The constitutional guarantee of speedy trial is an important safeguard to prevent undue and oppressive incarceration prior to trial; to minimize concern accompanying public accusation and to limit the possibilities that long delays will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself.
The right to a speedy trial is first mentioned in that landmark document of English law, the Magna Carta. The constitutional philosophy propounded as right to speedy trial has though grown in age by almost two and a half decades, the goal sought to be achieved is yet a far-off peak. It a concept which deals with speedy disposal of cases to make the judiciary more effective and to impart justice as fast as possible. Article 21 declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure laid by law.
Justice Krishna Iyer while dealing with the bail petition in Babu Singh v. State of UP, remarked, “Our justice system even in grave cases, suffers from slow motion syndrome which is lethal to ‘fair trial’ whatever the ultimate decision. Speedy justice is a component of social justice since the community, as a whole, is concerned in the criminal being condignly and finally punished within a reasonable time and the innocent being absolved from the inordinate ordeal of criminal proceedings.”
In Sheela Barse v. Union of India court reaffirmed that speedy trial to be fundamental right. Right to speedy trial is a concept gaining recognition and importance day by day. There are 3 pillars of social restraint and order in India
Legislature is an authority which makes the law & Executive takes into consideration effective implementation of the legislations while judiciary implements it in practical life. The question is whether is anyone is really serious and concerned about these problems? With the rapid growth in technological , industrial field and population, workload has increased on the judiciary system which calls for effective and rapid disposal of ever increasing cases but the effectiveness of the court is hampered badly.
(II) Factors for Pendency of The Cases:
Delay in cases can be of two types:
1. Court system delay which accounts for the period of entering the cause till its taken up for trial.
2. Delay due to professional courtesy of lawyers towards each other and lawyer’s vis-à-vis the court.
However, the chief reasons for delays can be enumerated as follows:
# The judge – population ratio – presently taking into consideration the population of the country and pendency of the cases the no. of judges available are very less.
# The functioning of the judiciary is independent in nature but it doesn’t mean it is not accountable to anyone. Considering this factor it can be concluded that it drives the judges toward leisure and comfort which ultimately results in delay of the cases. The Woolf report of 1996, had emphasized to make judiciary accountable by generating accurate judicial statistics.
# Provision for adjournment: The main reason for the delay in the cases is the adjournment granted by the court on flimsy grounds. Section 309 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Rule 1,Order XVII of Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) deals with the adjournments and power of the court to postpone the hearing.
# Vacation of the court: The reason with providing courts with a vacation period is a debate going on when in country like India pendency of cases is huge. In most of the countries like U.S. and France there is no such provision.
Hurried and ill-drafted legislations and statutes on diverse topics enacted, contribute to some extent to the inflow of cases.
Take into consideration Bhopal Gas Leak Tragedy involving lives of more than 15000 people. 20 years had passed for that incident and still people suffered a lot to get the compensation. The condition of those girls who were brutally gang raped during the Godhra riots in front of their helpless family members. Consider the case of Jessica lal, where Delhi police yet to grab Manu Sharma, key accused, still able to safeguard himself from the clutches of the judicial administration. The victims of Best Bakery case who awaited justice to be dispensed in their favour but the climax starts with the key witness in the case turned hostile and the entire fate of the Bakery case is in turmoil. Today the victims of the all the above-enumerated cases know full well that the price of truth is extremely high.
It’s being high time to evaluate and take effective measures to curb the problem of pendency of cases. The legislative sensitivity towards providing and efficacious justice is mainly reflected in two legislations.
(3) Arbitration and conciliation act, 1996
(4) Civil procedure code
Section 89 of CPC deals with settlement of dispute outside the court: It provides that where it appears to the court that there exist elements, which may be acceptable to the parties, the court may formulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for arbitration, conciliation, mediation or judicial settlement. Nowadays the concept of online ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) is gaining recognition but the problem with it is the lack of IT knowledge among the lower masses and need of knowledge of law and ADR, technical concerns, legal sanctity of proceedings, industry support etc. However, there are many loopholes in the measures taken by the government.
