Report No. 142
7.6. The poor will be the ultimate victims of the concept.-
It is forcefully contended by some that acquittals in criminal trials are as high as 90 to 95 per cent. and consequently an accused and his counsel generally hope to secure acquittal in the course of a regular trial. It is claimed that a wrongdoer will not come forward to make a confession if there is the slightest possibility of acquittal. It is further claimed that a person will be willing to spend any length of time in jails as an under-trial prisoner in the hope that he will secure an acquittal when regular trial is taken up.
In any event, it is pointed out that the rich, influential and well-informed accused would seldom undertake the risk of social and personal consequences of a confession as they look forward to a clean acquittal in course of time. It is eventually the poor who may come forward to making confessions and suffer the consequential conviction.
7.7. It does appear that the rate of acquittals in our criminal trials is very high. The principal reason for the acquittals, which was rightly advanced by several, Sessions Judges, is the long delay involved in taking up the trials. It was brought to the notice of the Commission that during the interregnum when accused are awaiting trials, many manipulations take place.
Witnesses who were initially willing to speak truth back out because of the temptations offered an behalf of the accused to retract from the original testimony. Passage of time also affects the veracity of the evidence tendered by the witnesses who are subjected to critical cross-examination. Memories fade during the long time taken for conducting the trial and the witnesses confuse themselves of the actual course of events when they are put to severe cross-examination.
It would be wrong to say that most of the trial result in acquittals because the defendants did not actually commit the crimes. The defendants escape convictions because of the aforesaid factors. Be that as it may the argument that the scheme may not succeed is merely a conjecture and a matter of opinion to which we do not subscribe. It is not a good reason to oppose the scheme.
7.8. It is also not possible to proceed on the assumption that persons would be willing to spend three to eight years in jails as under-trial prisoners if there is a possibility of their release from the jail much earlier. Most people know that long periods of stay in jail bring about economic and social ruin. It is reasonable to think that such defendants will look forward to rehabilitate themselves as quickly as possible if there is a possibility of their being convicted for similar periods and released from jail.