Kanker, October 29, 2013

Suvojit Bagchi

Residents of Konge in Kanker district, narrate how young boys are routinely picked up from the area by the police. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi
The Hindu Residents of Konge in Kanker district, narrate how young boys are routinely picked up from the area by the police. Photo: Suvojit Bagchi

A series of RTI queries have revealed that only 4.3 per cent of criminal trials end in convictions in south Bastar, partially dominated by the Maoists, compared to a national average of 38.5. The accused individuals – who almost entirely belong to Gond community – are arrested as naxals and spend three to six years in prison in different cases as under-trials before being acquitted by the court.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister, Raman Singh, while talking to The Hindu has said that many tribals are languishing in jails for years and ‘‘should be brought out.’’ RTI queries filed by a group of lawyers have also revealed that the deliverance of justice has increasingly slowed down over the last decade.

Dantewada court, located in the hotbed of Maoist movement, registers maximum cases among district courts where tribals face trial for aiding the red rebels. Any persons arrested in far flung areas are produced in Dantewada court and hence the lawyers chose the same court to authenticate their apprehension that nearly all the accused gets acquitted after spending years in jail. ‘‘We wanted to know if nearly all the accused in naxal cases finally gets acquitted or not and the RTI replies revealed that we were right,’’ said Shishir Dixit, the lawyer who filed the queries. RTI data of cases were collected from 2005 to 2012.

The queries revealed that 95.7 per cent of all sessions trials end in complete acquittal of all accused on all charges, hence the rate of conviction is 4.3 per cent. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the national average of conviction rate under Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 2012 was 38.5. Moreover, the conviction rate for crimes under Arms Act and Explosives Substances Act, is also much higher nationally i.e. 61.9 and 52.8 respectively.

While the majority of the tribals are charged under Arms Act and Explosives Substances Act, along with other laws, the conviction rate here is again very low – three out of 425 cases in Arms Act, and zero out of 157 cases in Explosive Substances Act lead to conviction in the past 8 years.

The analysis of the RTI data reveals many more facts regarding relationship between judiciary and the tribals, albeit only in south Bastar. For example, 190 cases were started in 2005 and half of those were disposed off that year, while in 2012, only 10 per cent of the cases, instituted in the same year, were disposed off. Further analysis of the data shows that the longest of cases in 2005 lasted for three years. But in 2012, a significant number of 15 cases were disposed off, six years after registration.

‘‘This clearly highlights how the delivery of justice is slowing down in tribal areas, rather than speeding up’’, one of the lawyers filing the RTI said.

Number of cases disposed in the period, from 282 in 2005, has also fallen sharply. Data shows that 229 cases were disposed off in 2011, whereas 211 and 208 in 2010 and 2009 respectively. In 2008 only 148 cases were disposed off, while 158 in 2006.

The committee set for reviewing the cases of under-trials in Chhattisgarh jails reviewed ‘‘235 cases’’ till May, this year, according to the head of the committee, Nirmala Buch. She said the committee recommended the Chhattisgarh government “not to oppose the bail pleas of 110 under-trials, of which 63 were cases of naxalites.’’ However, only a couple of dozens of accused got bail or acquittal since the recommendation was made.

‘‘Those who are arrested for small, petty crimes and in jails for years…(the allegations) should be relaxed and they ought to be brought out of jail. We have discussed the issue with the police chief and the Buch Committee is working on it,’’ Chief Minister Raman Singh told The Hindu. However, he added that a general amnesty could not be granted as proposed by some officials.

“We can grant (amnesty) for all, at the same time. But definitely look into cases one by one,” he said.

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