Beyond the News - FACT Analysis

Miscarriage of Justice- Man after 20 yrs in jail found wrongly convicted

Dolly Chopra
A miscarriage of justice, also known as a failure of justice, occurs when a person is convicted and punished for a crime that they did not commit. It is seldom used as a legal defence in criminal and deportation proceedings. Every “miscarriage of justice” in turn is a ‘manifest injustice.’ Most criminal justice systems have some means to overturn or quash a wrongful conviction, but this is often difficult to achieve. In some instances a wrongful conviction is not overturned for several decades, or until after the innocent person has been executed, released from custody, or has died. Same the case with this man from Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur, he is 43-year-old, who was ‘wrongly convicted’ in a rape case, now finally acquitted by the Allahabad High Court after spending 20 years in jail. The man has been lodged in the Agra jail for the past two decades after being convicted on rape charges under IPC and the SC/ST Act. During this period, his parents and two brothers died but he was not allowed to even attend their last rites. A Division Bench of the high court finally announced his acquittal on February 24.  

What was the case?

According to the reports, a Dalit woman of Lalitpur district, in September 2000, had accused Vishnu Tiwari, then 23 years old, of raping her. Police had booked Vishnu Tiwari under Sections 376, 506 of IPC and Section 3 (1) (xii), 3 (2) (v) of the SC/ST (Prevention) of Atrocities Act. The case was investigated by the then Narhat Circle Officer, Akhilesh Narayan Singh, who submitted his report against Vishnu. The accused was sentenced to life imprisonment by the sessions court. He was later shifted to Agra jail where he is currently lodged. Vishnu appealed against the sessions court’s judgment in the high court in 2005 but somehow the case remained ‘defective’ for 16 years and could not be heard.  Later, the state legal service authority appointed advocate Shweta Singh Rana, as his defence counsel. The Division Bench of the high court, comprising Justices Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Gautam Chaudhary, on January 28, stated in its order: “In view of the facts and evidence on record, we are convinced that the accused had been convicted wrongly, hence, the trial court’s judgment and the impugned order has been reversed and the accused is acquitted. The accused-appellant, if not warranted in any other case, be set free forthwith.” Rana said, “Vishnu has been set free by the high court. The local administration has to complete the legal formalities before he walks free.” Vishnu’s nephew Satyendra told reporters, “My uncle’s wrong conviction has shattered our whole family, both financially and socially. I lost my father, uncle and grandparents who died due to shock and social stigma. “A major portion of our family land had to be sold to contest the case. As far as my uncle Vishnu is concerned, his entire life has been destroyed as he spent the best years of his life in jail and that too, for doing no wrong.”   The concept of miscarriage of justice has important implications for standard of review, in that an appellate court will often only exercise its discretion to correct a plain error when a miscarriage of justice (or “manifest injustice”) would otherwise occur. In recent years, DNA evidence has been used to clear many people falsely convicted.