NHRC core group expresses concern over slow pace of reforms in criminal justice system

New Delhi, Aug 18 (PTI) A group of experts from the NHRC on Wednesday expressed serious concerns over the “slow pace of reforms in the criminal justice system”, officials said here.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) organised the first meeting of the ‘Core Group on Criminal Justice System’ on Tuesday.

It was felt that delays in disposal of cases result in human rights violations of both the undertrials and convicted prisoners, and others related to the cases, the NHRC said in a statement.

“Serious concerns were expressed over the slow pace of reforms in the criminal justice system, to ensure speedy justice,” it said.

Chairing the meeting, Justice M M Kumar (retired) said policing is important in speedy trials in the criminal justice system.

He said that despite so many efforts, including the Supreme Court directions seeking police reforms, “the ground reality hasn’t changed much”.

Kumar said crowding of complaints at every police station can be reduced if certain offences in the IPC are replaced with special laws, and fast-track courts are created to clear the pendency.

Justice Arun Kumar Mishra (retired), chief of the NHRC, said digitisation of documents will help in fair and speedy investigation and trials.

He said that not only delayed trials but also the implementation of courts’ orders convicting a person takes years, which is a “matter of concern”.

Poor conviction rate is a “result of the lack of required police and administrative reforms”, NHRC member D M Mulay said earlier. He added that there is also a shortage of judges.

Setting the agenda for the deliberations, Bimbadhar Pradhan, Secretary General of NHRC, said that as per an estimate, there are about 4.4 crore pending cases across the Supreme Court, high courts and district courts.

Since March 2020, about 70 lakh more cases have been added to the pending cases, he said, adding that in the criminal justice system, the focus needs to be tilted more towards the victim’s rights and smart policing.

Santosh Mehra, DG, Investigation, NHRC, said the shortage of police personnel at various police stations in proportion to the population needs to be considered on priority in the interest of ensuring timely justice to the people.

Some of the important suggestions which emerged during the discussion included raising awareness about various laws among police personnel at lower ranks of the hierarchy.

Rate of conviction of police officials and non-compliance of law by them resulting into violation of human rights needs to be looked into; number of police personnel and police stations in proportion to the number of complaints in a demographic area they have to handle need to be increased, it was suggested.

Introduction of social workers and psychologists in the criminal justice system to ensure empathetic proceedings, and that of training programmes and training modules especially with respect to gender sensitisation, child rights, human rights and rehabilitation of victims of crime were also suggested in the meeting.

NHRC Core Group members who participated in the discussions included Justice B K Mishra, former acting chairperson, Odisha State Human Rights Commission, G K Pillai, former Union home secretary, Meeran Chadha Borwankar, former director general, Bureau of Police Research and Development, and Rishi Kumar Shukla, former director, Central Bureau of Investigation, among others, the statement said.