Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court of India, from the bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra has strongly disapproved the delay in dispensation of justice in criminal cases. When the Criminal Procedure Code makes it a must for day-to-day proceeding once examination of witnesses starts, “with impunity” adjournments are being allowed in trial stage at the instances of lawyers; and this is causing the delay in justice and avoidable piling of cases, the Court has observed.
This is a very welcome verdict and if not willfully dishonored, it may help speedy dispensation of justice and reduction of load of litigation. But the Supreme Court has no machinery of its own to know if its judgments are honored and therefore, as we have marked, its verdicts, where more than any individual the general public and/or the system of administration are to benefit, do die of negligence by the authorities concerned. We wish this judgment not to die like this.
However, curb on adjournments cannot be the only remedy to overloading of trial courts with litigation. Most of the criminal cases are manufactured and concocted by the black sheep in police in nexus with criminals eager to escape by falsely implicating the innocent or to settle score by torturing their opponents.
Our judicial system is so defective that the primary court does not think it necessary to go beyond the assortment of accusations to be prima facie convinced that the forwarding officer is not influenced by the accuser.
To the primary courts the police are as if the Gods that cannot be looked at askance. This is why; thousands of false cases are being allowed admission every day in India.
That, most of these cases end in acquittal of the accused is indicative of the fact that they were instituted willfully falsely. But, neither the accuser nor the police officer for whom the judiciary was/is overloaded with false cases is ever punished.
The apex court is to look into this phenomenon if the system is really to be relieved of the load of litigation and avoidable loss of judicial time.
It is essential to make it a must for the primary courts to screen the forwarded cases on the matrix of natural justice before registering the case for adjudication. The person whose right to freedom is set to be affected by a criminal case on admission whereof bail would normally be denied, must have the right to be heard before denial of bail so as, at least, not to make a farce of justice and to ensure that the primary court from which the criminal justice system begins its upward journey does not become by itself the prosecutor.
A progressive case law may be created by the Supreme Court to eliminate this defect in criminal procedure.
Every instance of admission of a criminal case should be preceded with a primary hearing to the extent of the primary court getting prima facie convinced of the credibility of the allegations raised against the accused, specifically as it is being increasingly noticed that prosecution is failing to prove the allegations in majority of police cases leading to acquittal of the accused in the long run.
Very often the police institute false cases against persons disadvantageous to their own illegal activities or under pressure from political fellows in power to harass their opponents or under influence of the accuser determined to settle scores with an adversary.
Accepting the police version, therefore, as prima facie reliable in the primary courts should be discouraged. Otherwise, there shall be no reprieve from overloading of judiciary with cases ultimately in most of them to collapse as baseless and/or not proved.
So, more than curb on adjournments, restriction on admission of criminal cases is essential.