Lawfully yours: By Retd Justice K Chandru

Your legal questions answered by Justice K Chandru, former Judge of the Madras High Court Do you have a question? Email us at citizen.dtnext@dt.co.in
Lawfully yours: By Retd Justice K Chandru

We’re yet to find right balance between crime & punishment

A recent article in this paper highlighted the low conviction rate in the state — of around 50 per cent — including in grievous crimes like murder. While the report blamed it on police apathy, in the form of namesake charge sheets and failure to argue the actual case in court, isn’t slow trials also to be blamed? Shouldn’t there be a legal mechanism to ensure that witnesses are protected for telling the truth in courtrooms? Also, are there no legal provisions to prosecute those committing perjury? More than the truth, why should the skills of the public prosecutor play the ‘decision-maker’ in courts? — Balamurugan Subramanian, Perungudi

We are yet to find the right balance between crime and punishment. One section wants ‘retribution’, while another section argues for ‘rehabilitation’. We have chosen the second path, though a considerable opinion is for the first one. Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will make the world blind”. While the functioning of the criminal justice system is dismal, in a criminal trial, there are several players and each has a significant role to play. The poor rates of convictions are due to several factors. Further, as Anatole France said, “The law goads the rich and grinds the poor.”

Socio-economic improvements needed to eradicate begging

Though our Constitution guarantees the ‘right to live with dignity’, it seems the government is not keen on ensuring the same. A large number of people can be seen involved in begging, mostly using children as a shield. Begging at every nook and corner of the city -- mostly encroaching footpaths and bus shelters -- is happening despite being termed an offence and made punishable under a TN Act. Can’t the executive/judiciary take steps to ensure that the ban is implemented in its strict sense? Can’t government schemes be made use of to ensure that beggars live a dignified life under a proper shelter?

— A Prabha Karan, Alandur

In our spirituality, living by alms is the noblest form of life. Our religions teach charity as a noble deed. Though Karl Marx once said, “Charity will legalise poverty,” he himself used to give money to poor children begging on the streets. Besides spirituality, you must think of the poverty in this country. The anti-beggary laws brought by the Britishers were to make the cities look cleaner. After many years, many judges like us refused to punish the beggars brought before us and clearly told the government to provide rehabilitation measures. Begging can be erased not by law but by making socio-economic improvements in the life of those hapless poor.

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