Who killed Adnan?

On Monday, the Sessions Court in Mumbai acquitted all accused in the sensational Adnan Patrawala murder case. By all accounts, the case would have been an open and shut one, given the confession of the accused as well as the trail of evidence they left behind on social networking site Orkut. Yet, the prosecution did not manage to build a watertight case to get a conviction.

While the court's verdict may be shocking, it is by no means surprising. Maharashtra has one of the lowest conviction rates -- nine per cent -- in the case of IPC crimes registered in the state, according to statistics for the year 2010 provided by the National Crime Records Bureau. This is not a new phenomenon. 

Maharashtra has a history of poor conviction rates. Between 2001 and 2009, the state's conviction rate ranged between 11 per cent and 13.5 per cent, while the national average was 27.2 per cent. There is no single reason for this abysmal record. Police in the state lack accountability as well as a sense of responsibility, while public prosecutors have traditionally been weak lawyers who produce poor witnesses in a court room and are backed by legally weak paperwork. 

In fact, in 2011, a five-member committee appointed by the state government and headed by home department joint secretary R D Sankhe submitted its report on how to improve the justice delivery system. That report, like many others, gathers dust in Mantralaya. 

Another weakness in the justice delivery system in the state is procedural. Public prosecutors enter the case only after the police file a charge-sheet. Also, unlike most states, Maharashtra has just one public prosecutor for three to four courts. This results in a huge burden on the prosecutors who are paid only Rs 1,500 per day to attend to at least two cases.

A sound justice delivery system is the bedrock of any society. Maharashtra, unfortunately, lacks that. It is therefore no surprise that no one seems to have killed Adnan Patrawala.

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