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Applicability of ADR in resolving criminal matters - a want or a need ?

The theory of justice delayed is justicedenied can be approprialtely applied to Indian judcial system where approximately 59,670 cases are pending in the apex court as of february 21, 2020. The scenario of backlogs of cases is even worse in the sub-ordinate judicail sysytem where approximately 46 lakh and 3.19 crore cases are pending before the High Courts and the lower courts. This huge number of pending cases can be attributed to the inadequate judicial strenght of judges in various courts across the country - be it the High Courts or the lower courts. The 120th Law Commission of India had recommended of a five fold increase in the number of judges in the country. The commission also recommended the increase in the judge-population ratio taking the number from 10.5 to 50 judges per milion of population.

It was the need to clear off this instituitional backlog that prompted the conceptualization of an alternative system of settling the cases outside the judicial framework of regular court proceedings in a formal manner so that the twin purpose of speedy disposal of cases as well as delivering timely justice to the victimised, is served. And it is at this juncture that the concept of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism comes handy in the form of mediatin, conciliation, arbitration, Lok Adalats.This effective and expeditious mechanism has revived the faith of the massses in the Indian judiciary. Under article 21 of the Indan Constituition, which promises to every Indian citizen the right to life and personal liberty, ADR arises as a collateral concept of article 21. Right to life also includes right to speedy trial for every individual and here, the concept of ADR receives adequate Constituional safeguard. Under articles 38(1) and 39(A), the Indian Constituition entrusts the State with the duty of ensuring security to all individuals in the form of promoting social, economic and political justice and by providing free legal aid to the weak and the poor strata of the society, respectively. 

ADR has been an absolutely necessary block in filling the gap between the pending criminal matters before the courts (12.15 lakhs as on june 1, 2019) and an instrument of speedy trial for these cases. As of 31 december, 2016, there were 1,35, 683 convicts, 1,29,058 under trial inmates and 3,089 detenues in India. A whopping expenditure of Rs. 361 crore is required to meet with the expenses of these prisoners.

These distressing statistics blatantly point to the need of applyling ADR in resolving criminal disputes. The much celebrated concept of plea bargaining  plays a pivotal role in the applicability of ADR in solving criminal matters. The concept of plea bargaining can be understood as a kind of arrangement between the prosecutor and the accused where the prosecutor agrees to trade the reduction in the seriousness of the charges  or the length of the recommended sentence for the accused's promis of a waiver of the righ to trial and a plea of guilty to the reduced chargs. The concept of mutually beneficial partnership between the partners particularly remain intact here as both the prosecutor and the accused benefit from the sttlement. The prosecutor by offering humble concessions  to the victim to avoid the expenses and the delay of a trial, especiallyin the cases where evidence  of guilty is overwhelming. The governent on the other hand avoids the chance of completely letting off an accused by agreeing to a plea of a reduced charge.

  • need of ADR in resolving criminal disputes
  • constituitional safeguards for ADR
  • a brief idea on the concept of plea bargaining

BY : Mekhla Chakraborty

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