Of Cabbages and Kings

December 27, 2008

Confessions

Filed under: Across the Universe, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:24 am

The better half and I were discussing the non-exclusiveness of our profession recently. People leave doctors to medicine, researchers to biotechnology and engineers to electronics but everybody has an opinion on the law. While this is certainly a desirable tendency in a democracy, the opinions come shaded, colour-coded almost, according to how informed the opiner is. And this applies to both lawyers and “lay-people” (the nasty patronising epithet that lawyers are taught to use for non-lawyers in law schools so they can feel a little more special) – a badly informed lawyer will come up with exactly the same kind of silly nonsense as anybody else…which does the beg the question of what the lot of us spend all our time studying but I’m going to swerve around that little issue today and move on to my pitch for the day.

One very popular demand in post-attack-on-Mumbai India is for admission of confessions as evidence. A confession is not admissable as evidence in India* and everybody is upset that although the media has tried and convicted the sole captured terrorist avaliable after the attacks, and his confession has been publicised, the confession cannot be submitted to the judiciary. A grand and colourful contradiction is emerging as a result – on one hand, everybody is grumbling about the ineptness of our investigation agencies and on the other is encouraging this ineptness by insisting that they should be permit to toture so-called confessions out of random people and admit these documents as evidence in courts in lieu of doing the spade work to come up with anything else at all that points towards the guilt of the accused. While I always thought the non-admissability of confessions as an important safeguard against abuse of the criminal justice system, I did not know of its history until I read ‘Under pain of death‘.

That people are thinking about the law is an encouraging sign for the democracy. That they are thinking of it in the silly dramatic and superficial way that the media encourages – that your opinion matters but you needn’t trouble to work enough to make it an educated opinion – is not. In the spirit of encouranging opinions – educated opinion – I offer you ‘Under pain of death‘ as something to mull over before leaping into the Confessions As Evidence debate.

*except for parts pertaining to physical evidence that was discovered as a result of the confession. So if a confession mentions the location of the murder weapon, and the weapon is found at that location, that part of the confession would be admissable, but a confession that simply admits to the murder would not count for anything.

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