We often hear these maxims when it comes to the judiciary in India:
A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty
Justice delayed is justice denied.
How universally is it applicable? The disturbing story of Dipak Joshi makes you question the system which fails to deliver on these simple aphorism that are deeply embedded in Indian criminal law.
Dipak Joshi was a Nepali who lived in Kolkata in the 1970s. In 1981, he was arrested by the Kolkata police in Darjeeling district which borders Nepal, for the alleged murder of a man. He was then sent to Dum Dum Central Correctional Home (without even letting his family know!) while his trial was pending before the Sessions Court. And there he remained for a shocking 40 years – no charges were framed, and no trial or hearing took place. In 2019, somehow, his family in Nepal located him and filed an application for returning him to his home in Nepal. Over the years, Joshi’s mental health deteriorated, and he had no memories of his earlier life in Nepal or his native place. This made him unfit to be tried for murder and so A petition was filed under the direction of the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court asking for the immediate release of Dipak Joshi and transfer of his custody to his brother in Nepal. The court ordered Joshi’s release on a personal bond attested by the Consulate General of Nepal in India at Kolkata. He was released on 12th March, 2021 without charges and without a trial.
This disturbing account raises several uncomfortable questions. Some of the more important ones are listed below:
Why was a charge sheet never filed for 40 years, when the law states that it should be filed within 90 days of arrest?
How was his mental condition allowed to deteriorate, even though he was in a ‘correctional centre’? There is little doubt that the deterioration was the natural result of the extreme injustice done to him, without his overall health being properly monitored. If is condition was assessed, why was he not treated?
How did the police and judiciary both fail to notice Joshi’s case for 4 decades?
What happened to the case of the person for whose murder he was arrested?
What processes can we put in place that this kind of gross injustice never happens again?
Joshi, like everyone, had the right to have his family be informed about his arrest and whereabouts. Why was his family not informed for 38 years?
How can we be sure that there aren’t any more Dipak Joshis still languishing in the shadowy depths of Indian prisons, jails and correctional homes? It is estimated that the number of undertrials incarcerated in India far outnumber convicted criminals. So this is not such a far-out fear.
Who all should pay the price for Dipak Joshi’s loss of normal life for 40+ years, and how is the price to be calculated?
Rajesh is a qualified CA & CWA. He has served as a Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a Director of a large urban co-operative bank and Dean of a B-School over the years. He has taught Finance for over 20 years & trained participants from several Companies and B-Schools. He is an educator and a learner (he believes both are inextricably intertwined), and a knowledge product developer. Law Gyani, which he has founded to help Law Students with their exam preparations, and to understand nuances of the law.
Law Gyani’s mission is to make available better, easier-to-use and richer content to the legal community. Our first offering is a Q&A product, aimed at helping LL.B. students to appear for their examinations. While we have begun with answering questions from the last 10 years’ question papers of the Mumbai University’s 3-Year LL.B. course, Law Gyani is committed to expanding the content to cover Q&A on all law papers of most Universities in India.