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Role Of Magistrate In The Criminal Justice System

The Criminal Justice System is a comprehensive framework intended to address law and order issues comprehensively. It involves deterring crime, facilitating legal proceedings, and enforcing court orders. The essential part that magistrates play in this system is paramount. These magistrates have the responsibility of monitoring an extensive variety of cases, such as theft, traffic violations, and disturbances in public areas.

They act as the gatekeepers of justice, issuing warrants, setting bail, and handling low-level criminal cases, in addition to other important responsibilities. This paper explores all of the responsibilities and duties that magistrates have when using their judicial authority. It also emphasizes the basic notion that judges-including magistrates-must decide cases by the natural justice principles.

The defense of accused individual rights is directly linked to the notion of natural justice. It includes rights including an opportunity for the accused to be heard, impartiality, fairness in the hearing process, and sufficient notice. The cornerstone of a just and equitable legal system is composed of these principles.

This paper examines the potential repercussions of violating the natural justice principles. As accused parties strive to right perceived wrongs, legal objections can arise, resulting in expensive postponements and retrials. When justice is violated, there is an actual concern that the public's trust in the criminal justice system will be lost, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of the institution. In the most severe instances, there may be miscarriages of justice that lead to wrongfully convicted people or unfair sentences. The Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) provisions that particularly address the role of magistrates in the criminal justice system are examined as well in this context. These rules define the limitations that magistrates work within and provide an organized framework for trial proceedings, bail guidelines, and the issue of warrants and summonses.

In conclusion, this paper offers magistrates practical recommendations on how to uphold a fair process while exercising their power. These recommendations place extreme value on the significance of maintaining up-to-date on legal changes, upholding impartiality, effectively communicating decisions, and engaging in continuous education to improve judicial competency.

As Aristotle said, "It is an injustice that the ordering of society is centred." The criminal justice system is crucial to preserving social order because it protects the Rule of Law, which is the cornerstone of our democracy. There are an absurd number of cases pending in Indian courts. It is crucial to remember that when justice is withheld, it is buried and that a delay in justice is justice denied.

The Criminal Justice system is a system that deals with the agencies of the government that are responsible for maintaining peace and harmony, enforcing the law, and handling criminal conduct. The police, the prosecution, the courts, and the penal administration comprise the criminal justice system.

All of these system parts are intended to work in harmony with one another. The criminal justice system's success will only be made feasible by these organs working together harmoniously. Courts are the crucial wing of the criminal justice system. There are two types of criminal systems those are Adversarial system and the inquisitorial system. We follow the adversarial system advocates of both parties argue and prove their arguments through evidence.

Judges decide the case on the basis of the advocate's arguments and evidence. Most of the common law countries follow this system. Since it is assumed that a crime has been committed against the state as a whole, the prosecutor represents the state, which has a duty to administer justice. Judgment is postponed in this system because both sides are guaranteed the opportunity for a fair trial and hearing.

Through several rulings and announcements, such as in the case of Lalita Kumari v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2014), the Court made it mandatory for police officers to lodge the FIR and courts have strengthened the nation's criminal justice system and played a significant role in its administration. The criminal justice system described above makes clear how crucial the court's position as the system's cornerstone is.

Role Of Magistrate In The Criminal Justice System
On 5 January 2013, Hon'ble Justice P. Sathasivam who is the judge of the supreme court delivered a speech on the Role of Judicial Officers in the criminal justice system at Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy for the Newly Recruited Civil Judges. In that speech, he mentioned, that the responses of society to crimes and offenders are reflected in criminal justice.

The courts, police, prosecution, and defense are the main actors playing this function. It is difficult to successfully administer criminal justice in a democratic society where the rule of law and protected fundamental rights are in place.

