By- Apalka Bareja
We live in an age which is rapidly losing the consciousness of sin and thus the relevance of our criminal justice system- both substantive and procedural. Entering the era of ‘dark ages’ or ‘Kaliyug’ as we know it, where people are losing their sense of morality and humanity, the criminal justice system plays a very vital role in safeguarding its people. However, it is this criminal justice system which instead of acting as a watch dog for its people and equally distributing its light is seriously being questioned and failing rapidly.
With the wheels of justice turning ever slower in India, there has now been realized a need of an effective and non-arbitral justice system. This is because of the changing nature of the society, time and the acts so committed. “The challenge to ‘Rule of Law’ by the present criminal justice system is perilous. I am afraid, if something is not done by a determined and concerted effort immediately, the whole system might collapse. The administration of criminal justice in the adversarial mould depends entirely on evidence and quite often on oral evidence of witness. Today, witnesses are intimidated, suborned, bribed and won over. The result is for all to see. It is not the severity of punishment but the certainty of punishment that deters crime. No amount of economic development or desired social change is ever possible or enduring without an efficient criminal justice system. An efficient criminal justice system is the worst negation of the Rule of Law”.
It is clear from the above observation that the Indian Criminal Justice system has countless setbacks and in order to control the ever increasing crime rate in this country, a pragmatic shift from following reformative theory of punishment to the deterrent theory of punishment is called for. Even though the issue is well recognized and many reforms have been made with this regard, a need for more extreme reform is required which would help the system be more effective and efficient. The Three Strike Law (TSL) can bring about that revolutionary change in the Indian criminal justice system if implemented properly. Making it a criminal principle for the criminal penalties for heinous crimes like rape, etc., in which India has outnumbered all the other countries, would bring a sense of belief in the criminal justice system and thus restore the true spirit of justice.
The Three Strikes Law is an underlying principle for criminal penalties in America. It was me originally enacted to curb the increase in crimes across the country is as of now, centered in a few states. This law was passed in California in the year 1994 following the gruesome murders of Polly Klass and Kimberley Reynolds. The state held a proposal vote and got a very assenting response for the measure. According to this law, if a person has two prior convictions, which fall within the ambit of serious and violent crimes, he shall be damned with imprisonment for life on his third, thus the phrase ‘Three Strikes and you are out’. With the new law being enacted, a significant change was seen in the crime rate as it helped to increase the number of serious convictions, reducing the number of serious and violent crimes. Its basic principle is that if a striker is a repeat offender he shall be progressively sentenced a higher penalty with each strike, the third one landing him in jail for life. The law which was launched due to the murder of the father of an 18-year-old in 1992 is now applicable in more than 20 states out of America.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THREE STRIKE LAW IN INDIA
India has over the decades seen an exorbitant increase in violent crimes, where the offenders, unjustly, have been allotted sentences not following the scales of justice. The judicial sphere of the country requires a revamp of its criminal law legislation and recognizes the need for more serious sentencing policies for repeat offenders. The Indian legal system creates enough space, at the minimum, to analyze a provision like the three strikes law. This can be done by focusing the shift from the offence to the offender which would result in constitution of new laws thus creating a drastic impact.
The existing laws in our country though not identical are somewhat believed sue generis to the strike law in cases of sexual offences and another abhorrent and loathsome crimes on paper. Yet, our country is facing incidents like Nirbhaya Rape case and, Hathras Rape case etc., showcasing the reality of this country and further proving how highly dysfunctional and corrupt our justice system is. A country where a woman is portrayed as a goddess and is worshipped day and night believing it to be very prosperous and pure in nature is failing to stay true to its roots and culture. Moreover, the fact that the principal of three strike law is not such a recognized principal in a country like India, where the crime rates and felony is increasing day by day, where people of this nation are shouting for justice for the women of this country comes across as a slap on our faces making us realize the need to be awaken and act against such sinners of this country.
Therefore, it is time for India to curb such offences and enact The Three Strike Law (TSL). TSL provides for mandatory life imprisonment if a convicted felon (1) has been convicted in federal court of a “serious felony” and (2) has two or more previous convictions in federal or state courts, at least one of which is a serious violent felony (the other offense may be serious drug offense). The term “serious felony” includes murder, manslaughter, sex offences, kidnapping, robbery and any offense punishable by 10 years or more which includes an element of the use of force or involves a significant task of force.
The object can be achieved by applying this law firstly to petty offences which are recognized by the penal laws of this country such as, theft, assault etc. which would set a standard in this country and would further meet the purpose of sentencing. Consequently, by enacting Three Strike Law in India, the purpose of sentencing i.e., deterring crime and protection of public would be possible to achieve. The enactment of this law would create a sense of fear in the minds of the people and would result in a decline of the crime rate.
The author believes that the three strike law would act as a very important facet to the Indian Criminal Justice System and would bring significant change in the crime rate of this country. Therefore, following measures should be undertaken to ensure proper implementation of the above said law:
To ensure that there is no added burden on the shoulders of the court, a setting of committee to determine whether the offender is a habitual offender or not would help the court and would further take off the burden from the shoulders of the court.
Step 1: determination of the offence by the court (minor/ major offence)
Step 2: determination by the committee, whether the offender is a habitual offender or not
Step 3: If the offender is a habitual offender and hits the three strikes then the said offender would be imprisoned for at least 25 years.
With the ever increasing crime rate in this country, where animals are safer than people, where criminals roam around freely without any fear, there exists a dire need of such stringent laws like the three strike law. It’s high time for the Indian Government to realize the need for a new and efficient enactment that would cater to the needs of the people of this country.
Undoubtedly, the effect of this enactment would put a sense of burden on the courts to classify the offences in terms of its gravity and checking the history of the offender. But this would create a very drastic and major impact on the minds of the people. If implemented properly, India would easily be able to eradicate the dirt of this country and would thus help to achieve the objective of the punishment, which is to prevent the commission of crime.
 Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah