Delay in trial of offence under Prevention of Corruption Act.

No time limit can be stipulated for disposal of the criminal trial. The delay caused has to be weighed on the factual score, regard being had to the nature of the offence and the concept of social justice and the cry of the collective.

In the case at hand, the appellant has been charge-sheeted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 for disproportionate assets. The said Act has a purpose to serve. The Parliament intended to eradicate corruption and provide deterrent punishment when criminal culpability is proven. The intendment of the legislature has an immense social relevance. In the present day scenario, corruption has been treated to have the potentiality of corroding the marrows of the economy. There are cases where the amount is small and in certain cases, it is extremely high. The gravity of the offence in such a case, in our considered opinion, is not to be adjudged on the bedrock of the quantum of bribe. An attitude to abuse the official position to extend favour in lieu of benefit is a crime against the collective and an anathema to the basic tenet of democracy, for it erodes the faith of the people in the system. It creates an incurable concavity in the Rule of Law. Be it noted, system of good governance is founded on collective faith in the institutions. If corrosions are allowed to continue by giving allowance to quash the proceedings in corruption cases solely because of delay without scrutinizing other relevant factors, a time may come when the unscrupulous people would foster and garner the tendency to pave the path of anarchism.

It can be stated without any fear of contradiction that corruption is not to be judged by degree, for corruption mothers disorder, destroys societal will to progress, accelerates undeserved ambitions, kills the conscience, jettisons the glory of the institutions, paralyses the economic health of a country, corrodes the sense of civility and mars the marrows of governance.

Continue reading “Delay in trial of offence under Prevention of Corruption Act.”

Right of speedy trial

No person shall be deprived of his life or his personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Life and liberty, the words employed in shaping Article 21, by the Founding Fathers of the Constitution, are not to be read narrowly in the sense drearily dictated by dictionaries; they are organic terms to be construed meaningfully. Embarking upon the interpretation thereof, feeling the heart-throb of the Preamble, deriving strength from the Directive Principles of State Policy and alive to their constitutional obligation, the Courts have allowed Article 21 to stretch its arms as wide as it legitimately can. The mental agony, expense and strain which a person proceeded against in criminal law has to undergo and which, coupled with delay, may result in impairing the capability or ability of the accused to defend himself have persuaded the constitutional courts of the country in holding the right to speedy trial a manifestation of fair, just and reasonable procedure enshrined in Article 21. Speedy trial, again, would encompass within its sweep all its stages including investigation, inquiry, trial, appeal, revision and re-trial in short everything commencing with an accusation and expiring with the final verdict the two being respectively the terminus a quo and terminus ad quem of the journey which an accused must necessarily undertake once faced with an implication.

Is it at all necessary to have limitation bars terminating trials and proceedings?

Is there no effective mechanisms available for achieving the same end? The Criminal Procedure Code, as it stands, incorporates a few provisions to which resort can be had for protecting the interest of the accused and saving him from unreasonable prolixity or laxity at the trial amounting to oppression. Continue reading “Right of speedy trial”

Claim of Maintenance by Spouse: Delay in adjudication

Claim for maintenance or support by wife

Delay in adjudication of Spouse Support or Maintenance Claim by the Family Court is not only against human rights but also against the basic embodiment of dignity of an individual.

Sustenance by dependent spouse:

The concept of sustenance does not necessarily mean to lead the life of an animal, feel like an unperson to be thrown away from grace and roam for her basic maintenance somewhere else. She is entitled in law to lead a life in the similar manner as she would have lived in the house of her husband. That is where the status and strata come into play, and that is where the obligations of the husband, in case of a wife, become a prominent one. In a proceeding of this nature, the husband cannot take subterfuges to deprive her of the benefit of living with dignity. Regard being had to the solemn pledge at the time of marriage and also in consonance with the statutory law that governs the field, it is the obligation of the husband to see that the wife does not become a destitute, a beggar. A situation is not to be maladroitly created whereunder she is compelled to resign to her fate and think of life “dust unto dust”. It is totally impermissible. In fact, it is the sacrosanct duty to render the financial support even if the husband is required to earn money with physical labour, if he is able bodied. There is no escape route unless there is an order from the Court that the wife is not entitled to get maintenance from the husband on any legally permissible grounds.