One of them I can pinpoint is that the time period which is considered long is not defined satisfactorily. The court has adopted an approach whereby it looks at each situation individually and balances all pertinent factors. The Supreme Court (SC) of India took positive steps in the direction of implementing article 14 (3) of international covenant on civil and political rights which determines that criminal charge too be tried without undue delay. Article 16 of principles of equality in administration of justice declares that everyone shall be guaranteed right to speedy trial. SC held in Raghubir Singh v. State of Bihar that speedy trial is one of the dimensions of fundamental right to life and liberty under article 21. Cr.PC in sec 260 involves the concept of summary trial whereby in case of circumstances prescribed the court has to summarily dispose the case.
Delay Leads To Mental Anguish:
In hussainara khatoon v. State of Bihar which formed the basis of the concept of the Speedy Trial, it was held that where undertrial prisoners have been in jail for duration longer than prescribed, if convicted, their detention in jail is totally unjustified and in violation to fundamental rights under article 21. Inordinate delays violates article 21 of the constitution: for more than 11 yrs the trial is pending without any progress for no faults of the accused-petitioner. Expeditious rights is a basic right to everybody and cannot be trampled upon unless any of the parties can be accused of the delay. Delay in trial unnecessarily confers a right upon the accused to apply for bail. Under sec. 482 read with 483, Cr. P.C lays that every possible measure to be taken to dispose off the case within 6months from today. No adjournments to be granted until n unless circumstances are beyond the control of judiciary. It is the responsibility of the judiciary to keep a check on under trial prisoners and bring them to trial. Overcrowded courts, inadequate resources, fiscal deficiency cannot be the reasons for deprivation of a person. In cases relating corruption, judiciary should deal with it swiftly and dispose the case as fast as possible. In the case P. Ram Chandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, the court overruled decision of Raj Deo Sharma and common cause and held that no time bound direction for completing a trial can be issued by a High Court.
(III) Article 21 of The Constitution:
This right is implicit in article 14, 19(1) (a) and 21 of the constitution as well as the CPC.
It is the constitutional obligation of the government to devise such procedures as would ensure and implement speedy trial. Supreme Court being majestic authority has to act as guardian of fundamental rights of citizens
Purpose of Criminal Justice:
The paramount purpose of speedy trial is to safeguard the innocents from undue punishments but prolonged pendency has created an unmountable barrier in that. Huge no. of cases is pending for years together which creates mental and economic pressure on litigants.
Right To Speedy Trial And Expeditious Criminal Trial:
Fundamental rights are not teasing illusions but are meant to be enforced effectively. On a no. of matters cases were adjourned or delayed but now the court has a right to quash the case or the proceedings to meet ends of justice. In the case Katar Singh v. State of Punjab it was declared that right to speedy trial is an essential part of fundamental right to life and liberty. In the case Abdul Rahman Antulay v. R.S. Nayak, the bench declared certain aspects and guidelines regarding the speedy trial and quashing of cases should depend upon nature of the case.
Hence it can be concluded that: Right to speedy trial is right of the accused and it encompasses all the stages, namely investigation, inquiry, trial, appeal, revision and retrial.
The concerns from the view point of accused are:
Period or remand should be justified and should be as short as possible
Worry, anxiety, expense and disturbance in conducting the trial should be minimal
Undue delay may well result in impairment of the ability of the accused to defend himself.
At the same time it cannot be denied that cases are delayed in the interest of the defendant. Its rightly said that delay is known as a defence tactic. To effectively implement this right of speedy trial the approach to be adopted by the judiciary should be a practical one instead of a pedantic one.
On the contrary in White, J. in U.S. v. Ewell it was said that whether a delay of case is there or not and whether the litigants are deprived of there fundamental rights depends upon the circumstance of the cases. Same was outlined in Powell, J. in Barker’s case . It should be taken care that prosecution does not become a persecution.
Moreover, we cannot give effect to demand rule’ as justice cant de denied or delayed on the grounds that the litigants did not ask for speedy trials. Hence, the court has to apply various balance tests and recognize whether the right has been infringed or not. It is not advisable to fix a period of trial because it will confine and restrict the judiciary and there will be a burden of swift disposal of cases which may deteriorate the quality of justice. The right to a speedy trial has been known, on occasion, to work to the disadvantage of the defendant — as when sufficient time is not allowed for preparation of an adequate defense — and the higher courts have found it necessary to keep a close eye on this.
