What are your opinions on trial by jury? Discuss using comparative jurisprudence and case law
In Jury system, common people from different walks of life will be made as Jurors in the administration of justice.
In common parlance a jury is understood to be a group of people randomly selected to decide whether an accused person in a criminal trial is either guilty or not guilty. A jury trial, or trial by jury, is therefore, a legal proceeding in which a jury makes a decision on findings of fact, which then directs the action of a judge. (1)
In jury system, the Judge will be in-charge of jury and required to give necessary directions to the jury to appraise the facts of the case in relation to the applicable law. On the basis of the verdict of the jury, the Judge is to render his judgment. If the verdict of the jury is not acceptable to the Judge, he may make a reference to the High Court under Indian law with his reasons. The High Court can come to its own conclusion on law applicable to the case.
In K.M.Nanavati V State of Maharashtra, the verdict of the trial by jury was set aside as the Court found that the jury came to a wrong conclusion. The Judgment of High Court of Maharashtra was found to be correct by the Supreme Court. The verdict of Jury was not accepted as the Courts found that the Sessions Judge gave misdirection to the Jury regarding applicable criminal law. The Accused K.M.Nanavati took a defense that he went to the place of deceased to enquire his willingness to marry his wife and take care of his children, but, a scuffle broke out and, in the confusion, the pistol got off accidentally killing the deceased. The Sessions Judge did not tell the Jury that as K.M.Nanavati raised the contention of accidental killing, having admitted that bullets from his pistol got off and killed the deceased, the burden lies on him under Section 80 of IPC to prove the same. The evidence in the form of examination of witnesses shows that it was not accident. As the jury was not aware about the burden on K.M.Nanavati to prove the accident, the Jury gave a wrong verdict. The verdict of the Jury is therefore due to misdirection.
Apart from that, the Sessions Judge also stated in his reference that no body of individuals would give such a verdict on such facts. The jury also failed to come at a right conclusion as there was misdirection.
About merits and demerits of jury system, with the growth of the independence of the judiciary, it is no longer so necessary, but it is still a valued and a useful institution. The merits of the jury system are that the Jury is able to bring its collective wisdom into play in deciding issues of fact, particularly, regarding the credibility of witnesses. The jury can, on occasion, soften the operation of the law by a common sense or humanitarian approach, where a judge, who must give reasons for his decisions, is bound to apply the law as he finds it. The jury, by acquitting against the weight of evidence, can act as the voice of the public expressing disapproval of a particular law or the bringing of a particular prosecution. The constant change of composition means that each jury comes fresh to a case, where to a judge it may be just the latest in a succession of similar cases. The system allows the ordinary citizen a major role in the administration of justice and helps towards a mutual understanding between the judges and the public.
The jury system has several demerits. The jury trials last longer than trials held by a Judge, with or without assessors, and are consequently more expensive. The juries are not equipped to study complicated accounts or another documentary evidence. In jury system, where there are several accused, and particularly where the charge is conspiracy, juries find it difficult to appreciate which part of the evidence are admissible against some defendants and not others. The jurors may be swayed by sympathy or prejudice and, in extreme cases, by public hysteria. 2(citation)
A major short coming of jury system is the unaccountability of the jury by virtue of the secrecy of the jury room, is against the democratic principles 3(citation)
In the context of Indian jury system, unfortunately, those who have most experience of Indian juries does not think highly of them. They have been drawn from persons of ordinary status, and it cannot be said that their fellow-countrymen regard them as either impartial or incorruptible. 4(citation)
In the Indian judicial system, the jury trials were abolished after its failure is evident by the K.M.Nanavti case. It was found that decisions of jury members were some have influenced trough media, Publication and social norms. The fact that jury members were selected from lay man citizens without certain knowledge in law is a drawback to the legal system. (citation)
In my opinion, in modern society, the jury system is dispensable. The jury is not equipped with any legal knowledge and if the Judge gives any misdirection, the jury commits error as in K.M.Nanavati case. Instead of jury, the Judge who is well equipped with legal knowledge will render justice and even in the event of any error by the Judge, the Hierarchy of courts of appeal will correct the same.