Important Judgements In News

Speedy trial a fundamental right: HC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 21

Mains level : Paper 2- Right to speedy trial

The Bombay High Court has said that speedy trial is a fundamental right highlighting the issue of people languishing in prisons waiting for the trial to begin.

Background

  • The HC was hearing a petition seeking a judicial probe into the death of a tribal rights activist.
  • The petitioner told the court that he was not looking for the cause of the death, but an inquiry into what happened in jail that ultimately led to his death.

Right to speedy trial

  • It is a right under which it is asserted that a government prosecutor may not delay the trial of a criminal suspect arbitrarily and indefinitely.
  • Otherwise, the power to impose such delays would effectively allow prosecutors to send anyone to jail for an arbitrary length of time without trial.
  • Right to speedy trial is a concept gaining recognition and importance day by day.

Its constitutional status

  • The right to speedy trial is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • In the case Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab (1961) it was declared that right to speedy trial is an essential part of fundamental right to life and liberty.
  • Article 21 declares that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure laid by law.”

What causes delay?

  • Delay in disposition of cases due to huge pendency
  • Provision for adjournment
  • Vacation of the court
  • Investigative agencies generally delay

Why speedy trial is necessary?

The right to a speedy trial serves several important purposes:

  • First, requiring a speedy trial helps to ensure that a defendant does not have to spend an unreasonable amount of time in jail.
  • It also helps to respect and protect the mental health of the defendant by making sure that the defendant is not kept in suspense or anxiety over pending criminal charges for months or years at a time.
  • The right to a speedy trial protects a defendant’s ability to gather evidence for his or her own defense.
  • Over time, physical evidence can become harder and harder to locate, and witnesses may move, lose their memories of an event, or even pass away.

Alternative solutions

  • The Law Commission of India and the Malimath Committee recommended that the system of plea bargaining should be introduced in Indian criminal justice system.
  • Plea bargaining refers to a person charged with a criminal offence negotiating with the prosecution for a lesser punishment than what is provided in law by pleading guilty to a less serious offence.
  • This will facilitate the speedy disposal of criminal cases and reduces the burden on the courts at least for some minor trials and not serious criminal offences.
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