musing on the state of society and fate of men. NO warranties
Saturday, May 18, 2013
speed up trials ! especially IF women are the victims
Curb adjournments, speed up trials, SC tells trial courts
NEW DELHI: At a time when people are getting impatient with judicial delays, the Supreme Court has stepped in to curb the tendency of trial courts to liberally grant adjournments at the instance of lawyers. It said that trial courts were flouting "with impunity" the Criminal Procedure Code mandate for conducting proceedings on a day-to-day basis after witness examination starts and were easily granting adjournments.
A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan andDipak Misra expressed "anguish, agony and concern" over the adjournments granted by a Punjab trial court in a bride burning case which stretched the process of examination of witnesses to more than two years.
"On perusal of dates of examination-in-chief and cross-examination, it neither requires Solomon's wisdom nor Argus eyes (mythological giant with 100 eyes) scrutiny to observe that the trial was conducted in an absolute piecemeal manner as if the entire trial was required to be held at the mercy of the counsel," Justice Misra, who authored the judgment, said.
Referring to Section 309 of the CrPC, the bench said once a case reached the stage of examination of witnesses, the law mandated that it "shall be continued from day-to-day until all witnesses in attendance have been examined". The section provides that if for some unavoidable reason the court was to grant adjournment, it must record its reasons in writing.
"It is apt to note here that this court expressed its distress that it has become a common practice and regular occurrence that the trial courts flout the legislative command with impunity," the bench said.
The SC judges said the criminal justice dispensation system cast a heavy burden on the trial judge to have full control over the proceedings. "The criminal justice system has to be placed on proper pedestal and it cannot be left to the whims and fancies of the parties or their counsel," they said.
"A trial judge cannot be a mute spectator to the trial being controlled by the parties, for it is his primary duty to monitor the trial and such monitoring has to be in consonance with the Code of Criminal Procedure," the bench said.
The Supreme Court wanted trial judges to keep in mind the mandate of CrPC and not get guided by their thinking "or should not become mute spectators when a trial is being conducted by allowing the control to the counsel for parties".
"They have their roles to perform. They are required to monitor. They cannot abandon their responsibility. It should be borne in mind that the whole dispensation of criminal justice system at the ground level rests on how a trial is conducted. It needs no special emphasis to state that dispensation of criminal justice system is not only a concern of the bench but has to be the concern of the bar," it said.
On the case of bride burning and ill-treatment meted out to daughters-in-law, the apex court said, "A daughter-in-law is to be treated as a member of the family with warmth and affection and not as a stranger with despicable and ignoble indifference. She should not be treated as a housemaid. No impression should be given that she can be thrown out of her matrimonial home at any time."
Given the enormous backlog of cases in Indian courts, particularly at the lower levels, any measure that helps speed up processes is welcome. Getting rid of needless adjournments is certainly an important step and the Supreme Court must be thanked for stepping in to curb them. We hope that the implementation of this directive will be rigorous.