Wrongful Conviction: How can the State undo the harm?

Author : Keerti Singh, Law College Dehradun

Wrongful Conviction


The following write up would give a brief knowledge about the innocent people who paid for the crimes of other people. This enlightens the case laws including the compensation provided to maliciously convicted people and how the state has over the years provided remedy for the same. Being, no definite remedy provided by any provision of statute, the courts of India have evolved over years trying to provide fair justice to each and every individual.


Would you confess to a crime you did not commit? Or Could you confess to a crime you did not commit? Grammatically, those words might sound just as a representation of an indefinite future, but literally, they could create an enormous amount of difference in one’s life.

The word ‘could’ here, represents whether dignity of an innocent person allow him to confess to something he did not do, on the other hand, when all the evidences are against you and proving you as the doer of the act, ‘would’ comes into the picture.

In India, justice is served according to the facts brought in front of the court, this simply means, a solicitor has the power to prove black as white, or white as black.

Sometimes, the justice delivered does not feel like justice is done, and this doesn’t just happens once in a blue moon, India has a towering rate of wrongful convictions.

It is said, “you could do hundreds of good deeds and still could be considered erroneous for one wrong doing”, so how does the life seem to be if for years you are considered a criminal and then declared as innocent?

Can that person start his living from where he left it? The eyes of society that have seen you as an illicit for years, no matter how hard they try, can never see you again as a person who is in the clear.

  • In the case of Babloo Chauhan v. N.C.T Delhi[1][1], the Delhi High Court claimed ‘wrongful conviction’ as the form of ‘miscarriage of justice’, declaring that there must be a proper legal framework to make certain that people are not wrongfully convicted and if done so, remedies must be provided to them accordingly.

The concept of ‘wrongful conviction’ or ‘miscarriage of justice’, has been seen from the times of British India and continues to cultivate till date.

Harm could be alienated into many forms, it could be emotional, physical or mental, a person in jail has to go through all of it, and the harm is not just limited to an individual person it spreads out up to his family too. Wrongful Conviction breaks down the belief of people served upon the law of the land.

Indian Lawsuits: Legal life cycle of Miscarriage of Justice

  1. Sm. Bibhabati Devi v. Ramendra Narayan Roy[[2]]– In this case, the Privy Council ordered to divert from the rules that pervade the judicial procedures being lawful or transparent, as if not done so, the justice might fail to identify the convict which could result in conviction of an innocent.
  2. Ayodhya Dube & Ors. v. Ram Sumar Singh[[3]]–  In this case, the Apex Court held that miscarriage of justice could be resulted from non-compliance done by the prosecution or courts, lack of appropriate evidence or false evidence, lack of judicial approach.
  3. K. Chinnaswamy Reddy v. State of Andhra Pradesh[[4]]-The Court witnessed in this case that a mere fault in the procedure or trial of a case, could match the light of wrongful conviction.
  4. State of Punjab v. Madan Mohan Lal Verma[[5]]‘Nemo judex in causa sua’ lays out that no one should act as a judge in a case where their personal interest is vested, promoting fair means to the trial, ignoring this would not only disobey principle of natural justice but invite miscarriage of justice.
  5. State of Madhya Pradesh v. Dal Singh & Ors.[[6]]The court in this case extended the meaning of miscarriage of justice to malicious prosecution, enshrining light upon the fact that if the evidence is approached illegally or is approached with the motive of molestation, it would also result in wrongful conviction.
  6. Kasturi Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh[[7]]In this case, the court held the State liable for wrongfully prosecuting the man which resulted in the theft of his gold and silver belongings.
  7. Rudal Shah v. State of Bihar[[8]]In this case, the Supreme Court held that the prisoner had remained in the jail for more than he was supposed to and so, the Court directed to pay Rs. 35,000 as compensation to the convicted.
  8. S. Nambi Narayanan v. Siby Mathews[[9]]In this case, the Supreme Court held that the scientist was wrongfully convicted and was not involved in any wrong doing and was granted Rs. 50 Lakhs by the apex court, as compensation and for fighting the battle to prove his innocence for 24 years.
  9. Madhubala Mandal case[[10]]The 60 year old lady was detained by Assam authorities thinking of her as some foreigner and was declared innocent after 3 years. For 3 years, she had remained in jail without committing any crime.
  10. The Rape Case[[11]]The Delhi High Court delivered justice 10 months after the death of the man, who was charged for the rape of his minor daughter and was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.

Redressal provided under law

When it comes to delivering remedy or compensation to the wrongfully convicts, India has a lack of provisions.

Constitution of India, the law of the land, guarantees right to life and personal liberty, to each and every individual, but stays silent while taking accountability for the wrongful convicts.

India has a strong and powerful legal system with statutes made for almost every wrong doing but not a single statute or provision defines remedies or redressal given to the convicts.

