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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 18:24 GMT
Long wait for Indian justice

Keeping a vigil on World Human Rights day Keeping a vigil on World Human Rights day


By Satish Jacob in Delhi

While the world has been marking Human Rights day, it may not have much meaning for hundreds of thousands of Indians in custody awaiting trial.

Facing trial, prisoners sometimes come up against seemingly insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles which may deny them justice.

Although steps are being taken to minimise delays in dealing with cases, it will be a long time before the legal system is streamlined.

Justice denied

The Supreme Court recently expressed shock when it heard that a man arrested in Calcutta 37 years ago was still awaiting trial.

This is not an isolated case.

According to a prison official in Delhi, there are currently 9,000 people in custody who are waiting for their cases to be heard.

In the state of Utter Prudish alone there are nearly 200,000 people awaiting trial.


India's courts are concerned at legal delays India's courts are concerned at legal delays
There is also another category. These are the people who have been convicted, but have been compelled to stay in jail years after completing their sentence because there has been no one to provide a surety bond for their conduct.

To mark the Human Rights day in India, a former senior bureaucrat told a gathering at the National Human Rights Commission that anomalies in the legal system had crossed acceptable limits and were an affront to any civilised society.

He spoke about two recent incidents.

In one, a teenager employed as a domestic help in a household was first beaten up and then thrown from the roof of a two-storey house, suffering broken bones.

In another case, an employer cut off the hands of a servant for allegedly stealing cash from his cupboard.

Court's concern

The authorities in India are becoming increasingly aware of the need for action.

The Supreme Court recently announced two measures which it hopes will have some impact on the people responsible for imparting justice.

It has asked magistrates to conduct on-the-spot trials in prisons and has introduced a code of conduct for judicial officers to ask responsibly.

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10 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Protest against Kashmir 'missing'

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