supreme Court to be a human right, but subsequent decisions it has now been treated as a fundamental right,” the judge said.
Justice Mridul was speaking on the 1st Discourse organized by Centre for Discourses on Criminal and Constitutional Jurisprudence.
The judge spoke on the significance of personal liberty, the origin of the principle of presumption of innocence and its scope and essence.
“Personal liberty is how you define civilization. Because without personal liberty, you can have nothing. You may have resources, you may have the infrastructural setup, you may have artificial intelligence, but unless you have personal liberty, most of it does not amount to much,” Justice Mridul said.
He added that personal and individual liberty is not a recent concept and that it has steeped in history.
“One must remember that throughout history, there's been a struggle between subjects and Kings and over time, that struggle has today metamorphosed into the struggle between citizens and the executive. And in a thriving democracy, the protection of individual liberty is a fundamental duty,” the judge added.
Furthermore, Justice Mridul said that the emergence of constitutional guarantee as a device to protect individual liberty against the State is certainly more modern and that the very idea of a guarantee of liberty suggests the existence of some power above the ordinary law of the land to ensure liberty as a special privilege.
“It is the protection of liberty by the Constitution as against legislative action that constitutes the essence of a constitutional guarantee,” the judge said.
He added: “It is the right against self incrimination which, if not granted, would place the burden on the accused instead of the prosecution.”
Justice Mridul said that if two offenders are treated differently from the perspective of the presumption of innocence by two different statutes, the test of Article 14 of the Constitution of India would not be satisfied.
“The crime control model or special laws focuses more on securing punishment for the guilty and endorses the possibility of mistakenly convicting innocent persons on a few occasions. Protections for the accused are lowered possibly under that model. In contrast, the new process model places more emphasis on strengthening protections for the accused even if that means let a hundred guilty men go scot free. Despite these differences, however, both models follow the common aim of punishing the guilty and sparing the innocent. Neither model aims to punish the innocent and neither aims to to spare the guilty,” he said.
The judge also emphasised that bail is the other part of presumption of innocence and that the State certainly has a bigger interest in preventing the more heinous offenses from being repeated by the accused.
“However, that interest can be achieved equally effectively under the traditional rules governing grant of bail which required court to entirely consider the gravity of the offence, evaluate the prima facie case against the accused and judges antecedents,” he said.
Justice Mridul concluded by saying: “Every accused, regardless of the offence he is charged with, is entitled to the presumption of innocence and basic requirement of fairness under Article 21 read with Article 14.”