Sensitivity required from Family Judge:

The Family Judge is expected to be sensitive to the issues, for he is dealing with extremely delicate and sensitive issues pertaining to the marriage and issues ancillary thereto. When we say this, we do not mean that the Family Courts should show undue haste or impatience, but there is a distinction between impatience and to be wisely anxious and conscious about dealing with a situation. A Family Court Judge should remember that the procrastination is the greatest assassin of the lis before it. It not only gives rise to more family problems but also gradually builds unthinkable and everestine bitterness. It leads to the cold refrigeration of the hidden feelings, if still left. The delineation of the lis by the Family Judge must reveal the awareness and balance. Dilatory tactics by any of the parties has to be sternly dealt with, for the Family Court Judge has to be alive to the fact that the lis before him pertains to emotional fragmentation and delay can feed it to grow.

[Source: Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena]

Analysis of Bhuwan Mohan Singh v. Meena:

Maintenance or spouse support is always a matter of acrimonious contention between the warring couple. The concept of human right introduced in this case is good but it is likely to be turned on it’s head. Here is ground reality of litigation in India:

While the constitution of India ensures equal rights and status to all the fact is the billionaires and beggars share the same street. The courts are approached by poor and rich alike. The claim of maintenance for child or spouse support is not different. Litigations drag for years, even before an interim amount is given. While for rich couple it may be alright to pay and receive huge arrears, for poor the delay means denial. It is also a fact that rich often get speedier justice than poor.

It would be appropriate if these provisions relating to child support and spouse support are properly reworked and re-legislated with the proper attention to human rights and disassociating it’s use as leverage in matrimonial litigation. If that is done, perhaps the courts would not be required to introduce human rights from back door.

This is not the first time court has emphasized expediency in such matters. The truth is that these observations fall on deaf ears in Indian Judicial System. Subordinate Judges have become insensitive to observations of expediency by Apex Courts and in the absence of any direct accountability measure, this judgement is not going to change anything. However citing this judgement with a motion for early hearing may yield results.

 

Bail for delay in trial.

Considerations for granting bail.

Delay in Trial

Bail u/s. 437 of Criminal Procedure Code of India:

“If, in any case triable by a Magistrate, the trial of a person accused of any non-bailable offence is not concluded within a period of sixty days from the first date fixed for taking evidence in the case, such person shall, if he is in custody during the whole of the said period, be released on bail to the satisfaction of the Magistrate unless for reasons to be recorded in writing, the Magistrate otherwise direct.”

The question is that whether above provision is mandatory or directory? In other words can Magistrate deny bail even if trial is not conducted within 60 days?

Exception to grant of bail: Continue reading “Bail for delay in trial.”

Right of speedy justice in India

Justice delivery system in India:

Delay in justice:

Justice delivery system in India is notorious for delay. Presently no procedural changes are seen in action to change that except a little strict attitude of Supreme Court. But with very large number of pending litigation, it appears to be only nostalgic. These are observations of Supreme Court:

