‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ may be a cliche, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Quality of justice suffers not only when an innocent person is punished or a guilty person is exonerated but when there is enormous delay in deciding criminal cases. The situation is indeed grave. India has nearly 2,50,000 pre-trial detainees in overcrowded prisons. In fact, as many as seven out of every ten Indian prisoners are pre-trial detainees. Moreover, there are currently around 27,000,000 pending cases in Indian courts. In one particular case, a man was held in pre-trial detention for 54 years, even though the maximum sentence for his crime was only 10 years.
Besides the huge pendency and inordinate delay, the system suffers from a very low rate of conviction. Only nine percent of the accused were convicted under the IPC in Maharashtra in 2010. When chances of convictions are remote, crime becomes a profitable business.