Why should cricket have anything in common with the criminal justice system? Does it have any relevance? Can we learn anything from cricket that can be worth implementing in the criminal justice system? I thought so:
The similarity of course is that both have rules. Further, in both, we have two parties in contest and an arbitrator.
This thought occurred to me when I came across decisions like those in Saudi Arabia where 17 Individuals were sentenced to death for the murder of one person. Is that not too much? Well. They follow the system of Deterrent punishment. The given sentence is meant to ensure that people are strongly warned of any misadventure.
In India though, we follow a proportionate sentence scheme which means that once convicted, one would receive a sentence only in proportion to the effect of the crime and the intent behind it. For example, for rioting armed with deadly weapons (Sec 148 of IPC), one gets only 3 years of imprisonment while such an offence in the deterrence system might invite life imprisonment or even death.
There are pros and cons for both systems and there is probably no clear choice. Liberal democracies usually choose a proportionate punishment system. Conservative religion driven countries use more of the deterrence system.
One other aspect is important in the criminal justice system. It is the onus of proof. In liberal democracies, usually a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. This means that the one accusing has to prove the guilt of the accused. The other system is one where one is considered guilty until proven innocent. Switzerland practices such a system (as i heard last) . It is supposed to deter even terrorists from entering their country. Here, the one who is accused has the onus of proving that he is innocent. Here though there is less disparity across the globe. The first system stands a clear winner.
Now back to India and Cricket. We in India follow the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ system along with the proportionate punishment system.
Do you see the connection with cricket? Yes. The Batsman in cricket is similar to the one accused in our criminal justice system. He is given all benefit of doubt. If in doubt for an LBW decision, he gets the advantage; if in doubt for a catch or run out, the same holds good. But what if he is found ‘out’ as per any of the rules beyond doubt; He is given out. He has to go and has no chance of coming back (at least in that innings if it is a test match).
What does this system do to a batsman? It makes him very careful and stops him from getting into any misadventures.
So what do we learn from this for the criminal justice system? Simple. After we have been so liberal and courteous to the accused during the trial, do we still have to remain courteous and give him/her a relatively small proportionate punishment? For rioting armed with deadly weapons, we give one just 3 years of imprisonment? What message does this send to others? They seem absolutely undeterred by this. Add the fact that it takes decades to convict one sometimes and people simply don’t consider the criminal justice system as a threat. Crime in the society grows and we all know what the effect would be. Is this what we want?
My idea is this. Just as in cricket with a not-out until proven out system, when a batsman once found ‘out’ as per the rules, has to leave and not come back, we need to have a deterrent punishment mode when we adopt the liberal way of trying one assuming him innocent until proven guilty. We can’t keep giving the advantage always to the accused.
It is simple. If we use the innocent-until-proven-guilty system, we need to use the deterrence mode of punishment.
Of course, life is much more serious than a game of cricket. So, we don’t go so far as to sentence one to death. I am in favour of doing away with death penalty but stronger punishments are essential to deter others from trying misadventures. For example, for rioting armed with deadly weapons should have a 7 year sentence or so. Even if justice comes a little late as in our country today, the punishment if severe enough will reduce overall crime rates in the country.
May we the country which holds cricket as a religion adopt the principles of cricket to get to a more peaceful society.
Jai Hind !!!
Note: In some cases though, like ‘abetment to suicide’, I see a 10 year imprisonment which is quite right. I know the IPC and criminal justice just a little. I hope I make sense (I need to study more).