The End of Jury Trials – Has it Actually Refined the Indian Legal System?

By at 8 December, 2009, 11:40 pm

India Today in its list of 30 land mark judgements included the name of K.M. Nanavati Vs State of Maharashtra 1960.

What is so important of a case in which an agitated and betrayed husband (Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati) killed his wife’s lover (Prem Ahuja), who was also his friend?

This case happen to mark the End of Jury Trials in India.

The Indian Legal system no longer has jury to judge its cases. The Government of India decided to abolish it because the opinion of jury is often coloured and biased. It is at times based on the values and norms shared by the society. The jury consists of common people who are not related to government or legal system. They jugde the cases on merits and not by statutes in absolute terms. Therefore, even if every jury member is instructed not to be influenced by media and public opinion.

In very few cases the jury makes an objective judgement. Whenever they judge a case  societal norms, morality and ethics effect the nature of the decision. It is seen in most of the rape cases the accused is held guilty by the jury. But many people have argued that absence of jury trial would not incorporate principles of morality, equity and participation of citizens in the judicial process. I differ in my opinion.

I think absence of trial by jury in our Indian System is a progressive step. It cannot be said that jury alone checks state power. With present judicial activism in the country, the judiciary has emergered as an effective tool against the wrong practices of the government. Moreover in a country like India, where media enjoys ample artistic freedom.

People have always opined their concerns through press. Whether it was Manu Sharma or Zahira or Dhananjay Chatterjee, people have always voiced out their concerns related to the judicial procedure. Not only this, if law is sympathetic in jury trials, then the Indian Legal System is blessed with Article 72 of the Constitution, under which the President of India can grant a pardon or reduce the sentence of a convicted person, particularly in cases involving capital punishment. A similar & parallel power vests in the Governors of each State under Article 161.

The absence of jury trial in country has insured that the law is progressive. I’m sure the decisions of  Shah Banu, Best Bakery and  Naaz Foundation would have been different if we would still have jury trials in the country.

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Categories : Legal Mirror

Harsh Gagrani December 13, 2009

I agree.. and especially in the recent times when media has assumed the role of an institution which influences the thoughts of the people to a great extent.. if jury system would still have been prevalent in India now, their would hardly have been any difference between ‘media trial’ and ‘jury trial’!!

p.s- for all those interested in this topic, do watch “to kill a mocking bird”, “12 angry men” etc!

g.v.desai October 31, 2010

the disadvantage of abolition of jury trial is that the accused is at the mercy of trial judge.advocates becme servile for fear of incurring the judges displeasure. corruption goes unchcked.

meghna November 20, 2010

I agree with you Mr. Desai but somewhere I feel manipulation of jury is an easy task. Moreover avtive participation of judges (who are aware of law) is a better option anyday.

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