Libertatem Magazine

Jurisprudential Development of Indian Criminal Procedure Through the Prism of Packer’s Models

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The procedural features of criminal law work to sustain the rule of law in society through enforcing constitutional promises. The common goal of any society is to minimize crimes and at the same time safeguards people from undue hardships while enacting the criminal justice system. In “The Limits of the Criminal Sanction,” Herbert Packer gave two essential criminal justice models: due process and crime control. The due process model puts primacy over the interests of the individual suspects. Such a person has the right to a presumption of innocence, and should only be judged guilty of a crime through the formally defined procedure. On the other hand, the crime control model emphasizes the need for effective control of criminal activities in the interests of public order. It entails a series of quick, informal, and routine processes carried out by criminal justice players.

Packer draws a distinction between the “Due Process Model” of criminal administration, which emphasizes individual rights, and the “Crime Control Model,” which views criminal behaviour regulation as an essential function of the criminal justice system. He showed the normative antinomy of the criminal law using these two models of the criminal process. These were an attempt to abstract two distinct value systems that contend for primacy in the conceptualization of the criminal process.

The Crime Control Model must yield a high rate of conviction to be successful, and it must do so in a context where the magnitudes being dealt with are very vast, and the resources available to deal with them are extremely restricted. The entire crime control model is founded on the idea that the most essential purpose of the criminal process is to repress criminal activity, and that failure to do so leads to a collapse of the law and order situation. As a result, the basic purpose of the crime control model is to assess the efficiency of the criminal process in terms of controlling criminal minds to attain social freedom. This model promotes the idea that the police force should be given more authority to assist in faster investigations, arrests, and convictions. 

On the other hand, according to Packer “If the Crime Control Model resembles an assembly line, the Due Process Model looks very much like an obstacle course.” Only when there is due process and fundamental fairness within the scope of criminal law can the concept of justice be disseminated. There should be a balance between the accused’s rights and the court’s presumption of innocence. The power of investigation authority should be limited to the legal propensity of the criminal justice system so that the accused’s lawful rights are not violated.

Following independence, the first decade of justice administration was not favorable to the due process model. For instance, the case of A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras was more inclined towards the following procedure regardless of whether it is a ‘just’ process or not. In Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P, the court, while affirming the constitutionality of capital sentence, emphasized the deterrent nature of punishment and depicted it as a mark of society’s unequivocal disapproval. However, the due process clause gained traction after the Maneka Gandhi Judgment.

In the case of D.K. Basu, the Supreme Court gave guidelines that needs to be followed while arresting by the police official. The guidelines such as the person to be arrested have to be informed of all the charges, the formation of the memo, which has to be attested by at least one witness at the time of the arrest, presentation of accused within 24 hours of arrest, giving notification to the nearest relative of the accused, etc. are steps which is a very strong effort to protect the rights of the accused. In Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar, reiterated in Motilal Saraf v. State of J&K the right of speedy trial as an essential component of ‘reasonable just and fair’ procedure assured by Article 21 which is the constitutional obligation of the state to set up such a system of the trial so that the practice of speedy trial can help in reducing the number of under-trials. In Khatri v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court stated that the state governments cannot circumvent their constitutional commitment to free legal aid to indigent accused by claiming financial or administrative difficulties. In the case of Sukhdas v. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh, the Supreme Court overturned a conviction on the ground that the accused was denied free legal representation during proceedings.

From the case Sunil Batra Vs Delhi Administration, regarding no handcuffs in a routine manner to the case of State of Maharashtra v Ravikant S. Patil, where the State was required to pay compensation because police officers marched the accused on the streets, shows the expansion of ‘Due Process’ model. In Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P. & Others, the Supreme Court clarified the method for filing an FIR, proposing a set of guidelines that should be followed when a victim contacts a police station. The mechanism for providing the victim with a photocopy of the FIR and regular updates on the investigation are two of the most notable actions taken to ensure accountability of crime in our society.

Therefore, it can be said that the “Due process model” got evolved by the Supreme Court via various landmark judgments ranging from the early instances of D.K. Basu, Hussainara Khatoon, Zahira Sheikh, Khatri, Sukhdas, to the very recent cases of Lalita Kumari, Arnesh Kumar (2014), etc.  The scope of Articles 14, 19, 21, 22, 32, 226 of the Constitution has been expanded through these judgments, resulting in the establishment of a Due Process model in Indian criminal procedure. Consequently, some of the guidelines have successfully led to the incorporation of various new sections in the CrPC such as Section 41A-D, 50A, provisions regarding safety of arrested persons, etc. 

However, on the other hand, in the realm of punishment, the Supreme Court has shifted from a due process to a crime control approach. In Mahesh v. the State of M.P., the court refused to set aside capital sentence, stating that to provide a lighter punishment to an accused would make the country’s justice system questionable and will shake the faith of common people in the judiciary as one appreciates the language of deterrence better than the reformative jargons in these kinds of situations. In the famous cases of Kartar Singh v State Of Punjab and State v Navjot Sandhu the Supreme Court accepted the confession given in police custody in contravention with the ethos of the Indian Criminal Justice System stating the person under prevention of terrorist acts should not be entitled to normal criminal process. In the Parliament Attack Case, the Court went even further and stated that even if an arrest is illegal, any recovery made as a result of that arrest is legal and admissible. These kinds of cases show how the same Supreme Court took the opposite view and based their finding on the ‘Crime control’ model rather than ‘due process.’ 

Concluding remarks

Initially, the Indian criminal procedure followed the ‘crime control’ model. However after the 1980s, it shifted or started getting inclined towards the ‘due process model’ as Apex Court started issuing a slew of liberal criminal rulings but when it comes to cases of terrorism, heinous crimes, etc., it goes back to the ‘Crime Control model.’ The two most important goals of criminal law are mutually exclusive and are always conflicting. There will always be a conflict between ‘means’ and ‘ends’ of the criminal process. Hence, the burden of balancing competing interests has swung back and forth between the due process and crime control models. Indian Criminal Procedure follows constitutional democracy so it tries to balance the value of an individual’s life and liberty against the community’s safety and security.

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