The other options for settlement of disputes is mediation, conciliation or settlement through Lok Adalat which helps in disposing off the cases fast.
(IV) Reformative Measures:
The judicial capacity and capability is judged by the time taken for disposal of the cases. There are many scams and frauds which needs to be disposed off as quick as possible but this is not the case in India. For e.g. Harshad Mehta scam took about 6years for the pronouncement of the decision when he already died while at the same time a scandal in Singapore Nick leeson of barring company which was decided in 2years. This shows how the delay in justice providing system works in the favor of judicial system.
• Effective management of the courts and this is possible only when once in a couple of months or days problems faced by the litigants, lawyers and judges is discussed. Time scheduling should be done so that there is effective management of time leading to effective management of judicial system.
• Malimath committee:
The main aim of this committee is to make recommendation for reformation on Criminal justice system, simplifying judicial procedures, practices and making the delivery of justice to the common man closer.
• Judges should be provided with proper training and vocations on a regular basis to improvise there drafting, hearing and writing skills along with the skill of taking correct and fast judgment. Judicial accountability is one of them is important factor.
• Moreover, the ratio of judges to population should be increased which will help in disposal of cases very fast.
• Cases must be assigned according to specialized area of judges. Assigning cases without taking into consideration the specialization leads to delay. Moreover, special tribunal should be set up for some specialized fields of which cases come on a regular large scale basis e.g. Taxation, labour etc.
• Arbitration should be done wherever possible and in particular small and petty cases arbitration should be made compulsory. It will save precious time o the courts.
• Nyaya Panchayats should be authorized to dispose off small and petty cases. However. Lok Adalats were established for the speedy disposal of cases at lower level.
• Amendment is required so that procedural delays do not occur. Moreover, the state must look up that there are adequate no. of courts to cope up with the wok load and timely appointment of judges.
Reformation is necessary so as to make the implementation of the right in the right manner which is the need of the hour.
(V) Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied: Conclusion
The right to speedy trial is not a fact or fiction but a Constitutional reality and it has to be given its due respect. The courts and the legislature have already accepted it as one of the medium of reducing the increasing workloads on the courts. The right to a speedy trial, and its resulting impact on both the defendant and society as a whole, makes this Sixth Amendment guarantee a crucial portion of the Bill of Rights — and another important part of our legal heritage. Repeated delays and continuances in the criminal justice process prevent victims from ever reaching emotional, physical, and financial closure to the trauma suffered as a result of the crime(s) perpetrated against them. Such delays in prosecution can also limit the ability of victims to receive justice when their memories, or those of other witnesses, fade with the passage of time or when the victim’s health deteriorates.
Though there are no specific provisions for speedy trial, by judicial interpretation, the Supreme Court has held article 21 of the constitution confers the right on the accused. It is in the interest of all the concerned that the case is disposed off quickly and justice is seem to occur. In Abdul Rehman v. R.S Nayak the SC observed that the ultimately it’s the court which decides whether right to speedy trial has been denied or not. Everytime when proceedings cannot be quashed as it might not be in interest of the society. In the case Madheshwardhari Singh v. State of Bihar it was held that all criminal prosecutions are now inalienable fundamental rights to citizens. Moreover, in the case Arun Kumar Ghosh v. State of Bengal it was held that mental torture and anxiety suffered by an accused for a long length of time is to be treated ad punishment inflicted on him.
According to B.P.Singh J the situation today is so grim that if a poor is able to reach to the stage of a high court, it should be considered as an achievement. Finally, to conclude with the words of Lord Hewet as it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.
Constitution Of India, Dr. L.M. Singhvi
Commentary On The Constitution Of India, Arvind Datar
Code Of Criminal Procedure, Sarkar
Air 1976 J. Making Justice Speedy, Effective And Substantial By Hon’ble Sri Justice C. Kondaiah
Air 1994 J. How To Clear The Backlog Of Arrears In Cases In Courts’ By J. Mohd. Shamma
Air 1994 J. Legal Reforms For Speedy Trial’ By M. Veerabhadra Rao, Advocate