Rashmi Mishra, pursuing LL.B.(3 years) from Lloyd Law College, Noida.
SPEEDY TRIAL: A CHALLENGE BEFORE JUSTICE DELIVERY SYSTEM IN INDIA
Right to Speedy Trial is a concept which deals with disposal of cases as soon as possible so as to make the Judiciary more efficient and trustworthy. The first written articulation of the right to speedy trial appeared in 1215 in the Magna Carta.[i] Right to speedy trial is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution of India. Article 21 declares that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure laid by law.” Right to speedy trial is a concept gaining recognition and importance day by day.
‘Undue delay in the administration of criminal justice poses serious threats to the freedom and well-being of the individual citizen’ – a famous quote that relates to one of the most basic dilemmas we have been facing over the facets of justice delivery system globally.
Speedy trial is a fundamental right implicit in the guarantee of life and personal liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and any accused who is denied this right of speedy trial is entitled to approach Supreme Court under Article 32 for the purpose of enforcing such right.
IMPORTANT JUDICIAL PRECEDENTS:
Justice Krishna Iyer while handling the bail petition in Babu Singh v. State of UP[ii], observed, “Our justice system even in grave cases, suffers from slow motion syndrome which is lethal to ‘fair trial’ whatever be the resulting decision. Speedy justice is an essential constituent of social justice since the community, as a whole, is concerned in the criminal being condignly and ultimately punished within a judicious time and the innocent being absolved from the inordinate ordeal of criminal proceedings.”
In Sheela Barse v Union of India[iii], the Hon’ble apex court has accepted the right to a speedy trial as a fundamental right.
In Maneka Gandhi v Union of India[iv], the Supreme Court had stated that:
“Article 21 confers a fundamental right on every person that he should not to be deprived of his life or liberty except as per the procedure prescribed by law and it is not enough to constitute compliance with the requirement of that Article that some concurrence of a procedure should be prescribed by law, but that the procedure should be ‘reasonable, fair and just’. If a person is destitute of his liberty under ‘ a procedure which is not ‘reasonable, fair or just’, such destitution would be violative of his fundamental right under Article 21 and he would be entitled to enforce such fundamental right and secure his release”[v].
By speedy trial, it is to be clearly understood that the term “speedy” indicates a reasonably expeditious trial, which is an intrinsic and indispensable part of the fundamental right to life and liberty.
In the case of State of Maharashtra v Dr. Praful B. Desai the court has examined the possibility of video conferencing as paraphernalia of justice. Asserting that video conferencing can be used for the trial.
In Abdul Rehman Antulay v R.S. Nayak[vi] the Hon’ble Apex Court held that:
“The core of ‘Speedy Trial’ is protection against incarceration. An accused who has never been incarcerated can hardly complain. At any rate, he must show some other very strong prejudice. The right does not protect an accused from all prejudicial effects caused by delay. Its core concern is impairment of liberty.”[vii]
In Hussainara Khatoon decision, which proved to be the plinth of right to a speedy trial in India, Bhagwati, J. observed: “We think that even under our Constitution, though the speedy trial is not specifically enumerated as a fundamental right, it is implicit in the broad sweep and content of article 21 as interpreted by this Court in celebrated judgement of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India.”[viii]
In the Hussainara Khatoon case, Bhagwati, J. observed:
“The State cannot keep away itself from its constitutional obligation to provide speedy trial to the accused by pleading financial or administrative inability. The State is under a constitutional mandate to ensure speedy trial and whatever is required for this purpose has to be done by the State. It is also the constitutional obligation of this Court as the guardian of the fundamental rights of the people, as a sentinel on the qui vive, to implement the fundamental right of the accused to a speedy trial by issuing necessary directions to the State which may include the taking of positive action, such as augmenting and strengthening the investigative machinery, setting up new courts, building new courthouses, providing more staff and equipment to the courts, the appointment of additional judges and other measures calculated to ensure speedy trial.”[ix]
In U.S jurisdiction clear distinction and exceptions to the right of speedy trial is recognized. The accused has no right to face charges when he is not mentally competent if the charges do not constitute a “criminal prosecution”, if the offender is juvenile or if the offences are of trivial or in the case of a defendant is imprisoned in another jurisdiction for different crimes. But India lacks the presence of any such provisions.
The Malimath Committee Report suggested varied means of expediting the process of trials in India. The main aim of this committee is to make recommendations for reformation on the Criminal justice system, simplifying judicial procedures, practices, and making the delivery of justice to the common man closer. This committee suggested that Judges should be provided with proper training and vocations regularly to enhance their drafting, hearing, and writing skills along with the skill of taking proper and fast judgment. Judicial accountability is one of them is a salient factor.
