MP Govt to withdraw 5 lakh court cases of petty crimes


Published in India Today 15 December 1992

The Madhya Pradesh Government believes in the adage of better late than never. Last fortnight, it decided to grant an amnesty over cases of petty crimes pending in courts till 1987, with the exception of those concerning habitual offenders.

It means that 18,000 alleged small-time criminals will leave the courtrooms beaming. And the state Government’s accountants will be delighted at saving about Rs.1 crore every year, the approximate cost of holding trials.

For people like Babulal, a handcart pusher, the directive is a godsend. In 1980 he was charged with “obstructing traffic” by the Morena police. His offence: parking his handcart on the road-side. Maximum penalty: Rs.50. Babulal has spent the last 12 years and a good deal of money in and out of various courtrooms.

Ajay Upadhyay, 23, a contractor was arrested in 1987. He was charged with smashing a bus windscreen during the anti-reservation agitation, for which the maximum punishment is a two-year sentence. But for the last five years, the case has been pending since there were no witnesses.

The scheme is the brainchild of state Law Minister Babulal Gaur, a former lawyer whose practice thrived on such petty cases: “Being a lawyer I could recognise the enormity of the problem.”

Enormous it certainly is. There are 22 lakh litigations pending in different Madhya Pradesh courts, of which five lakhs are petty crime cases, filed for minor transgressions like trespassing, fighting, traffic offences and gambling.

The Government plans to withdraw all these cases within three years. In fact, the target is to withdraw 50,000 cases by next January. The procedure is slow. But at least in Madhya Pradesh justice delayed is justice delivered.

India Today 15 December 1992

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