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Wrongful Convictions. A procedure where the innocent is convicted and held liable for the crime that he/she has not committed and go through the punishment as severe as an original criminal. It happens in the cases where the advocate of the innocent side is overloaded with the work or lack of interpretation of the law, dearth of money where an innocent cannot afford a fully-fledged advocate. In most of the cases, innocent is scared of the death penalty or the long imprisonment and hence under pressure they plead guilty in front of the court. A legal term used to define wrongful convictions is “Miscarriage of Justice”, originated in the English Law.

For an innocent, it is the death of all the hopes and trust one has upon the law to live a life with dignity and with the personal liberty. In many situations, mental trauma reaches up to the level of committing suicide when the innocent lives in the surroundings of actual criminals and the torture/ ragging which is done among the inmates. And because of this, however, the question arises in the minds of people doubting the character, application and motive of law: Is law a business which runs only on money or the place where the actual innocent people get justice. Around 69% of the prisoners are under trial according to the data analysis by PSI. It is the post traumatic disorder that we need to look after for the inmates that they live in. More than 50% of the victims are denied the compensation to the sufferers of wrongful convictions or their families. And because of that, when they leave the prison on parole to continue their lives, the society disparages them as if they are actually criminal and therefore, more mental stress. The innocents after the parole do not have the direct rights to sue the prosecution or any government authority under the grounds of malpractice or malicious prosecution. The only time they will get justice is when the court of law itself or the authority who have convicted the innocent proves them not guilty and after that they may live the life they wanted and the society may again accept them. Until then they are the criminals for everyone.


Before 1990, the concept of wrongful convictions was seen very slightly in the eyes of people and the innocent convicts used to spent their life as an actual convicted felon and less actions were taken at that time. But as the technology grew, people were made aware of the DNA testing; as soon as the innocent convicts came to know about their punishments or the death sentence, they would appeal for the DNA testing which tested the DNA of the semen inside the women with the help of rape kit. Because of that, in the mid-1990s most cases were exonerated to make people aware how the law is significant over people but some cases were denied by the prosecutors due to technical reasons. There were many inmates who were claiming innocence and for that, law school clinical professors B Scheck & P Neufeld, NY had initiated an innocence project for the same. In 2001, Scheck and Neufeld along with Jim Dwyer published a book Actual Innocence in which various exonerations were highlighted about the details of innocent convictions. The book consisted various ways in which the criminal justice system failed the people and it is unbelievable that around 12 prisoners from 1990 to 2000 who were on the death row were exonerated and were at liberty of their lives so that they live happily. It was so shocking that at the time certain authorities postponed the death sentences of the prisoners and among around 165 prisoners, 4 were freed on the evidences of actual innocence. It has after then created the common awareness among the public about the wrongful convictions and citizens are getting more into the pool of wrongful convictions. Today, in many countries including India, young lawyers, law students or the law interns are more tilted towards the wrongful convictions that has made them curious about how they ended up down the jails despite being innocent. In many cases, aspiring lawyers and young advocates have already exonerated and saved many innocent lives around the globe. Law has now made it very difficult for the ones who try to find loop holes and save their clients despite of their heinous crimes committed. It is punishable to conceal the facts and evidences under Section 201 of IPC that to screen the offender, if evidence concealed, the punishment would be extended to 7 years of imprisonment or death imprisonment [1]


A man named Wilton Dedge in Florida[2] was convicted for rape and burglary and was imprisoned for 22 years for the crime he did not commit. The only thing he claimed was from the private legislature because unfortunately, he was entitled absolutely nothing from the state after his release from the prison. Despite various attempts from the side of Mr. Dedge, state even cancelled the private legislature bill to compensate Mr. Dedge and hence, Florida passed a bill to provide hi the best possible advocacy for him to sue the state and compensate him. It was out of hands of court at that time and considered as a political issue and to compensate him, it was very easy to provide him justice and equity. There is no argument or a question for the state to provide justice and equity to the person who has been imprisoned for 22 years and ripped his half-life from the family, society or work for a meaningless verdict in the name of courtroom drama. It is essential for the state to understand the post exoneration struggles faced by the innocents and uniform compensation legislation must be made compulsory since people knock the door of courts seeking justice and the one, they do not get for just a bare minimum expense that judiciary doesn’t practice to afford. State needs to understand that when justice is not allocated to the innocents, they seem to make themselves a criminal itself when living among them and hence create chaos when released on parole and spread hatred to the people against the law and judiciary. Because of the malpractice of our criminal justice system, two things are happening simultaneously: First, the life of an innocent is spoiled by the hands of the law; Secondly, an actual criminal who is not sentenced, is roaming outside to put another name in the list of his victims. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) must make it mandatory for every country to compensate the wrongfully convicted person and India is applying the policies of ICCPR and granting the compensation to the victims of judiciary whose fundamental rights are infringed.