Moreover, the ratio of judges to the population should be increased substantially which will help in the disposal of the cases, rapidly. Cases must be assigned according to the expertise of judges. Assigning cases without taking into consideration the specialization leads to delay. Moreover, the 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 feasible and in particular small and trivial cases, further, it should be made mandatory. It will save precious time of the courts. Nyaya Panchayats should be authorized to dispose off small and petty cases. However, Lok Adalat was established for the speedy disposal of cases at a lower level. The amendment is required so that procedural delays do not occur. Moreover, the state must look up that there is an adequate number of courts to cope up with the workload and timely appointment of judges. Justice must not only be done, but it must also seem to have been delivered.
WHY SPEEDY TRIAL IS A CHALLENGE FOR INDIA?
- As enumerated in various case laws India is still facing many challenges in implementing speedy trials. Justice Bhagwati, in Hussainara Khatun Case, emphasized upon the need for setting up new courts, strengthening probing machinery, building new court machinery, need for more staff and incidental matter thereto.
- The very first problem that can be observed is the lack of courtrooms. For handling with the cases, setting up of new courtrooms is must.
- The next challenge that can be observed in speedy trials is the availability of judge. The judge population ratio, in current state of affairs, taking into consideration the population of the country and pendency of the cases the number of judges available is way too less than required.
- As envisaged by J. Bhagwati, we need to strengthen our Investigating agency as Investigative agencies generally delay the matter. Probing agencies such as Police also play a pivotal role in delaying of cases. Many a time Investigation agencies take time to file up the charge sheet in the court due to which delay occurs.
- Subsequently, Justice Bhagwati perceived the requirement of new infrastructure. It is so because the infrastructure of the lower courts is very disheartening. The Courts have no convenient building or physical facilities due to which it takes more the required time to dispose off cases. Good library, requisite furniture, sufficient staff, and proper space are the need of the qualitative justice and most of these facilities are not available in lower courts. It becomes important because a case takes birth in lower courts and because of lack of machinery the hearing doesn’t take place properly.
- There is no time limit for deciding a case. Advocates play tactics to delay the case so that the other party backs off. Subsequently the case delays.
- As suggested by the Malimath committee, there is a need to simplify judicial procedures as they are very complex and that it takes a hell lot of time for a common man to even reach the court of justice.
- There is a need for proper training and vocations for judges regularly to improve their drafting, hearing, and writing skills along with the skill of taking proper and fast judgment. Lack of proper training and vocations acts as an obstacle against speedy trials.
- Judicial accountability is also an important factor due to which the judge keeps adjourning the case so that he doesn’t become accountable for the final decision.
- Cases are not assigned according to the specialized area of judges. Assigning cases without taking into consideration the specialization leads to further delay.
- Special Tribunals have been set up for specified fields such as NCLT but there is an urgent need to set up more specialized tribunals.
- Arbitration is not mandatory. It should be made mandatory wherever possible and especially in particular small and petty cases. It will save precious time of the courts. Nyaya Panchayats are not authorized to dispose off small and petty cases.
- There are clear distinction and exceptions in the US to the right of speedy trial. The accused has no right to face charges when he is not mentally competent if the charges do not constitute a “criminal prosecution”, if the offender is juvenile or if the offences are petty or in the case of a defendant is imprisoned in another jurisdiction for a different crime. But in India, there is no presence of any such provision.
It can be concluded that speedy trials, though not explicitly mentioned in Constitution persist to be a fundamental right. Even though it is a fundamental right that cannot be taken away but to get access to this particular fundamental right to every citizen of India is a challenge that India is going through because of many factors, as discussed above. These challenges can be tackled if actions are taken properly at each and every stage and everyone feels their responsibility and take requisite actions. Hence, the Justice system shall be prompt wherever possible. Cases shouldn’t be adjourned effortlessly. Adjournment procedure should be complex and there shall be an upper limit on the number of adjournments. Speedy trials are of crucial as there is a proverb which says Justices must not only be done, but it must also seem to have been done and it has been rightly said that Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.
[i] Klopfer . North Carolina, 386 U.S. 2I3, 223 (I967)
[ii] AIR 1978 SC 527
[iii] 1986 SCALE (2)230
[iv] (1978) 2 SCR621
[vi] AIR 1992 SC1701
[viii] 1979 CriLJ1045
[ix] 1979 AIR 1369