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Wrongful Conviction- A malady for the criminal justice system

Better than ten guilty person escapes than that one innocent suffers.”

~William Blackstone

According to Duhaime’s law dictionary "a wrongful conviction is a conviction of a person accused of a crime which, in the result of the subsequent investigation, proves erroneous" “Wrongful conviction,” is an enigmatic term, deals with the conviction of innocent persons. Wrongful conviction is one amongst various violation of human rights. The latest incident where a man in UP was declared innocent after spending 20 years behind the bars. The recent case is not first, rather it adds to a series of wrongful convictions and detention. There are a plethora of cases adjudicated upon by various courts over this issue where the innocent were held guilty only after spending years in jail . This has caused individuals to spend years in jail without being found guilty. Unlawful arrests and detention not only a loss of years from life of an individual, but it also creates a social stigma and banishment and complete isolation even after being released. This is pretty evident from the powerful narrative by the individuals who have been victims of false prosecutions. The Delhi high court has called this as a miscarriage of justice therefore failure of justice. The old saying which says that hundred murderers be left but one innocent should not suffer. But the grim reality is that the innocent suffers. People languish in the bar because of inadequate availability of remedies. The wrongful conviction is nothing but negligence by authority in power due to which the human dignity and liberty of an innocent individual is at stake.

The wrongful conviction is a grave infringement of human rights which is also enumerated in the UDHR that is the United Declaration of Human Rights. India is not a police state but a welfare state. The ambit of the state has increased tremendously in the past few years and it is in every aspect of the citizen’s life, i.e. from cradle to grave. State atrocity in the form of wrongful conviction is a violation of human rights. This is a miscarriage of justice and there must be legislative framework to ensuring that people are not wrongfully prosecuted or incarcerated. They not only suffer loss of rights but also social alienation. They even suffer psychological adversity because of societal hatred and condemnation for the crime they have not committed. Since the person is proven innocent, he has to undergo a financial crisis because they are hardly provided with an opportunity for their livelihood. The victims do not recover trauma even after being proven ‘not guilty’. Even though they are compensated, no amount can recover the lost years of their life.


In India, there is a dearth of compensation scheme or legal structure which allows the state to be penalised for its mistakes. There is lack of clear cut provisions in the present statutes which provide the victims to delve for redressal. There are no well defined provisions enumerated in legal text books , it is done through reports, past judgements, and various precedent.

A investigation of existing laws shows that there are three groups of countermeasures which are based on court with respect to miscarriage of justice that results in wrongful conviction namely, Public Law Remedy, Private Law Remedy; and Criminal Law Remedy .Even though the remedies are available, there are many several drawbacks because of which innocent suffers


In the United Nations (UN) the Human Rights Committee has provided that States must formulate appropriate legislation to ensure that compensation is provided to the victims who are wrongfully convicted and also that the compensation in the form of payment is made within a reasonable time period. Further, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966 was a significant declaration adopted and signed by the world community to the violation of human rights. ICCPR further confers accountability upon the State to prevent cases of wrongful conviction. Under Article 14(6) of ICCPR the State has to compensate the sufferer for wrongful conviction provided that the conviction is final, and was later on changed or pardoned on the ground that the victim was found innocent.


India is not a police state, but a welfare state. In such a case, the massacre by the state in the form of wrongful conviction is a massive demolition of human rights. This is a failure of the justice system of a nation and there must be a framework to safeguard those who are not unlawfully imprisoned. The overall development and growth of the nation is calculated by the justice-system and the asset. Our Constitution has guaranteed the citizens fundamental rights which are essential human rights also. A wrongful conviction takes away the social life of innocent-defendants and are found guilty in our legal system .For ensuring the protection of the citizens and the perpetuation of the principles of Natural Justice, the law and order are the ‘sine qua non’ for a civilised society. However, it requires strong will power on the part of the ruling party for ensuring that law and order is maintained and that citizens rights are protected, thus making it a civilised society to live in.


Apart from the above mentioned issues, there is no standardised legal framework for seeking compensation. Even though there are remedies provided, a consolidated act containing the rights of the citizens and the duties of the state in this field is the need of the hour. In order to eliminate such convictions,an independent board needs to be formed to investigate such matters. Secondly , the issue needs concrete legislation with elaborated provisions. Thirdly, the one because of whom the victim suffers must be penalised last, a well-defined compensation must be mentioned.

Submitted by,

Ozasvi Amol,

Amity University


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