For example, Nambi Narayanan, a former ISRO[3] scientist who was illegally detained on the charges of supplying official secret information to the spy racket and after 24 years, he was compensated 50 lakhs by the court. The fact that after the detention, 24 years later he was compensated and this is what needs to be changed.[4]

Mohammad Aamir Khan’s case,[5] is another heart wrenching case of a Muslim boy who was allegedly arrested by the police officials and was blamed and framed as a terrorist and was imprisoned for 14 years. Providing compensation to such victims of law is the least that state can do to undo the harm of the wrongs done. Since the victims are under two threats as explained before, Indian Constitution does not allow the accused to peril twice as they are not subjected to double jeopardy: “nemo debet vis vexari” i.e., no man must be kept in danger for the same offense twice. Still, they are and have gone/ going through such situation. Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution authorizes the state that no person shall go through same offense twice. The first prosecution is done by the court of law and the next prosecution is done after the parole when society abandons them and they suffer from the stress to work and earn bread for the family, in most of the cases, families of such innocent convictions are broken and left behind and they are left with no one and all by themselves; So, the world may seem like a prison outside prison for a person victimized by the culpability of justice. Right to freedom is infringed of such innocent people when they are held captive by the state. Right to freedom is defined under Part III of the Indian Constitution and it is preserved as “Fundamental Rights”.[6]

Mohammad Jalees Ansari & Ors. v. CBI, 2016 is another case where we see the wrongful convictions by the state. A 19-year-old boy was detained by the police on the grounds of bomb blast at an educational institute on October, 1993 and was awarded life imprisonment aby the TADA at Ajmer because he was not capable to give confessions at the custody of police. After so many years, he was exonerated at 2016 by the Supreme Court of India.


Scholars and philosophers have reached the point at where judiciary will exonerated people from the culpability of the state. A Berkeley- based Life after Exoneration’s co-founder and a physician says about the mental health on the people exonerated that, “After the parole, they do not know when to start where to start and where to stay. When they go to find a place to live, people look at them as a criminal roaming out and they do not feel safe around them, they don’t let their children face them, when they search for work, they are seen again as an offender who does not need work for the bread. And all this happen despite them being innocent and not guilty.”

The US Department of Justice says that the real ordeal for them starts outside the prison following the parole. They face social, financial, economic and emotional crisis which includes inter alia, psychiatric attacks, anxiety, panic attacks, and sleepless nights also referred as Insomnia. Financial Crisis they undergo when they go to a job interview and are asked certain questions and they do blunder and go cold and numb in front of the officials. There are many countries which have applicated many laws regarding the compensation of the innocent convictions and including the countries like US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, etc. but it is limited to the virtue of final order. In the report title of 277th Wrongful Prosecution, the law commission of India has highlighted those western countries would not be sufficient to overcome the shortcomings of the Indian Criminal Justice System where without any verdict or proceedings, victims have remained imprisoned several years without knowing the offence they have committed. The similar state offence that we see in US and India is the brutality and ruthlessness of the police officials. Talking about the US, The Central Park Five is a well-known case which depicts the police brutality when the boys were forces to plead guilty of rape and theft which they haven’t committed. While India, police brutality is the factor citizens fear the most. In other nations, the investigation is taken to the next level when people die during the investigation itself since the level is too harsh over them. Taking the example of Sarabjit Singh[7], where he was held captive and was not allowed to communicate to his family and when the time of his proceeding was coming, he was left starving so that he dies but survived the hunger despite, he was murdered inside the jail. Sarabjit and his family never got justice till date.


Wrongful Convictions have gone slightly unheard a concept to a vast subject where law aspiring students and lawyers are looking forward to enhance the powers of law and extend the practicality in the proceedings so that people do not fear law and trust whenever they knock on the doors of the court seeking justice. There are also various amendments in the law for the innocent convictions. Congress has passed the Innocence Protection Act, 2004 and made the compensation compulsory. For the federal prisoners, they are compensated $50,000 per year in the prison. The DNA testing laws have also incremented throughout the time and post-conviction DNA testing has been made mandatory for the convictions to go through it. The state has also raised the funding towards the wrongfully convicted prisoners so that they can live their lives with dignity and prosperity. If the state terminates the wrongful convictions, it will not only help the innocent people but also make a valuable use of law by the participants of the Criminal Justice System.


The motive behind eradicating the wrongful convictions is to tell the people that law is not as cruel as the movies depict. Law must protect people from the tyranny of the wrong doers and safeguard the citizens so that the definition given in The Constitution of India about the secularism is preserved[8].

[1] [2] Florida Compensation [3] [4] S. Nambi Narayanan v. Siby Mathews & Others Etc. 2018 [5] Framed as a Terrorist. [6] Article 19 of Indian Constitution- The right to freedom guarantees freedom of speech, expressions, etc. [7] Sarabjit Singh Case, 2013. [8] Article 25- secures to every of conscience.

Author's Information

Jasbir Singh

Student of Law, at Jagran lakecity University, Bhopal


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