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A Significant Verdict

A Significant Verdict

The Supreme Court has once again ruled beyond doubt that the ISRO espionage case filed against its former scientist Nambi Narayanan by the Kerala police, was a fabricated tale.

It was the striking outcome of a 24-year long legal struggle by one of the country's most eminent scientists. From bearing the stigma of a spy and a traitor, Nambi Narayanan has been resurrected with the life lessons of those denied justice. His name and interventions will surely be the guiding light in future as the reason for a verdict that will forever inspire those who fight against injustice by the government and the police. This is because the observations by the Supreme Court in the Nambi Narayanan case and the interpretation of Article 21 of the Constitution are going to turn into crucial factors in the police torture cases and in compensation cases of those acquitted after sacrificing their lives as undertrial prisoners.

The 32-page judgment of the Supreme Court in the Nambi Narayanan case establishes that compensation has to be paid for the restoration of the dignity of the individual that is subjected to wrongful arrest and torture, and the enquiry officers who committed misuse of power should be subjected to official action. The apex court's observations ran thus: " The dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him. A human being crires for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect. That warrants grant of compensation under the public law remedy. We are absolutely conscious that a civil suit has been filed for grant of compensation. That will not debar the constitutional court to grant compensation taking recourse to public law. The Court cannot lose sight of the wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution, the humiliation and the defamationfaced by the appellant. " In addition to ordering compensation through its clear verdict, Supreme Court has also appointed a three-member council headed by a retired judge to decide on the appropriate action to be taken against the erring enquiry officers.

In cases hitherto of acquittals after wrongful arrests and long trial, the court decisions on the issue of compensation have been neither uniform nor following any common criteria. They were often even were contradictory to one another. Ever since the 1983 Rudhul Shah case, the Supreme Court has ordered compensation ranging from 30,000 to 10 lakh Rupees to victims of illegal detention, death in police custody, rape and torture. But when it came to the Akshardham attack case of 2002, the Supreme Court verbally refused to even hear the petition for compensation by those who were exonerated. The bench commented that if those who were wrongfully arrested and later acquitted are given a right to demand compensation, that will create a dangerous precedent. And curiously enough, that bench had included the current Chief Justice Dipak Misra who headed the bench of Nambi Narayanan's case which upheld citizen's rights. On that occasion, senior lawyer KTS Tulsi opted to withdraw the petition for fear that if that observation became part of the verdict, it would endanger the fate of future compensation cases. In fact the apex court had annulled the death sentence of innocents in the case Akshardham case, using words like injustice, illogical and clear violation of fundamental rights and human rights. In spite of that, the court could not find any case for their dignity and compensation.

Many a report has brought out the fact that most of the under-trials in prisons of India are Muslims and Dalits. A majority of those who were arrested in the country in cases of extremism over the last 15 years, were aquitted as innocent. The Supreme Court itself had observed that the reasons for registering fake cases and forging evidence in several cases were the propensity to win higher posts by imprisoning innocents, the urge to please the ruling establishment, and local disputes and hatred. But when it comes to the demand for action against such officials, the courts mostly concede the government narrative that it will sap the morale of the probing agencies. However, the Law Commission in its 277th Report has recommended that those who lose lives in fake cases should be copmpensated for and stringent action taken against enquiry officers, as done in other countries. The judgement in Nambi Nayaranan case and the latest recommendation of Law Commission really uphold the dignity and honour of the citizens. The need of the hour is collective efforts to implement them without discrimination.

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