This is the context in which the subordinate judiciary becomes extremely significant. In the case of All India Judges' Association v. Union of India[1], former chief justice Ranganath Mishra gave a great overview of the magistrate's function in a writ petition about the conditions of subordinate judiciary. Where he observes:

'The Trial judge is the kingpin in the hierarchical system of administration of justice. He directly comes in contact with the litigant during the proceedings in court. On him lies the responsibility of building up of the case appropriately and on his understanding of the matter the cause of justice is first answered. The personalities, knowledge, judicial restraint, capacity to maintain dignity are the additional aspects which go into making the Court's functioning successful'.

He also mentioned about pendency of cases Section 309 has been inserted with an explanation to sub-clause, the purpose of this modification is to speed trials by prohibiting adjournments at the request of parties or on the basis of a party's lawyer's engagement in another court. For the purposes of Section 265A, judicial officers are required to have knowledge of "offenses affecting the socio-economic condition of the country."

A judge should be knowledgeable of the most recent changes and advancements in the law and apply them to give effect to the legislature's intention to expedite the administration of justice. Under 165 of the Evidence Act power was given to the judge to ask questions to the witness to discover the truth.

An advocate sees the success/winning of their client but the judge must watch justice triumph. Justice must be administered fairly in order to maintain the public's confidence in the rule of law. One of the most fundamental principles of criminal law is that everyone is initially deemed innocent until and until their guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that is both unbiased and knowledgeable. No one may be punished without having undergone a fair trial, and court officials have a responsibility to uphold this principle.

The duty of a magistrate in a fair trial to the accused is, that the accused must know on what basis he got arrested and have legal aid and to consult a lawyer. Once the accused had been arrested, he had to be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours. without the permission of the magistrate accused should not be detained in custody beyond 24hrs.

The magistrate can pass an order of remand to authorise the detention of the accused in such custody as such Magistrate thinks fit, for a term not exceeding 15 days in the whole. The reason for the safeguards has been explained by Justice Bhagwati in the case of Khatri II v. State of Bihar[2]

'This healthy provision enables the magistrates to keep check over the police investigation and it is necessary that the magistrates should try enforcing this requirement and where it is found disobeyed, come down heavily upon the police´┐Ż There is however, no obligation on the part of the magistrate to grant remand as a matter of course. The police have to make out a case for that. It can't be a mechanical order'

Under the amended section 50A of the Criminal Procedure, magistrates are assigned with the essential duty of ensuring that the arresting police have informed the subject of his rights and entered in the police diary. In the case of Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra [3] SC held that the magistrate is required to advise the arrested accused person of his right to a medical examination under section 54.

In this instance, the High Court instructed magistrates to inquire with the accused about any complaints he may have made about being tortured or mistreated while in police custody. In the case of Hussainara Khatoon V Case[4] it was held that if the accused was not produced within 24hrs then it's the duty of the magistrate to inform the accused that he has a right to be released on bail on expiry of the statutory period of 90 or 60 days as the case may be.

It is important to remember that maintaining criminal justice necessitates collaboration between the two directly involved branches of government - the legal system and the police force. The magistrate is involved in the police investigation at every point, even though direct intervention is not optimal in the process. A magistrate's duty is to supervise the investigative process and guard against legal misuse by the investigating body. and must realize, nevertheless, that the magistrate's function is a complement to the police force.[5]

In 2004 Malimath Committee gave some recommendations:
  • For speedy trials, the criminal justice system has to change from an adversarial to an inquisitorial system.
  • The committee proposes granting the right to silence to the accused, protecting them against self-incrimination. This aligns with constitutional principles and ensures that individuals are not compelled to testify against themselves.
  • It criticizes the presumption of the accused to be innocent until guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt, leading to the delay of the case.
  • Compensation should be given to the victim.
  • A public prosecutor should be appointed through conducting exams.
  • There should be reform of the police system to lead to transparency.
  • Every high court should have a judge who specializes in criminal law.
  • In order to guarantee the criminal justice system's efficacy and adaptability to changing circumstances, a Presidential Commission to conduct periodic inspections of the system is suggested.