But over the years, the courts have worked on providing any possible or required compensation to the ones proven innocent after being convicted. The study done by the judgements of the cases declare that remedies could be provided in the following ways: 

  1. Remedy by Public Law: This type of remedy origins from the Supreme Law of the Land- The Constitution of India, which provides;
  2. Right to life and liberty under Article 21
  3. Protection against arbitrary arrests and illegal detention under Article 22.
  4. Right to individuals to move to Supreme Court to seek justice under Article 32.
  5. Right to individuals to move to High Court to seek justice under Article 226.
  • The Supreme Court has granted compensation by declaring the state liable in the case of  Rudal Shah v. State of Bihar, Khatri v State of Bihar, Boma Chara Oraon v. State of Bihar, Bhim Singh, MLA v. State of J & K & Ors.,SAHELIA Women’s Resources center & Ors. v. Commissioner of Police Delhi[[12]]. The Court also held, award of compensation as a remedy under public law in the case of Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa[[13]].
  • In the case of Ram Lakhan Singh v. State Government of Uttar Pradesh[[14]], the court claimed that malicious prosecution is the violation of fundamental right of an individual, and thus, remedy must be provided to the aggrieved.
  • Private Law Remedy- It refers to the law that deal with the relations between individuals rather than relations between individuals and state. The remedy here, exists in the form of civil suit against the State. Under this, the State is held liable for its tortuous acts done by it or its representatives. 
  • State of Rajasthan V. Smt. Vidhyawathi[[15]]– The court held that no immunity would be provided to the State for the tortuous acts committed by it or its servants. The State would be held liable vicariously for the wrongful acts of its official, and would have to pay compensation for the same wrongful act committed.
  •  State of Bihar v. Rameshwar Prasad Baidya & Anr[[16]]– The court held that for criminal proceeding which were instigated by the state, is outline of malicious prosecution and the state would be liable to pay damages to the victim.
  • Criminal Law Remedy-
  • Chapter IX of the IPC deals with the offences done by the Public Servants or recount to them.
  •  Chapter XI  of the IPC deals with false evidence and offence adjacent to public justice, and outlines the hindrance of justice and punishes any instances of meddling done with investigation, prosecution, trial and other criminal proceedings by the investigating agencies.
  • State v. Mohd. Naushad & Ors[[17]]– The Delhi High Court held that the police officials must be punished for bad investigation practices which resulted in a mistake in the presumption of guilt and the entire case going to haywire.
  •  Mohd. Jalees Ansari & Ors. v. Central Bureau of Investigation[[18]]– In this case, after 23 long years of wrongful imprisonment, the man was exonerated of all charges and the court held the liability of the officials.

Hence, there might not be any dictated provisions but the courts have been evolving and providing justice to the convicts in every manner possible to maintain the pledge of delivering justice to each and every individual, nobody is being deprived of justice.

Challenges to Seek Redressal

There has been seen a lack of strictness when it comes to the police authorities putting citizens into prison, according to the Prison Statistics India, there were around 4 lakh prisoners across the country, among them, 68% of them were under the trials.

The principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ shreds into broken pieces when individuals are dragged into prison during trials.

This points out to the issue that there is no set framework to seek compensation, judiciary has been trying to provide redressal but that just symbolises water, which could be turned into any shape.


Life of a person is not meaningful if not led with dignity and respect. Even a small bit of invalid allegation imposed on an innocent person can take away every last shred of happiness from the person’s life.

The concept of law was introduced to monitor the wrong doings of beings, prevent the false activities or punish the wrong doers, but when the same law traps an innocent, not only it destroys the world of that individual but also enshrines the sparks of that destruction towards his family and friends.

Thus, the law needs to be careful regarding the procedure laid down during the trials, for the evidences brought in by the prosecutors and most importantly needs to see that justice is rightfully served.

No monetary incentive could compensate for the respect lost, years wasted by the wrongfully convicted person, but hope could be regenerated in the individual’s sense by providing him redressal for what had been done to him.

The legislation also needs to bring in statutes or provisions, clearly declaring the remedies provided to the wrongly convicted victims.

“When pain of hundreds of days takes a break even for a moment, it results in the happiness of thousands of days.”

[1] AIR 2017, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/117931857/

[2] AIR 1942 Cal 498, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/12751/

[3] Criminal Appeal No. 370 of 1976

[4] 1962 AIR 1788, 1963 SCR (3) 412, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1301452/

[5] AIR 2013, https://www.taxpublishers.in/Ency_DT/DT_Judg_Show?217N0402?a0

[6] (2013) 14 SCC 159, http://www.supremecourtcases.com/index2.php?option=com_content&itemid=99999999&do_pdf=1&id=44786

[7] 1965 AIR 1039, 1965 SCR (1) 375, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1199558/

[8] (1983) 4 SCC 141, https://www.escr-net.org/

[9] AIR 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nambi_Narayanan

[10] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/assam-madhubala-mandal-taken-for-madhumala-detained-for-three-years/articleshow/69983399.cms

[11] AIR 2018, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/rape-case-man-gets-justice-from-delhi-hc-10-months-after-his-death/articleshow/67167144.cms

[12] http://lawtimesjournal.in/wrongful-convictions-how-can-state-undo-harm/

[13] 1993 AIR 1960, 1993 SCR (2) 581

[14] AIR 2013, Delhi HC, https://www.casemine.com/judgement/in/58117e372713e1794786e092

[15] https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/state-rajasthan-vs-mst-vidhyawati-case-analysis/

[16] AIR 1993, https://www.lawyerservices.in/State-of-Bihar-Versus-Rameshwar-Nath-Mishra-1993-07-20

[17] AIR 2012, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/45465361/

[18] https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/dr-bomb-jalis-ansari-a-convict-in-1993-mumbai-serial-blasts-case-goes-missing-while-on-parole/541271#:~:text=New%20Delhi%3A%20Jalees%20Ansari%2C%20a,station%20by%20his%20family%20members.&text=Over%20250%20people%20died%20and,Mumbai%20on%20March%2012%2C%201993.

Wrongful Conviction