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Jurists apprehensive of Malimath report

Our Bureau

Visakhapatnam , Oct. 20

THE recommendations of the Malimath committee on reforming the criminal justice system in the country are perilous and essentially it seems to be an exercise in reassuring foreign investors that the legal system in the country is good enough for them to invest their capital, Mr P. Raja Rao, the State vice-president of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, has said.

At a seminar on the subject here on Sunday organised by the All-India Lawyers' Union, he said the Government's intention in hurriedly constituting the Malimath committee on reforms to the criminal justice system and "the whole drift of the report makes it clear that the Government wants to amend our laws in tune with the development models adopted in some of the developed countries and to sacrifice some of the basic, time-tested principles of jurisprudence in the bargain."

Presently, he said, in 95 per cent of the criminal cases, the accused were being acquitted and the conviction rate was a poor 5 per cent. The Malimath committee, without going into the social causes and the functioning of the investigative agencies, had made certain recommendations which would make the role of the judge very crucial at all stages."

Similarly, in criminal cases, the committee suggests that the prosecution need not prove the case beyond reasonable doubt as has been the practice for ages and the judge should take into account the preponderance of probabilities also as in civil cases and tread the middle path in arriving at a conclusion. "It is extremely dangerous. No doubt, it will increase the rate of convictions but there is the danger of many innocents being punished," he said.

Mr K. Balagopal, a High Court lawyer and a human rights activist, said it was "sheer self-deception on the part of the Malimath committee to suggest that the judge should take into the preponderance of probabilities also in adjudication as in civil cases. Till now, our system is based on the premise that the innocent should not be punished, even if the guilty escape and the insistence on proving a criminal case beyond reasonable doubt is therefore right. It is dangerous to dispense with the principle."

Mr K.V. Rama Murthy, a senior criminal lawyer in the city, said the report should be rejected in toto, as it was retrograde in character and the members of the committee lacked the basic knowledge of the Indian conditions and the police system in India. "It is a fraud perpetrated against vast sections of humanity with apparent intellectual dishonesty and bankruptcy," he said.

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