Criminal Justice System In The United States
There are two levels to the American criminal justice system: federal and state. Every jurisdiction possesses a distinct collection of substantive criminal laws and criminal procedures. The FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, and Customs Service are just a few of the more than twenty specialized federal law enforcement agencies. Enforcing federal laws is the responsibility of these agencies.

The president appoints federal prosecutors, sometimes referred to as U.S. attorneys, to each of the 94 court districts in the country. Being answerable to the U.S. attorney general, they enjoy a great deal of independence and prosecute federal crimes in federal courts.

The Department of Justice, based in Washington, D.C., provides assistance, expertise, and some guidance and supervision to U.S. attorneys. It houses special prosecutorial units with nationwide authority in areas such as organized crime, war crimes, antitrust, and international drug trafficking.

Criminal procedure in the US, highlighting the presence of both national and local laws. Criminal procedure laws are governed by the laws of each state and the federal government. Judicial advisory panels draft the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which the Supreme Court then publishes with the potential for change by Congress.

State legislatures usually define state procedural laws. There are twenty-three distinct rights included by the first eight amendments to the Constitution, twelve of which are directly tied to criminal proceedings. These rights were once viewed mainly as defenses against the federal government.

However, the due process provision of the Fourteenth Amendment included most of these rights after World War II, extending their reach to state law enforcement. In interactions with police, prosecutors, courts, and jail officials, people's rights are guaranteed under the federal Constitution. States, however, can provide criminal defendants more rights, possibly going beyond the safeguards established by the US Supreme Court.

In American legal parlance, "criminal procedure" refers to the administrative, statutory, and constitutional restraints on police investigations. This covers laws governing seizures, questioning, and searches of people, property, and objects.
  • Right to counsel
    Defendants are guaranteed a "speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed" by the Sixth Amendment. Defendants also have the right to "assistance of counsel" for their defense and to face the witnesses against them, including a cross-examination. The right to legal representation starts at the beginning of the court process when the suspect is made an accused person.

    At the initial court appearance, the judge designates a defense attorney for the accused if they are impoverished. In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that the government had to provide defense attorneys to impoverished individuals who were charged with felonies. This decision was later expanded to include any situations in which the defendant might face jail or prison time.
  • Right to trial
    The right to a public trial is granted to the defendant. Journalists are welcome to attend American court proceedings like members of the public. The defendant cannot give up this privilege because it is regarded as a common one among all citizens. Television cameras are not always permitted in courtrooms, even if they are accessible to the general public. Federal courtrooms typically do not allow cameras, while certain states like California permit live television coverage of criminal proceedings. There is disagreement about whether trial processes are distorted or whether the public is educated by media broadcasts.
  • Right to speedy trial
    A criminal defendant is guaranteed a timely trial by the Sixth Amendment. But the Supreme Court hasn't laid down a precise time frame that would violate this protection if it were to be surpassed. Every case is evaluated on its own basis. The period of time between the committing of a crime and the filing of charges is governed by statutes of limitations rather than the right to a prompt trial. According to the Constitution, there cannot be an excessive amount of time between the indictment and trial.
  • Right to a Jury trial
    A criminal defendant is also guaranteed the right to a jury trial by the Sixth Amendment. This right, however, may be renounced, and the accused may opt to enter a guilty plea or have a bench trial before a single judge. In nearly all states and the federal system, a jury must reach a unanimous decision, even though it is not required under the Constitution. In the event of a hung jury a jury that cannot reach a verdict, the prosecution must determine whether to retry the accused.
  • Criminal Trial Process
    Even the United States follows an adversarial system where both counsels argue in support of their clients. According to the Constitution, the fact-finder whether a jury or a judge must conclude that the prosecution has shown each and every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Until a defendant's guilt is established, they are assumed innocent. The right to call up witnesses and question them shall be exercised by both parties. Fifth Amendment objections may prevent witnesses from testifying, but the prosecution may provide immunity in order to force a statement. Trials are used to settle only 10% or fewer of criminal cases in the United States. Plea agreements are among the other methods used to resolve most cases.
  • Sentencing
    In the US, lawmakers, courts, parole boards, probation agencies, and, in certain situations, sentencing commissions are among the organizations involved in the sentencing process. Criminal punishments are set by legislatures; state statutes vary and are frequently specific to a given crime. Following a hearing where the prosecution and defense team present their recommended punishments, the actual sentencing takes place.

