PERJURY- Perspectives and Responses in the Indian Legal System.

 

TRUTH is one of the biggest assets of a nation. Any STATE, that tolerates suppression of truth, allowing FALSEHOOD to spread, specifically in its law enforcing agencies, is likely to COLLAPSE.

Proliferation of perjury in the courts, that could lead to suffering of innocents, must be rooted out by Govt. and Judiciary.

The main pillars of democracy, i.e., the Legislative and the Judiciary have been mute spectators to the lies perpetuated by litigants and witnesses in courts. Rot has penetrated to such an extent that some judges have stopped re-acting to lies being told on oath / false affidavits submitted by litigants. It is generally accepted that Courts are not taking action, although stipulated in law, when contrary statements to the ones made earlier on oath, are being made by witnesses.

We have to accept that the courts had been deeply afflicted with immoral disease of perjury. There are many instances when one has to correspond to such  cases of perjury but we can only  express our deep anguish and pain at the lack of steps initiated to control this crime committed, fearlessly and regularly in the courts.

One of the cases of rampant perjury come to our mind is that of a water seller called Paniwala. Paniwala approached the Supreme Court, seeking relief against a police order for his externment from Delhi. He informed the court that Police had used him as a stock witness in approximately three thousand cases. When he declined to continue to depose as a witness, several cases were registered against him and orders for his externment from Delhi were issued.  Police withdrew the externment order fearing strictures from the Apex Court.  

Nobody knows how many innocent persons in these three thousand cases may have been convicted on the basis of false testimony of this stock witness. No directives were issued by any court for retrial or re-investigation of cases in which paniwala was a witness.  (paniwala’s deposition may have caused injustice to some innocent suspects facing judicial trial) Last pillar of HOPE in a civilized society, i.e., the JUDICIARY did not show much concern when it was suspected that innocents may have been convicted. Can the poor with no connections HOPE to get justice in India?

Judiciary depends on input (written statements, evidence) and other facts to decide a case. These are thoroughly analyzed and judgment pronounced on merits. If falsehood is allowed to be recorded on the case file (the input) quality of finished goods getting contaminated cannot be ruled out. (records on the file become the basic raw material in judicial process)

An old saying goes “garbage in, garbage out.” Wrong input could make it difficult for even judiciary, though highly analytical, to produce the right output. Such predicament can be avoided if courts start spending a little extra time at the start of a case to sieve out falsehood from being recorded. Ultimately it will result in saving of much more time of the judiciary.  

Judicial officers are astute. Some unscrupulous lawyers propel their clients to make false statements / submit false affidavits. It is likely that some Judges can see through perjury being committed, orders for registration of perjury cases are rare, although provided for in the Indian Penal Code. Inaction against wrong doers will invariably encourage others to commit such illegal acts. Serious consideration needs to be given to the fact that registration of criminal cases against perjurers would ultimately result in long-term gains. Fear of facing criminal trials for perjury will discourage false litigants / witnesses, leading to a reduction of cases in courts.

Major reason for delay in justice delivery is that valuable and limited time of judges has to be spent in recording statements of witnesses/litigants, followed by their cross examinations.  Substantial amount of time will be saved on both these counts if false witnesses are controlled. Most of the witnesses, called by litigants to support their case by deposing falsely, will disappear when they realize that such acts could land them in jail. At present most of them go scot free. Perjury is like putting the hand brake while driving the judicial car. Delayed justice has also been acting as a hand brake on the vehicle of economic development of the country.   

The Law Commission was established in 1954 to make Justice “Simple, Speedy, Cheap and Effective”. Crores of Rs. must have been spent so far but delay in justice delivery has increased.  Rampant perjury going unpunished has encouraged almost everyone to make false statements, aggravating the problem to an unimaginable level of over thirty million cases pending in the courts. Perjury could be attributed as one of the major causes.

It becomes imperative on us not only to highlight our shortcomings but also to come up with suggestive remedies to overcome these shortcomings. Following suggestions may be initiated to begin with but Alterations required by Judiciary / Govt., be made and all Judges be requested to act in letter and sprit for the benefit of all law abiding citizens. Harsh steps have to be taken if justice delivery to common is to be expedited.

  1. Summary trials should be held for perjury. No matter how powerful or influential, those found guilty must be punished.

1A ) In UK a world renowned author, Lord Jeffrey Archer was convicted on charges of perjury. In India the only example of conviction for perjury that one hears about is of a poor, helpless illiterate girl, Zaheera Shaikh (Best bakery case). Supreme Court passed strictures against Secretary Personnel in MHA for submitting false affidavit but no orders were passed for registration of a criminal case.

      2)Every court must follow directions of Honorable Supreme Court, issued time and again.

“At any stage of trial, if it comes to the notice of the trial judge that a litigant, who has come to the court seeking relief, has not been truthful, deliberately withheld certain facts or information, his / her case should be thrown out at the threshold.

Indian Jurisprudence propounded the doctrine of “DHARMA RAKSHITA DHARMA”

(You preserve righteousness and righteousness will preserve you).

Respect and Power of Judiciary emerges not by being seated in that coveted chair BUT from the expertise most of the judges acquire to sieve out the TRUTH. It lies not in convicting criminals or charging for contempt, BUT, in the CONFIDENCE, TRUST and FAITH of common man. Blessed are those who deliver justice without fear, favor, consideration or prejudice and those who show compassion and help innocents that have been falsely implicated in criminal cases.

Separation of power was very thoughtfully adopted by the framers of the Constitution. Judiciary was not made subservient to the organs of Govt. Has it remained so today?

Common law system was adopted which empowered Judges to take decisions even if law was silent on an issue.

Therefore it has become imperative on judiciary to take pro-active measures to uphold sanctity of courts and ensure rule of law. TRUTH and JUSTICE cannot be separated as both are divine. Denying either of these two could lead to anarchy.

 

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