Discussions over Tea (Of course, cutting maar ke)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

LAW : Trial - b(u)y Jury



I saw Runaway Jury last evening. And it got me wondering about the entire concept of a jury in the justice system. We then had a discussion whether a jury system would work in India - Me, AS - who's spent precisely 2 years of his 28 years in India and the rest in the US and AN who's been in the US for a year and a half now.

The main topics of discussion in any jury based legal system are -
  • Is the jury representative of the people?
  • Does the jury guarantee the best verdict for the case possible?
  • What is the political and social importance of a jury system?
If a jury system is evolved in any country, it will undergo an initial period, which it would've undergone in any country when it was first adopted. This means that there would have to be checks and balances on the people who would be eligible to be cast on to the jury.
For a person to appear on a jury, currently they have to answer a set of questions, which decide if the potential juror is biased against the case in any form, and often undergoes a rigorous background check by the defense and the prosecuting authorities to determine if they are neutral jurors.
If such a system was introduced in India, the first stumbling block would be the lack of registered entries regarding voters and substantial data for background checks. This leaves the backdoor wide open for a country already rife with corruption. So that takes care of the first question ...

For the second question, the concept of basic education comes into play. Is every Indian equipped to make social decisions for a community at large with the correct perspective? A significant part of this answer, lies in the education system which needs to teach the different between right and wrong. The probability of choosing a wrong person is lower in the English nations because of the inculcation of the concepts of social justice at a young age.
It also requires some level of education and understanding of the law. The law for a jury system is simple - it is the responsibility of the crime/law/order divisions (cops) to get the evidence to the court and it is the responsibility of the jury to determine whether that evidence is enough to convict the defendant. This means that hearsay evidence, impressions and conjecture isn't allowed. This needs to be understood by the jury members.
Also, there exists such a large social divide which might lead to dilution of a verdict, if social politics come into play within the jury. i.e. Juror 1 doesn't personally like Juror 4 and hence negates his vote.

Though this is a teething problem, the advantage of continuing such a system is that it will allow the concept of social responsibility to settle in with the average Indian, a concept which seems to be missing. The important thing to note is that this system can only apply to the civil cases or social cases. Also, the number of jury trials would be very small as compared to the total number of trials undertaken, but the intention would be to let the public a view into the legal system and their responsibility in the course/court of justice.

Other happenings -

Considering my fascination with Incan history and my plans to go to Peru, I'm glad I managed to see an exhibition for "Macchu Picchu" at the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History. It was really cool. I simply love the way those names roll off my tongue... Pachacuti, Vilcabamba, Huayna Capac (who reminds me of "Rascar Capac"!).....

Also, considering the number of hours I've spent following American Football with my cousin on TV, I managed to see my first live game - The Pittsburgh Panthers got the better of the Virginia Tech Hokies in a thriller. I'm just happy because I can now call up a friend (from VT) and irk him about it :)

End of Post

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