Punjab and Haryana High Court takes cognisance of 'trend' to delay proceedings

Calls it ‘hazardous’; puts Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh on notice

Punjab and Haryana High Court takes cognisance of 'trend' to delay proceedings

Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, April 22

Taking judicial cognisance of “hazardous trend” on the prosecution’s part to delay the proceedings “due to unexplained reasons”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear to both the States and the Union Territory of Chandigarh that the system was required to be strengthened with the aid of advanced technology for effectively serving the official witness, securing their presence and fixing responsibility.

The direction by Justice Jasgurpreet Singh Puri came in a case where a 36-year-old woman was facing incarceration for about one-and-a-half year in a drugs case registered at Lambi police station in Muktsar district. But no prosecution witness was examined even though the summons were issued no less than 14 times by the trial court.

Issuing notice to the State of Haryana and Chandigarh as well, Justice Puri added methods and mechanism to curb the menace were required to be further explored. As such, Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh were required to consider the issue at the “highest level” before apprising the Court.

Justice Puri asserted the High Court had seen in a number of cases —especially the NDPS matters —that delay was caused due to unexplained reasons at the prosecution’s hands. Not only were repeated summons issued to the official witnesses/police officials, including investigating officers, many times even bailable and non-bailable warrants were issued to them.

The trial court, rather, had to issue summons and warrants for a number of times to the official witnesses who themselves set the criminal law into motion. As a result, the trial got delayed at the prosecution’s hands.

“Right to speedy trial is a part of the Fundamental Rights contained under Part-III of the Constitution of India and the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be scuttled because of such conduct of the prosecution by not deposing before the Court for number of years, resulting in the delay of the trial and prejudicing the rights of the accused guaranteed under the Constitution,” Justice Puri added.

Justice Puri also appointed advocate Kulwant Singh Boparai as amicus curie to assist the Bench. Referring to the facts, Justice Puri asserted there was no justification coming forth from the State counsel on the delay by the prosecution when the criminal law machinery was set into motion by the prosecution itself.

“The argument by the petitioner’s counsel that the present case has been planted by the police due to previous rivalry does carry some weight in view of the conduct of the prosecution,” Justice Puri observed, while granting bail after taking into consideration these and other factors.

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