All of us felt betrayed in school when we got blamed for something that our classmate did, right? We used to start ranting and cribbing about it and start demonstrating how it wasn’t our fault. It was a minor example of being held responsible for an act you did not even commit. Can you imagine someone going behind bars for an offence they did not commit? It’s tragic to picture such a situation. At first, it may seem that something like this is impossible to happen, however in reality, such events do take place. But the question that arises is, why does it take place and who should we blame for the same? Before getting into that, it is imperative to know what is specifically wrongful conviction.
What do we mean by Wrongful Conviction?
A wrongful conviction means punishing someone for the crime they did not commit; in other words, punishing someone for the actions of others. It would be more apparent by explaining one such case that took place in 1996, Lateef Ahmad Waza, hailing from Kashmir, was falsely alleged for being involved in the bomb blast that took place in New Delhi and Samleti village of Rajasthan, 1996.
He got picked up by the Indian police from Kathmandu, Nepal, where he was residing back then. He was declared not guilty for the involvement in the Delhi blast case; however, he was declared guilty for the Samleti blast case and was awarded life imprisonment for the same. After 23 years of imprisonment, he was declared innocent. But what now? His whole life got shattered? He was just 16 years old when he alleged for an offence he did not even commit. This miscarriage of justice destroyed the life of a 16-year-old. This incident makes us wonder who is at fault.
Causes of Wrongful Convictions
Misidentification Eyewitness misidentification is one of the biggest causes of wrongful convictions. One such case is of Assam’s, Madhubala Mondalm where she was falsely prosecuted and got detained for 3 years due to misidentification. Humans are bound to make errors; however, the price of such fallacies is beyond imagination.
Misuse of Political Power Power is something that messes with the mind of a person. Many times, people in power misuse it for their gains. There are a plethora of cases against our politicians; some get convicted; however, some go scot-free.
False Confessions When an innocent person pleads himself to be guilty of an offence, it is known as a false confession. There are several reasons for false confession, sometimes, the innocent person does it voluntarily to save the actual person who committed the crime. False confessions also take place to evade mental trauma and a stressful situation.
Paid Witness Many times, a paid witness appears in the court to testify. A witness acts as a piece of central evidence in convicting a person. The jury is unaware of this fact, and this leads to the conviction of an innocent person.
Bad Lawyering Due to the negligence on the part of a lawyer, there are chances that an innocent person might suffer.
Racism and Implicit Bias Racism has been there in our society for decades now, and we cannot turn a blind eye towards it. According to a study, one in every three undertrial prisoner is either SC or ST. It’s not easy to believe that racism still exists in the 21st century, and it’s not limited to just India. Implicit bias refers to a stereotype that people hold towards a group of people. People usually blame their household workers if something gets misplaced in their house. It usually starts from there but rarely ends there. This mentality hinders when they hold a position of responsibility.
Strategies to cope with Wrongful Conviction
Eye-Witness Misidentification The authorities should not entirely depend on eye-witness as they can turn out to wrong at times, their description and background check should also take place to avoid making an innocent person liable for a crime.
Videotaping of Confessions All the confessions should be video recorded so that no police officer gets involved in malpractices, which manipulates the statement. There are so many instances, where the innocent person pleads himself to be guilty due to coercion, this would help to overcome such problems.
Police misconduct should be controlled There should be a strict provision to ensure that there is no misconduct on the part of the police. When there is an error by the police, it loses its accountability in the eyes of the general public.
Forensic Science Forensic testing and investigation should take place well in advance to rule out the innocent suspects, the police officers should be trained in crime scene investigations so that they can help in directing the technicians that will be collecting all the evidence. Prosecutors should also have basic knowledge of forensic testing so that they can interpret the results correctly, which would help in avoiding any kind of discrepancy.
The impartation of Moral Knowledge Moral Knowledge is something very basic but plays a crucial element. Moral Knowledge workshops should take place in all the organizations and should be made a compulsory subject in the schools as well so that racism doesn’t get promoted. Racism and implicit bias should not be something due to which innocents get punished.
Compensation and Rehabilitation There is a need for law in India which provides compensation and Rehabilitation to the people who get wrongfully convicted, people usually lose the will to live after such mishappenings. Though money can never compensate and bring back the lost years, it can at least help them in starting over their lives.
We can no longer live under a rock and
ignore the causes of wrongful convictions. It’s time for the state to take
crucial steps to prevent it. We cannot fathom the mental toll which these
innocent people go through. No innocent person should be held responsible for a
crime just because he/she belongs to a particular community. No one
should be deprived of his life and personal liberty protected under Article 21.
It not only ruins the life of one person but many, it’s time to work on the
ground level and prevent such circumstances from happening.