Right to Speedy Trial in India

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December 06, 2018

Speedy Trial is need of the hour. The huge backlog of pending cases in India is an issue about which much has been written and deliberated. Inspite of digitization of case records and huge technological advancement being witnessed, not much progress has been reflected in this area. If a case lingers for a long time and justice is not meted out to the rightful party then the whole purpose of law and justice gets frustrated. Hence, the right to speedy trial has rightly been remarked to flow from the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Like the Indian Legal Jurisprudence, the Right to Speedy Trial is recognized as a Constitutional Right in developed nations of the United States and Canada. In India the Supreme Court in it’s landmark judgment in the case of Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary State of Bihar [(1980) (1) sec 98] held speedy trial as part of Article 21 of the Constitution guaranteeing right to life and liberty. The Apex Court in the case also observed that if a person is deprived of his liberty under a procedure which is not ‘reasonable fair and just’, such deprivation would be violative of his Fundamental Right under Article 21 and he would be entitled to enforce such Fundamental Right and secure his release. The case pertained to state of undertrial prisoners in Bihar who were languishing in jail for several years.

Similarly, in another landmark case of Sheela Barse vs. Union of India1, the Supreme Court observed that where the court comes to a conclusion that the right to speedy trial of an accused has been infringed, the charge or conviction, as the case may be must be quashed. Accordingly, the Apex Court directed the State Governments to take steps for completing an investigation within three months in cases lodged against children.

Another noteworthy judgment which further firmly establishes right to speedy trial as a Constitutional mandate is the case of Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee Representing Undertrial Prisoners vs. Union of India. In this verdict, the Supreme Court laid down certain conditions for release of undertrial prisoners on bail where trial was not completed within a specified period of time.

There is no denial of the fact that speedy trial is recognized by the Legislature as well as Judiciary as an essential pillar of law and justice in India. The recent legislations and reforms being witness in the judicial system indicates the same.

1(1986)(3) sec 632