January 22, 2022

Jury Trial or Bench Trial: Which is a Better Option for India?

Introduction

When settling a legal dispute between two parties, the state must appoint persons to provide judgement, either tacitly or openly. The jury system and the judge system are also options for selecting these persons.

Jury System

 A jury made up of community people is present at the trial to function as factfinders. Five, ten, or fifteen people are chosen at random from a voter list of all adult residents in the district or state. The jury in this system listens to the arguments and considers the evidence presented by both sides. After both sides have presented their cases, the jury will decide based on how compelling each side’s evidence is. While the jury makes the final judgement, the judge is still in charge of the legal and procedural issues during the trial.

Judge System

There is no jury in a judge-led or bench-led trial, thus there is no need for a jury. The state appoints the judges to handle disputes. The judge serves as a factfinder as well as a procedural and legal authority. As a result, the judge determines the reliability of evidence as well as what occurs during the trial in accordance with the law and process.

Advantages And Disadvantages of Jury Trial or Bench Trial

Advantages And Disadvantages of the Jury System

While the jury system was abolished following the case of KM Nanawati vs. State of Maharashtra, it did offer a number of advantages. For starters, the proof must persuade 12 different jurors in each instance. This adds 12 fresh viewpoints to the case, making it more compelling. Second, it lessens the impact of the criminal-judge connection. Because jury members are chosen at random from the district, it is difficult for criminals to form a connection with them. Third, it guarantees that society is represented in the legal system. Fourth, the jury system is a democratic institution. The jury’s decision is reached by a democratic vote. Finally, the connection between lawyers and judges is avoided. The jury is chosen at random, which aims to prevent lawyers from forming a favourable nexus that impacts their arguments.

While there are benefits to the jury system, it has also been widely criticised. After the case of KM Nanawati vs. Maharashtra State, the largest disadvantage became apparent. The jury was considered to be biassed since it made decisions based on popular media perceptions, which may entirely derail the concept of a fair trial. This was due to the fact that the jury was mainly made up of people who had no connection to the judicial system. Because of media and popular support for Nanawati, the jury in the Nanawati case erroneously acquitted the plaintiff.

Another drawback of the jury system is that it is swayed by emotions and biases rather than the law. While the judges want jurors to operate impartially and without bias, this is rarely the case. It rarely follows the law and is easily persuaded by emotions. The jury system is likewise a long and drawn-out procedure. The process of selecting jurors might take a lengthy time.

Advantages And Disadvantages of The Judge System

 In India, the judge system, often known as the bench system, is now in use. The judicial system has a number of advantages that aid Indian courts in making successful decisions. For starters, a judge-led trial is intended to be faster than a jury trial. There is no need for a selection procedure for each case, unlike in a jury trial. The state appoints judges to decide the cases. Second, judges have years of expertise and training. A judge is a legal expert as well as an expert in determining the truth. Finally, judges are better at resolving complicated situations because they have spent years accumulating legal expertise. Finally, the bench system is budget-friendly. The costs incurred by the parties are lower since the bench system does not need the long process of a witness interview, unbiased jury selection, and cross-examination.

The bench system, on the other hand, has certain drawbacks. To begin with, there is a possibility of establishing a lawyer-judge nexus. If a lawyer forms a bond with a judge throughout the course of a case’s trial, that bond will undoubtedly be helpful to that lawyer in future cases before the court. Second, judges can be highly objective while making decisions, which might result in severe verdicts. Finally, in a criminal case, a judge-only trial is unfavourable for the defendant. A unanimous vote is required in a jury trial for a criminal case to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the defendant persuades one of the jurors to vote nay, he will not be found guilty. However, in the bench system, if a majority of the judges vote for a conviction, the offender is found guilty.

Conclusion 

Both the jury and the bench systems have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. Reviving the jury system in India, on the other hand, could be a mistake, given that the court already has over 3 crore cases outstanding. The jury system will simply add to the time it takes to resolve these matters.

Author: Aditi Dehal is a student at Himachal Pradesh National Law University, Shimla.

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