Lying to the Law : Do false accusations hinder speedy justice?

Akshita Manocha Words of Freedom 2 Comments

Out of 18 people who answered the poll, 89% of you were in favour of punishing the police and complainants for false allegation while none of you felt that such a punishment was unnecessary. 11% opted for the “other” option of which one of you pointed out that the police cannot know whether it is a false case or not and therefore only the complainant should be punished. Another opined that police should be punished only in those cases where it knew that the case was falsely motivated.

A Delhi based NGO, Swanchetan, has reported that in their study of 113 rape cases, 18.3 % of cases were falsely motivated cases. A criminal trial is distressing to the falsely accused but its implications penetrate the whole criminal justice system and the country. Trials are time consuming which means that the accused remains in jail for a long time till he is acquitted unless granted bail. According to the Prison Statistics India, for 2012, the number of under trials in jails was 2,54,857 which is 66.2 % of the total prison population at the end of 2012. The resources of the investigating agencies and the courts are diverted to deal with these false cases as well. Recently, President Pranab Mukherjee pointed out that there is a backlog of 31 million cases in India.The pressure of media and civil society would mean that the number of false cases of grave crimes would be less than the number of false cases in relatively lighter crimes.

Conservatively assuming that the ratio of false rape cases found by Swanchetan is the ratio of false cases for all types of crimes, 56,73,000 of the 31 million backlog cases are false cases.

The money required for dealing with these false 56,73,000 cases will be paid by the taxpayer. Not only money but time and resources of the court and police are wasted on these cases while the genuine cases suffer delay.

Our lawmakers had envisaged the problem of false cases to a certain extent and provided measures to safeguard against it like conducting an investigation before filing an FIR. But the general perception is that this discretion with the police is misused to let off offenders and harass genuine victims and complainants. It also leads to corruption in the form of police demanding money to file FIRs and initiating any sort of criminal proceeding for money.

There are remedies in the form of defamation and malicious prosecution to pursue those who file false cases but those who have undergone one trial painstakingly will not go forward with another one. And in cases/he wants to take the matter to courts, the damages awarded will not compensate the time and suffering undergone by the person.

In UK, complainants who have alleged false cases are prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
Another remedy employed to deter false cases is to prosecute for wasting police time by filing false cases.

But where police initiates false cases, few remedies are available with the victim. Generally for prosecuting police, torts such as false imprisonment and false arrest are employed to get compensation. In India the human rights commission has intervened in the past and departmental enquiries are initiated, however, none of the measures have acted as a deterrent.

False accusation is one of the biggest problems that our criminal justice system faces. We have to fix it by making those responsible for false allegations accountable for their actions.

-Akshita Manocha
Research Associate, Centre for Justice @India Institute

The opinion statistics are based on the results of our poll – Weekly Your View- posted on our social media on 1st May,2014.