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In The Pretext Of ‘Justice’

Dipak Joshi, a man from Nepal, has recently been released from an Indian prison, after spending 41 years in jail, and that too, without a trial! As the four decades had started after he attained youth, Joshi has spent almost his entire active lifespan behind bars. As per the Indian media reports, the mental state of the Nepali national deteriorated shortly after his arrest in 1980 on a murder charge. The trial of mentally unbalanced prisoners is usually stalled, and Joshi’s case is no exception to that. He was trapped inside the jail without a proper trial.

One of the major philosophical positions of the Indian Judiciary is that the accused must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, except for a few specific Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Naturally, the question arises here: What happened to this common legal position in the case of 62-year-old Dipak Joshi? In fact, it is recognised as a Fundamental Right in Modern Democracy, and this is clearly mentioned in several International Declarations on Human Rights or Civil Rights. The Delhi High Court recently ruled in favour of the accused to grant voluntary bail, except in a few exceptional cases, saying that it is an integral part of Individual Freedom.

Dipak Joshi

Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court has ordered the eastern Indian Province of West Bengal to pay INR 0.5 million (around USD 6,610) as compensation to Joshi, who remained at the Dum Dum Central Correctional Home (in Kolkata) for more than four decades before his release earlier in 2022. According to Joshi’s pleader, the existing Indian law does not allow the State to give more compensation to an accused person. Perhaps, this may be normal as per the Indian Judicial System. However, the issue is that the loss of a person’s entire active lifespan is worth just INR 0.5 million!

The word loss can be used in different contexts. For a person who has spent 41 years of his life behind bars mainly because of administrative or judicial negligence, there should be a moral concern over the limit or scope of this word. Can there be really any compensation for imprisonment without trial for these many years? What happened to Joshi has raised a serious question regarding the extent of the State’s right to one’s life. When a person’s guilt is not even proven, what should the State give him (especially when his productive life is cut short under the guise of law)? Perhaps, it is not compensation, but recognition of a crime committed by the State.

Calcutta High Court, Kolkata, India

Joshi’s case is not an isolated incident, but an example of how injustice is done to the citizens in the pretext of justice in India. Even an accused should have basic Human Rights in Democracy. However, an accused, even if not proven guilty, is tortured in Indian Democracy. In a developed Democracy, even criminals receive humane treatment in general. It is unfortunate that the Indian State has failed to ensure Fundamental Rights for its citizens 75 years after its Independence. The Indian politicians do not have time to worry about such a trivial issue. For them, Human Rights is not so important issue. They, seemingly, believe that an accused, with mental instability, is not at all eligible to enjoy his/her basic Civil Rights.

Perhaps, the people of India can only worry a little bit about this issue, and that too, with a pseudo-question to themselves… should they at all bother?

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