A district court in Uttar Pradesh’s Kaushambi completed a murder trial in 22 days and sentenced the accused to life in jail, a rare occurrence in a country where cases drag on for decades.
Police registered a case of murder against a man identified as Shivbabu Pasi for killing an elderly woman in December 2016 over a minor dispute. Charges were filed on February 2 and trial began on April 14.
The process of hearing the witnesses ended on April 27 and two days later, Shivbabu’s team presented his defence.
District judge Dilip Singh Yadav convicted the accused on May 5 and sentenced him to life imprisonment the next day. He also imposed a penalty of Rs 2000.
“The trial was carried out on priority level and speedy justice was delivered to the complainant,” said government counsel Vinay Yadav. “Honest and instant police investigation helped in speedy trial which involved at least 14 witnesses.”
Such a speedy trial is unusual in India where more than 30 million cases are pending before the courts because of frequent delays, witnesses turning hostile and a crippling shortage of judges. Uttar Pradesh tops the country in such pendency – a backlog of more than five million cases – with just 10 judges per million population.
The crisis is the worst in lower cases where more than 4,000 judge positions are vacant, forcing the government to set up fast track cases. But many experts fear a focus on speedy trials can erode the rigour of the process and increase the risk of miscarriage of justice, especially in the lower courts.