The basic goal of criminal process is to ensure that everyone accused of a crime receives a fair trial. The concept of a fair trial is inextricably linked to the fundamental and internationally recognised human right1. It should be highlighted, however, that the fairness of a criminal trial should not be judged in absolute terms.
The question of whether or not a criminal trial is fair must be considered in light of the seriousness of the charge, the time and resources that society can fairly afford to invest, the quality of the available resources, the prevailing societal values, and so on. This article attempts to provide an outline of the typical characteristics of a fair criminal trial.
The following features of fair trial are as follows
- Adversary system
- Independent, impartial and competent judge
- Venue of the trial
- Presumption of innocence
- Right of accused person
- Expeditious trail
- Adversary System
Our country has an adversarial criminal trial system. According to this, any question regarding a person’s criminal culpability must be addressed by a criminal court once the individual has been given a fair and appropriate chance to appear before the court in their separate cases. It allows an impartial and competent court to have a good perspective on the issue, and it is a superior tool for discovering the facts in a fair manner. In such cases, the state represents the victim and initiates a trial against the offender.
This arrangement granted equal rights and opportunities to both partners. Furthermore, the law demands the criminal court to have a more active and constructive role in the conflict between the prosecutor-state and the accused individual than that of a simple referee. The accusation against the accused is to be formulated by the court after evaluating the circumstances of the case, not by the prosecution, and the prosecutor cannot withdraw from the case without the court’s permission.
- Independent, impartial and competent Judge:
- Separation of judiciary from the Executive:
The Code has achieved the detachment of the legal executive from the judiciary by mandating the organisation of Judicial Magistrates and placing them all under the jurisdiction of the High Court in each State, which is expressly spelled out under the provisions of Sections 6 to 19 of Cr.P.C. As a result of the split, no court officer would be associated with anyone associated with the prosecution. When the State is arraigning a party in a criminal prosecution, it is critical that the legal executive be free of any uncertainty about the leader’s influence or control.
2. Court to be open:
Section 327 requires that the court be convened in an open court to which the general public has access3. A public trial in open court is an incredible tool for instilling public trust in the logic, impartiality, and fairness of the criminal justice system.
- Presumption of innocence
Every criminal trial begins with the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused, and the provisions of the code are structured in such a way that a criminal trial should begin with and be regulated by the key presumption throughout. However, it has been recognised that the prosecution bears the burden of demonstrating the guilty of the accused, and until it relieves itself of that duty, the court cannot record a judgement of guilty of the accused 6.
- Right of accused person
A fair trial indicates that it should be fair to both the prosecution and the accused individual. As a result, the following rights in favour of the accused have been recognised by the code in order to make the accused’s trial fair.
- Right to know of the accusation:
In order to enable the accused to make preparation for his defence, it is essential that he be informed of the accusation against him. When an accused person is brought before the court for trial the particulars of the offence of which he is accused shall be stated to him. [Ss.228,240,246,25]. In case of serious offence, the court is required to frame in writing a formal charge and then to read and explain the charge to the accused
- Right of accused to be tried in his presence:
The presence of the accused throughout the trial would enable him to understand properly the case as it is unfolded in the court. The presence can be implied from the provision which allow the court to dispense with the personal attendance of the accused under certain circumstances [sec.205,273]. Section 317 however makes an exception and empower the court dispense the attendance of the accused person. At any stage of the inquiry or trial, if the court is satisfied the attendance of the accused person before it is not necessary and is represented by pleader, dispense then court may proceed with such inquiry or trial in his absence.
- Evidence to be taken in presence of accused:
According to section 273 all evidence taken in course of the trial or other proceeding shall be taken in the presence of the accused or when his personal attendance is dispensed with in the presence of his pleader. However, according to section 279, any evidence is given in any language not understood by the accused and he is present in court in person it shall be interpreted in language understood by him. If any accused is of unsound mind and thus unable to understand the proceeding in such case special provision have been made in section 328-339 to deal with such situation.
- Right to cross-examine prosecution witness:
It is important right for the purpose of defence. A criminal trial which denies the accused person the right to cross-examine prosecution witness is based on weak foundation, and cannot be considered as a fair trial 6.
Indian law is consistent with worldwide legal norms on the opportunity to be tried by a competent, free, and fair court. Under the law, everyone should be treated the same. Each will be eligible for a fair trial by a court established by law. A notable requirement of a reasonable and fair trial is one that stands out right away.
According to Article 21 of the Constitution, the right to a speedy trial incorporates all stages such as examination, inquiry, rectification, trial, and re-trial. In a criminal case, a conviction cannot be based on the testimony of witnesses whose credibility has been called into question by their interrogation. Proof should be appraised objectively and impartially. In every criminal preliminary, the degree of probability of blame must be much greater, practically achieving confidence; and if there is even the slightest reasonable or plausible prospect of the accused’s innocence, the benefit should be granted to him.