Maintaining that a right to speedy trial is a Constitutional right, the Supreme Court has quashed a criminal case against a man charged with an offence by the Maharashtra government 26 years ago.
"The right to speedy trial in all criminal prosecutions is an inalienable right under Article 21 of the Constitution. This right is applicable not only to the actual proceedings in court but also includes within its sweep the preceding police investigations as well," the apex court observed.
A bench of Justices C K Thakker and D K Jain passed the observation while quashing the charges filed against Pankaj Kumar, a business man.
Kumar, according to the defence, was a minor when he was roped in as an accused by the state's Anti-corruption Bureau along with his parents in 1981. The charge against the trio was that they had entered into a clandestine deal for supply of spare parts to a milk dairy owned by the government.
The apex court pointed out that the FIR was recorded by the police on May 12, 1987, for the offences allegedly committed in 1981. Thereafter the chargesheet was submitted in the court on February 22, 1991. In the meantime the parents of Kumar, who was also arrayed as accused, had died.
"We feel that the extreme mental stress and strain of prolonged investigation by the ACB and the sword of Damocles hanging perilously over his head for over 15 years must have wrecked his career," the apex court observed while quashing the case.