Your legal services backroom 
Law related sites    Advanced Search !
Pleadings
 
Drafts
 
Landmark Judgments
 
Statutes of India

Legal Luminaries
 
Insights
 
Constitutions
 
Directory Services
 
 Market Place

Law Jokes
 
Funny Laws
 
Useful Information

Legal Quotes
  
Legal Disclaimer
 
About Us
 
Newsletter
 

 

Right to Speedy Trial

“The accused in these cases might have been on bail - but the injustice of pendency of trial for long periods is the uncertainty and the concomitant anxiety suffered by the under-trial. The under-trial is inhibited in making future plans for his life or executing present ones due to the uncertainty which pendency of trial brings. His confidence starts to erode and at the end of the trial, even if he is honourably acquitted, the scars of the long trial remain. He feels condemned despite the acquittal.”

A person could be innocent, yet he may suffer confinement or anxiety or both because judicial system fails to reach a verdict for many years. The delay could be due to tardy investigation by the police. Then courts have built up huge arrears of undecided cases - which coupled with the fact that the number of courts is also quite less - ensures that every case has to wait for years for decision. Rules of procedure under the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act do not help the situation either. Most of these rules, framed by the British for a colonial administration have been retained in their letter as well as spirit, regardless of the altered circumstances.

Article 21 of the Constitution assures that one is not to be deprived of his life or personal liberty without following the due procedure, established by law. Now the point is -  if the established procedure or its infrastructural framework itself results in the delay, how and what does the accused do?. One method could be to interpret Article 21 to include right to speedy trial which our Supreme Court has done many times. 

In Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar AIR 1979 Supreme Court 136,  the Supreme Court held that the right to a reasonably speedy trial was a part of the fundamental right conferred by Article 21. After a string of judgements on speedy trial the Supreme Court, considering the plight of under-trials, on a petition moved in this regard by Common Cause, issued several directions to the trial courts to facilitate speedy conclusion to the proceedings in the trial courts. These directions were modified by the same Bench to remove certain anomalies, which had crept in the implementation of the earlier order. On account of these directions in the "Common cause" case, thousands of under-trials were released within a few months. Against many of these under-trials even charges had not been framed by trial courts for a number of years - the period exceeding the maximum prescribed punishment in several cases. The accused in these cases might have been on bail - but the injustice of pendency of trial for long periods is the uncertainty and the concomitant anxiety suffered by the under-trial. The under-trial is inhibited in making future plans for his life or executing present ones, due to the uncertainty which pendency of trial brings. His confidence starts to erode and at the end of the trial, even if he is honourably acquitted, the scars of the long trial remain. He feels condemned despite the acquittal. 

Recently in Raj Deo Sharma v. State of Bihar  AIR 1998 SUPREME COURT 3281, the Supreme Court, while reiterating that speedy trial is a part of Article 21, again issued certain positive directions to ensure that under-trials do not face trial for unreasonable periods of time. The Court held that cases where the trial is for an offence punishable with imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years, whether the accused is in jail or not, the Court shall close prosecution evidence on completion of 2 years from the date of recording the plea of the accused on the charges framed whether prosecution has examined all the witnesses or not, within the said period and court can proceed to the next step provided by law for the trial of the case. Then if the offence under trial is punishable with imprisonment for a period exceeding seven years, whether the accused in jail or not, the court shall close prosecution on completion of three years from date of recording of the plea of the accused on the charges framed, whether the prosecution has examined all the witnesses or not within the said period and the court can proceed to next step provided by law for the trial of the case, unless for very exceptional reasons to be recorded and in the interest of justice, the court considers it necessary to grant further time to the prosecution to adduce evidence beyond the aforesaid time limit. The Court referred to several earlier judgements dealing with the subject of speedy trial (A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Naik, Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, Ganesh Narain Hegde v. S. Bangarappa, Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar)

One of the prime reasons why the Supreme Court has had to issue so many directions in relation to under-trials is the inertia, which was gripping the proceedings before the trial courts. The judges, the lawyers, the police as well as the litigants were all developing the impression that trial proceeds in the manner it was doing and nothing can be done about it. The age old saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied” was slowly getting lost upon the participants of the trial. There is no justification why under-trials should languish either in judicial custody or psychological captivity. If law presumes a person to be innocent till he is proved guilty, the presumption should either be taken to its logical conclusion or else the process of rebutting the same be speeded up so that the under-trial is not kept in constant state of anxiety. The pendency of trial not only affects the personal liberty of the accused but also affects his other fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India. Every day of unjustified prolonged trial is punishment met out by the society upon the undertrial without the sanction of law.

Back

 

 
 
Only Research Private Limited
Paharpur Business Centre, Software Technology Incubator Park,Nehru Place Greens, New Delhi 110019 India
Tel: +91-11-6474701/6452755 Ext 1713 Fax: +91-11-6474718/25 E-mail: web@legalspider.com
Copyright ©2001, LegalSpider.com, All rights reserved.