Patna: Justice delayed is justice denied, but once crime-prone Bihar is setting an example by conducting speedy trials. Over 50,000 criminals, including politicians, have been convicted in the last four-and-a-half years.
A total of 52,343 people have been convicted in the state between January 2006 and August 2010 - higher than in any comparable period in decades, Bihar police chief Neelmani told reporters.
According to police records, all were convicted by fast track courts across the state. Of those convicted, 129 were sentenced to death while 9,098 got life terms.
Neelmani said the state has made a record number of convictions. In the past, the conviction rate in Bihar was very low. Only about 5,000-10,000 criminals would be convicted in a decade.
The recent convictions were made possible with speedy trials conducted in almost all pending criminal cases by different courts, including fast track courts.
Neelmani said the high rate of convictions has led to a decline in the crime rate and has been made possible by fast track courts that were set up in January 2006.
When Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) became chief minister Nov 24, 2005, he promised to make the state crime-free within three months. He later admitted it was not possible but set up the special courts to quickly dispense justice.
Additional Director General of Police P.K. Thakur said the conviction of criminals in such a short span of time is a big achievement and a model for others to follow.
He said the speedy trial of criminals initiated by the state government has been lauded by people in the state as well as outside.
Police officials here claim that Bihar has surpassed other states in awarding the death sentence to the maximum number of people in 55 months.
Conveying this message during the "Vishvas Yatra" that concluded a few months ago, Nitish Kumar told the people that criminals now fear disturbing law and order because of his "political determination to prosecute them through speedy trials".
He said a high rate of convictions through speedy trials has instilled a sense of fear in the minds of criminals and anti-social elements.
For the first time in the state, over a dozen MPs and legislators have been convicted and punished. Also, there has been a sharp decline in the number of abductions and other crimes, including murder, robbery, bank loots and road hold-ups.
In the first week of June this year, former Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) legislator Pappu Khan was sentenced to life imprisonment in a murder case.
Other well-known convicts include former RJD MPs Pappu Yadav and Mohammad Shahabuddin, former Lok Janshakti Party MP Surajbhan Singh, former Janata Dal-United (JD-U) MP Anand Mohan, his wife Lovely Anand and JD-U legislators Narendra Kumar alias Sunil Pandey and Munna Shukla.
Pappu Yadav was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Ajit Sarkar.
Shahabuddin, who is lodged in Siwan jail, was convicted in seven criminal cases, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Sunil Pandey was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapping of a noted neuro-surgeon in Patna, while Munna Shukla was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of G. Krishnaiah, the then district magistrate of Gopalganj in 1994.
Anand Mohan was sentenced to death for the same murder.
However, the many convictions have added to the overcrowding in Bihar jails where, for the first time, convicts outnumber undertrials.
There are nearly 40,000 prisoners lodged in 54 jails, which together are supposed to hold a maximum of 20,000 prisoners.