    The victim or their representatives, along with the defendant, may occasionally address the court as well. The probation department, which independently looks into the defendant's past, criminal history, and other pertinent information, provides advice to the judge.

    As long as the punishment is within the statutory range, the judge need not make formal factual findings or provide justification for it. This range of sentences is not appealable. The Eighth Amendment forbids both high bail and unusually harsh penalties. In 1972, the ban on cruel and unusual punishments resulted in the repeal of the death penalty laws in 38 states. Following Supreme Court rulings, almost forty states enacted new death penalty legislation. Congress or state laws cannot be in conflict with the Constitution.
  • Sanctions
    Judges in American criminal courts most frequently impose probation, which spares offenders from jail time provided they follow the guidelines and conditions established by the probation department. Judges set the terms of probation, which are frequently many years long, and can impose certain requirements, including ongoing education, work, or participation in drug treatment programs, especially for young offenders.
More than 2 million people were jailed in American prisons and jails on any given day in 2004; imprisonment is still a common form of punishment. Both the federal government and each state run their own prison systems, categorizing criminals according to a range of criteria and allocating them to the proper security tiers. Forfeiture of property has become a much more common criminal penalty, especially in drug and organized crime cases. Courts have the authority to order defendants to forfeit property, including cars, houses, and money, that was used to commit crimes or that was obtained via illegal activity.

Fines are an additional alternative for sentencing; however, they are not as commonly applied. The maximum fines have significantly increased in recent years. As per the ruling of the Supreme Court, nonpayment of fines does not carry the risk of incarceration unless it is considered deliberate. Fines are usually added to other punishments rather than being the only kind. Historically, they have been less expensive than hiring a professional criminal defense attorney, although their maximum amounts have recently increased.[6]

In summary, magistrates play a critical role in the criminal justice system, especially when it comes to guaranteeing a fair trial and protecting the rights of the accused. Magistrates are essential to maintaining justice values, preventing law enforcement from abusing the legal system and supervising the investigative process.

The magistrate's duties encompass not only informing the accused of their rights but also supervising remands, guaranteeing the accused's prompt appearance, and apprising them of their entitlement to bail. In the US, there are several federal and state criminal justice systems that work with different law enforcement organizations, prosecutors, and courts. In the United States, the adversarial system-in which parties exchange arguments and supporting documentation-dominates, and magistrates play a crucial role in the legal system.

A public trial, a fast trial, a jury trial, and the right to counsel are all essential components of the criminal justice system in the United States. The adversarial paradigm used in American criminal trials places a strong emphasis on the presenting of evidence, cross-examination, and the tenet of innocence until proven guilty.

Legislatures, courts, and probation agencies work together to determine sentences, which can include everything from fines and property forfeiture to probation and jail time. Upholding constitutional rights, guaranteeing fair trials, and applying reasonable and balanced punishments are highly valued in the American judicial system.

Despite persistent obstacles such case backlogs, the criminal justice system continues to evolve and is effective because of the work of magistrates, judges, and legal practitioners. The functioning of the criminal justice systems in India and the United States is fundamentally based on the ideals of justice, fairness, and the preservation of individual rights.

  1. All India Judges' Association v. Union of India, (1992) 1 SCC 119
  2. Khatri II v. State of Bihar (1981) 1 SCC 627
  3. Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra (1983) 2 SCC 96
  4. Hussainara Khatoon V Case (1980) 1 SCC 108
  5. P. Sathasivam, Role of Judicial Officers in Criminal Justice Administration Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy for the Newly Recruited Civil Judges (2023). SCC Online
  6. James B Jacob, Criminal Justice in the United States: A Primer (2007), link (last visited 2023)

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