Right of speedy trial

Speedy trial is a part of reasonable, fair and just procedure guaranteed under Article 21.

This constitutional right cannot be denied even on the plea of non-availability of financial resources. The court is entitled to issue directions to augment and strengthen investigating machinery, setting-up of new courts, building new court houses, providing more staff and equipment to the courts, appointment of additional judges and other measures as are necessary for speedy trial.

Timely delivery of justice is a part of human rights. Denial of speedy justice is a threat to public confidence in the administration of justice.

Judicial service as well as legal service are not like any other services. They are missions for serving the society. The mission is not achieved if the litigant who is waiting in the queue does not get his turn for a long time. Chief Justices and Chief Ministers have resolved that all cases must be disposed of within five years which by any standard is quite a long time for a case to be decided in the first court. Decision of cases of undertrials in custody is one of the priority areas. There are obstructions at every level in enforcement of right of speedy trial – vested interests or unscrupulous elements try to delay the proceedings. Lack of infrastructure is another handicap.

Inspite of all odds, determined efforts are required at every level for success of the mission. Ways and means have to be found out by constant thinking and monitoring. Presiding Officer of a court cannot rest in the state of helplessness. This is the constitutional responsibility of the State to provide necessary infrastructure and of the High Courts to monitor the functioning of subordinate courts to ensure timely disposal of cases. The first step in this direction is preparation of an appropriate action plan at the level of the High Court and thereafter at the level of each and every individual judicial officer. Implementation of the action plan will require serious efforts and constant monitoring.

To sum up:

(i) The High Courts may issue directions to subordinate courts that –

(a) Bail applications be disposed of normally within one week;

(b) Magisterial trials, where accused are in custody, be normally concluded within six months and sessions trials where accused are in custody be normally concluded within two years;

(c) Efforts be made to dispose of all cases which are five years old by the end of the year;

(d) As a supplement to Section 436A, but consistent with the spirit thereof, if an undertrial has completed period of custody in excess of the sentence likely to be awarded if conviction is recorded such undertrial must be released on personal bond. Such an assessment must be made by the concerned trial courts from time to time;

(e) The above timelines may be the touchstone for assessment of judicial performance in annual confidential reports.

(ii) The High Courts are requested to ensure that bail applications filed before them are decided as far as possible within one month and criminal appeals where accused are in custody for more than five years are concluded at the earliest;

(iii) The High Courts may prepare, issue and monitor appropriate action plans for the subordinate courts;

(iv) The High Courts may monitor steps for speedy investigation and trials on administrative and judicial side from time to time;

(v) The High Courts may take such stringent measures as may be found necessary in the light of judgment of this Court in Ex. Captain Harish Uppal (supra) .

28. Accordingly, we request the Chief Justices of all High Courts to forthwith take appropriate steps consistent with the directions of this Court in Hussain Ara Khatoon (1995) 5 SCC 326) (supra), Akhtari Bi (Smt.) (supra), Noor Mohammed (supra), Thana Singh (supra), S.C. Legal Aid Committee (supra), Imtiaz Ahmad (supra), Ex. Captain Harish Uppal (supra) and Resolution of Chief Justices’ Conference and observations hereinabove and to have appropriate monitoring mechanism in place on the administrative side as well as on the judicial side for speeding up disposal of cases of undertrials pending in subordinate courts and appeals pending in the High Courts.

[Source: Hussain And Anr vs Union Of India decided by SC on 9 March, 2017]

 

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