Wrongful Incarceration: Compensation and Reparation

Wrongful Incarceration
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Overview

The cases of wrongful incarceration have been prevalent in the country for a long time. Imprisonment comes with its own ordeals and it becomes much more painful when a person is suffering without any reason. The data released by Prison Statistics India shows that 69% that is 3, 30, 487 of the total population in jail that is 4, 78, 600 are under trial. The figure is not indicative of the number of wrongful incarcerations. But they point towards the increasing number of wrongful incarceration.

Wrongfully Convicted Victims and their sufferings

The term wrongful incarceration directly deals with the violation of basic human rights. When a person is imprisoned for any given amount of time, his life comes to a halt. The person is completely cut off from the outer world. The life after exoneration opens up a plethora of issues before them. The agony of prison life and the loss of freedom cannot be explained. The individual is deprived of the basic love and affection that everyone deserves.

Also, the trouble doesn’t end with their release, it continues to haunt them throughout their lives. When they are released from jails, they have to face the society who must have made up the image of that individual in their minds. In this process, they face social stigma and ostracization from normal society and their day-to-day processes The punishment lingers on with added problems of poverty, lack of respect, housing, transportation, etc., and also a blot of a criminal record on their image. They won’t be able to gain the same respect and position which they had before this incarceration. So, whose responsibility is it to make up for the wrong done to the lives of people?

Responsibility of the State in this process  

Despite proven innocence, the individual is not able to re-enter society and live there as he was doing before. The state cannot provide their status back but can help in many other ways. Monetary compensation should be given to the individuals who are released out of wrongful imprisonment. It can be decided on the basis of the number of years served in the jail. Also with this, financial support for basic necessities should be provided to the victims.

The immediate financial support can be helpful for the daily subsistence of the person including food, healthcare, and transportation. A basic house with the proper living condition could also be provided. The financial support provided would obviously not last for a lifetime. Basic and continuous labor could be provided to the person so that he can establish himself in a completely new environment. For those who wish to continue their studies, assistance under some government schemes may be provided so that they can go ahead with it.

There’s an international convention that requires the signatories to provide compensation to the victims of wrongful incarceration and conviction. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) makes it necessary for all the signatories to take up steps in compensating the victims of wrongful convictions. India is also a party to this convention. While the Indian government expressed its reservations of not completely following the convention. It says that the constitution of India does not provide the provisions for compensating the victims of unlawful arrest and detention. But the Supreme Court by the way of its judgments has made clear that compensation to the victims has to be given in the case of default from the executive’s side.

Countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, etc. have enacted the statutory provisions which deal with granting compensation to the victims of wrongful conviction. However, the verdict in the case should be final and the victim must have exhausted all other remedies to appeal in any court whatsoever. The provision, though in a limited way, serves the purpose of its enactment.

Indian precedents backing the grant of compensation 

Rudal Shah vs. the State of Bihar and another: In this case, the petitioner was detained in the prison even after his acquittal. He filed a habeas corpus petition under Article 32 of the constitution praying for his release. It was held the detention of the victim, in this case, was wholly unlawful and against the spirit of the constitution. The Supreme Court had every right to direct the authorities to release him and grant compensation. He was then granted a compensation of 30,000 rupees with his release.

“Sebastian M. Hongray vs. Union of India and others”: In this case, the Supreme Court issued a direction to army authorities to produce certain people who were made a party to this petition. The Army did not comply with the directions of the Supreme Court and it was found that there was willful disobedience on the part of the army. Due to this, they are liable for civil contempt. In the said petition the Supreme Court, considering the agony and pain of the family of victims and the inconvenience caused to them, granted compensation of 1 lac. Rupees.

“Bhim Singh, MLA vs. State of J&K and others.”: In this case, the petitioner was MLA in the legislative assembly of J &K. He was going to attend the assembly sessions of J&K, but was picked in between. Due to this, he wasn’t able to attend the session. He filed a writ petition in Supreme Court seeking remedies in the present case. The Supreme Court granted him the compensation of 50,000 rupees.

Conclusion

The Indian precedents clear the way how compensation could be sought for wrongful imprisonment and detention. But making a statutory law that is solely designed for this purpose would make the task of the judiciary easier and faster. Precedents pose a restriction with respect to the facts of the case and other different issues. A comprehensive statute that covers all the possible scenarios would anyway be more helpful than a long list of precedents. Also, with the increase in the number of cases of wrongful detention like that for UAPA, sedition etc. this law would be very helpful in the efficient disposal of cases without causing unnecessary trouble to the victims. 

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