Courts must ensure speedy trial in rape cases: Supreme Court


New Delhi, Dec 27: Rape trials must end within two months as stipulated under law, the Supreme Court has said directing trial courts to "strictly adhere” to existing norms while asking them to rule out the possibility of “manoeuvring” through undue long adjournments.
A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Fakkir Mohammed Ibrahim Kalifulla gave their judgement on December 6, 10 days before the Delhi gang rape which triggered nation-wide outrage with strong demands for fast-tracking of rape cases.
The apex court's verdict came while dismissing the appeal of a man convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the offences of murder and robbery.
The convict, Akil, along with two others in October 1998 while robbing a woman of her cash and jewellery at gunpoint inside her home at Maujpur here had shot her friend when he had objected to the accused's attempt to molest her.
“We issue directions in light of the provisions contained in section 231 (evidence for prosecution) read along with section 309 (power to postpone or adjourn proceedings) of CrPC for the trial court to strictly adhere to the procedure prescribed therein in order to ensure speedy trial of cases.
“And also rule out the possibility of any manoeuvring taking place by granting undue long adjournments for mere asking,” the bench said in its 37-page judgement.
Section 309 of the CrPC provides that in every inquiry or trial the proceedings should be held as expeditiously as possible and once the examination of witnesses begins the same shall be continued on a day-to-day basis till all the witnesses are examined.
The apex court also noted that in cases that come under section 376 (rape) and related offences under sections 376 A to D of the IPC, the CrPC stipulates that “the inquiry or trial shall, as far as possible, be completed within a period of two months from the date of commencement of the examination of witnesses.”
The apex court made the observations in the case after it found that the trial court had granted a two-month-long adjournment in the case after which one of the witnesses had turned hostile during his cross-examination.
The bench cautioned the trial court against granting long adjournments.
“We wish to issue a note of caution to the trial court dealing with sessions case to ensure that there are well settled procedures laid down under the CrPC as regards the manner in which the trial should be conducted in sessions cases in order to ensure dispensation of justice without providing any scope for unscrupulous elements to meddle with the course of justice to achieve some unlawful advantage,” it said.
The apex court referred to one of its earlier decisions when it had asked all the high courts "to remind all the trial judges of the need to comply with section 309 of the Code in letter and spirit.
In fact, the high courts were directed to take note of the conduct of any particular trial judge who violates the above legislative mandate and to adopt such administrative action against the delinquent judicial officer as per the law.”
The court went on to add that it was “unfortunate” that despite specific directions by it, “such recalcitrant approach was being made by the trial court unmindful of the adverse serious consequences affecting the society at large flowing therefrom.”
“Therefore, even while disposing of this appeal by confirming the conviction and sentence imposed on appellant by trial judge and confirmed by the impugned judgement of September 2005 of the high court, we direct the registry to forward a copy of this decision to all the high courts.
“..To specifically follow the instructions issued by this court, to ensure that such directions are scrupulously followed by the trial courts without providing scope for any deviation in following the procedure prescribed in the matter of a trial of sessions cases as well as other cases as provided under Section 309 of CrPC,” the court said.
The apex court also referred to a 1987 circular of the Delhi High Court which said that whenever more than three months have elapsed between the date of arrest and close of trial, an explanation on the cause of delay shall be forthcoming in the judgement.

Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 28 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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