The purpose of criminal law is not only to punish criminals but also to send a message to society that people should follow the law and not commit crimes; otherwise, they will be punished. But the intention of the law is not that every person who commits a crime should be punished; that is why provisions for compromise in minor crimes have been made in the law. In such crimes, the criminal case ends after the victim compromises. In the Code of Criminal Procedure, such types of crimes have been mentioned that are extinguished after compromise.
The process of mediation is useful in similar cases in which compromise is allowed as per law. In such cases, mediation and negotiation can lead to an acceptable solution.
Many a time, out of immediate passion, a fight takes place between the family, relatives, or neighbors, and the matter reaches the police station. From there, after reaching the court, it takes many years for the final decision of the case. In fact, if both parties show understanding in these small matters, then such matters can be resolved in the beginning itself through mediation, which maintains cordial relations between the two parties and also eliminates the possibility of fighting in the future. Many times, it is seen that small cases that could have been resolved in the beginning remain pending in court for 10 to 15 years. Till the final decision is reached, there remains a lot of bitterness between the parties, and many times the same bitterness leads to fights again. In many cases, they resign after many years or remain enemies of each other throughout their lives.
Here I consider it appropriate to mention a case related to a small crime of dispute between two neighbors that remained pending in court for 12 years. After hearing the final decision, you will also agree that such a decision could be taken by both parties with mutual understanding 12 years ago.
Two neighbors (whom we will further refer to as the accused and victim) lived opposite each other. The accused was about 25 years old in 2011. He lived with his parents in a two-story house. Victim was about 55 years old and lived with her two sons and her husband.
In the year 2011, on the morning of the incident, the accused was standing on the first-floor balcony of his house and brushing his teeth. The victim was standing in the street outside his house, and some water from the mug of the accused fell on the victim. Regarding this matter, the victim started shouting loudly and abusing . Then the accused came down and told the victim that the water had fallen by mistake and he should not abuse like this, but the victim did not agree and started shouting and abusing continuously. In a fit of rage, the accused hit the mug in his hand on the victim’s head, due to which she fell and suffered some injuries.
The victim went to the police station and lodged an FIR; the investigation was completed, and the charge sheet was presented in court. The case remained pending in the Magistrate Court from 2011 to 2022, during which statements of the victim and other witnesses were made. The accused took the service of the council and continued appearing in court for 11 years. It can be estimated how much time and money the accused might have wasted during this period.
In the year 2022, the Magistrate Court, while deciding the case, punished the accused with one year imprisonment and a fine of ₹ 1000. An appeal was submitted by the accused in the Sessions Court against the decision of the punishment given by the Magistrate Court. Giving an opportunity of hearing to both parties, the Appeal Court canceled the one-year sentence given to the accused, gave compensation of ₹ 3000 to the victim, and gave the final disposal of the appeal in the year 2023.
It is also appropriate to mention here that the crime under which the accused was registered was a compoundable crime; that is, if both parties had agreed 12 years ago, the accused would not have had to endure the pain of wandering for so long, and relations between the two parties, which are neighbors, are also cordial.
But in a situation where the accused faced the trial of the criminal case for 12 years, he was also sentenced to 1 year imprisonment by the Magistrate Court. Even though he got relief from the appeals court, the lifelong bitterness between both parties increased so much that now there was no way left for them to reconcile.
Mediation works as such an effective tool that if both parties had found a qualified mediator in the beginning of this issue, then this issue could have been resolved with mutual understanding 12 years ago, and both the neighbors could have maintained peace and harmony.
By using mediation on time we can avoid regrets in future.