In a democratic body polity which is governed by a written Constitution and where Rule of Law is paramount, judiciary is regarded as sentinel on the qui vive not only to protect the Fundamental Rights of the citizens but also to see that the democratic values as enshrined in the Constitution are respected and the faith and hope of the people in the constitutional system are not atrophied. Sacrosanctity of rule of law neither recognizes a master and a slave nor does it conceive of a ruler and a subject but, in quintessentially, encapsulates and sings in glory of the values of liberty, equality and justice In accordance with law requiring the present generation to have the responsibility to sustain them with all fairness for the posterity ostracising all affectations. To maintain the sacredness of democracy, sacrifice in continuum by every member of the collective is a categorical imperative. The fundamental conception of democracy can only be preserved as a colossal and priceless treasure where virtue and values of justice rule supreme and intellectual anaemia is kept at bay by constant patience, consistent perseverance, and argus-eyed vigilance. The foundation of justice, apart from other things, rests on the speedy delineation of the lis pending in courts. It would not be an exaggeration to state that it is the primary morality of justice and ethical fulcrum of the judiciary. Its profundity lies in not allowing anything to cripple the same or to do any act which would freeze it or make it suffer from impotency. Delayed delineation of a controversy in a court of law creates a dent in the normative dispensation of justice and in the ultimate eventuate, the Bench and the Bar gradually lose their reverence, for the sense of divinity and nobility really flows from institutional serviceability. Therefore, historically, emphasis has been laid on individual institutionalism and collective institutionalism of an adjudicator while administering justice. It can be stated without any fear of contradiction that the collective collegiality can never be regarded as an alien concept to speedy dispensation of justice. That is the hallmark of duty, and that is the real measure.
…..it is clear as day that everyone involved in the system of dispensation of justice has to inspire the confidence of the common man in the effectiveness of the judicial system. Sustenance of faith has to be treated as spinal sans sympathy or indulgence. If someone considers the task to be herculean, the same has to be performed with solemnity, for faith is the ‘elan vital’ of our system.
…..Coming to the proceedings before the High Court from the date of presentation of the second appeal till the date of admission, the manner in which it has progressed is not only perplexing but also shocking. We are inclined to think that the Court should not have shown indulgence of such magnitude by adjourning the matter when the counsel for the appellant was not present. It is difficult to envision why the Court directed fresh notice to the appellant when there was nothing suggestive for passing of such an order. The matter should have been dealt with taking a recourse to the provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure. It is also astonishing that the lawyers sought adjournments in a routine manner and the court also acceded to such prayers. When the matter stood dismissed, though an application for restoration was filed, yet it was listed after a long lapse of time. Adding to the misery, the concerned official took his own time to put the file in order. From the Registrar General’s communication it is perceptible that some disciplinary action has been initiated against the erring official. That is another matter and we do not intend to say anything in that regard. But the fact that cannot be brushed aside is that there is enormous delay in dealing with the case. Had timely effort been made and due concern bestowed, it could have been avoided. There may be cases where delay may be unavoidable. We do not intend to give illustrations, for facts in the said cases shall speak for themselves. In the case at hand, as we perceive, the learned counsel sought adjournment after adjournment in a nonchalant manner and the same were granted in a routine fashion. It is the duty of the counsel as the officer of the court to assist the court in a properly prepared manner and not to seek unnecessary adjournments. Getting an adjournment is neither an art nor science. It has never been appreciated by the courts. All who are involved in the justice dispensation system, which includes the Judges, the lawyers, the judicial officers who work in courts, the law officers of the State, the Registry and the litigants, have to show dedicated diligence so that a controversy is put to rest. Shifting the blame is not the cure. Acceptance of responsibility and dealing with it like a captain in the frontier is the necessity of the time. It is worthy to state that diligence brings satisfaction. There has to be strong resolve in the mind to carry out the responsibility with devotion. A time has come when all concerned are required to abandon idleness and arouse oneself and see to it that the syndrome of delay does not erode the concept of dispensation of expeditious justice which is the constitutional command. Sagacious acceptance of the deviation and necessitous steps taken for the redressal of the same would be a bright lamp which would gradually become a laser beam. This is the expectation of the collective, and the said expectation has to become a reality. Expectations are not to remain at the stage of hope. They have to be metamorphosed to actuality. Long back, Francis Bacon, in his aphoristic style, had said:

“Hope is good breakfast, but it is bad supper”. 

[Source: Noor Mohammed vs Jetha Nand (Supreme Court of India)]