Report No. 277
The subject matter of this Report required a focused study for framing of new provision for providing legal remedies to the wrongully prosecuted, as no such legislative framework exists today. The Commission gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance and advise provided to it in this endeavour by Mr. Justice A P Sahi, Sr. Judge, Allahabad High Court; Justice (Retd.) Mr. Pratyush Kumar; Shri Sidharth Luthra, Sr. Advocate, Supreme Court; Shri Abhay, Director General, Narcotics Control Bureau; and Dr. Aparna Chandara, Assistant Professor, National Law University, Delhi.
A. Reference from the Delhi High Court
1.1 In Babloo Chauhan @ Dabloo v. State Government of NCT of Delhi,1 the High Court of Delhi, while dealing with an appeal on the issues of fine and awarding of default sentences without reasoning, and suspension of sentence during pendency of appeal, expressed its concerns about wrongful implication of innocent persons who are acquitted but after long years of incarceration, and the lack of a legislative framework to provide relief to those who are wrongfully prosecuted. The Court, vide its order dated 30 November 2017, specifically called for the Law Commission of India ('the Commission') to undertake a comprehensive examination of issue of 'relief and rehabilitation to victims of wrongful prosecution, and incarceration' ("the Reference"), noting that:
There is at present in our country no statutory or legal scheme for compensating those who are wrongfully incarcerated. The instances of those being acquitted by the High Court or the Supreme Court after many years of imprisonment are not infrequent. They are left to their devices without any hope of reintegration into society or rehabilitation since the best years of their life have been spent behind bars, invisible behind the high prison walls.
The possibility of invoking civil remedies can by no stretch of imagination be considered efficacious, affordable or timely. The decisions in Khatri v. State of Bihar (1981) 1 SCC 627; Veena Sethi v. State of Bihar AIR 1983 SC 339; Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar AIR 1983 SC 1086; Bhim Singh v. State of Jammu and Kashmir (1985) 4 SCC 677 and Sant Bir v. State of Bihar AIR 1982 SC 1470, are instances where the Supreme Court has held that compensation can be awarded by constitutional courts for violation of fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
These have included instances of compensation being awarded to those wrongly incarcerated as well. But these are episodic and are not easily available to all similarly situated persons. There is an urgent need, therefore, for a legal (preferably legislative) framework for providing relief and rehabilitation to victims of wrongful prosecution and incarceration. Specific to the question of compensating those wrongfully incarcerated, the questions as regards the situations and conditions upon which such relief would be available, in what form and at what stage are also matters requiring deliberation. The Court, accordingly, requests the Law Commission of India to undertake a comprehensive examination of the issue highlighted in paras 11 to 16 of this order and make its recommendation thereon to the Government of India."