Friday, March 16, 2007

MIRANDA RIGHTS IN INDIA (part I- Introduction)

I undertook a project titled ACCESS TO JUSTICE: ARGUING FOR MIRANDA RIGHTS IN INDIA for my Law and Poverty Course this semester. It involved a field study wherein I sought to provide the ground work for having Miranda in India. Ofcourse, we do have DKBASU guidelines, but they arent enough to ensure due process in our Country. The next few posts are going to be specific chapters of my project.
The Complete Project may also be downloaded here


It is very often said that poverty means the degeneration of human rights. Rights, that are meant to be inalienable to human kind since their existence. One of the most important of these rights is the right to due process. Every person has a right to life and be tried by fair and just procedure[1]. It is highly unfortunate that while law seems to be in place for the protection of such rights, it fails in its implementation. The citizen is not aware of such law and more often that not, the poor man has to bear the brunt of actions. Poverty, is inextricably linked to the criminal legal system when it comes to the ‘access to justice’ and the protection of rights and freedoms.

The right to life and liberty[2], of which due process is an essential part has been given the highest regard in the Constitution and considered inviolable in nature. The ‘procedure established by law’ as explained in Maneka Gandhi’s case[3], must be reasonable, fair and just. In a country where more than 250 million people are below the poverty line, the fairness of the system still remains to be seen. The legal system in the country is against the poor. The goals of socialism and equality have not yet been realized and remain a distant dream. Most laws are made to facilitate the growth of wealth for the rich and the few that are made for the poor fail in their implementation. The legal system itself, apart from the provision for legal aid, has done nothing to support the poor in the country.

Access to justice can be understood in two ways- firstly, getting justice to the victim of a particular crime and secondly justice, in the protection of the rights of the accused. The procedure to every conviction must be fair and just. An achievement of justice in a case must consider the procedure by which it is conducted. Rights must be preserved, procedure must be followed and the accused must be given a free and fair trial. In the research, I have chosen to look at the latter aspect of ‘access to justice’. The rights of the accused are vital in the conduct of a trial. When a poor citizen stands as an accused, he needs to be aware of his rights. He needs to know that he has a right to free legal aid, a right to have his relatives informed, and most importantly, not to be tortured or be subjected to custodial violence. The situation in the Country is such that with a large majority of the people illiterate, such people are ignorant of their rights and the government on its part is doing nothing to educate them. It seeks to rest on the clichéd principle of ignorantia juris non excusat, that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

On the same lines, the Federal Court of the United States in 1966 pronounced the famous ‘Miranda Rights’ in Miranda v. Arizona[4]. What is said was that on arrest, every person must be read out his rights and the consequences of such abrogation would be the freedom of the arrested person. It attached, some degree of accountability on the police and state machinery for the protection of the rights of the citizens. In India, the case of DK Basu v. State of West Bengal[5], the Court issued directions in the form of requirements that are to be followed at the time of arrest. In the case, the Court relied on Miranda and tried to secure, atleast in theory, rights to the accused. However, such procedures are far seen to be implemented. Numerous incidents have taken place where the police authorities have abused procedure and resorted to violence. This project looks at rights granted to the accused in relation to poverty and illiteracy. It shall seek to critique the legal system and address the issue of police accountability that is gaining importance today. To facilitate his research, the author has conducted a field study, the data collected from which will be used to further his conclusions about the topic.

[1] Biswanath Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar, 1994 Cri LJ 242.

[2] Article 21, The Constitution of India.

[3]Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597.

[4] Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436.

[5] DK Basu v. State of West Bengal, (1997) 1 SCC 416.

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