The law stipulates that trials in all criminal cases be completed within the shortest possible period, but it was only in the aftermath of Delhi gangrape case that trial courts came over the slow-motion syndrome. In fact, they have gone into overdrive.
Hoshiarpur additional sessions judge JS Bhinder set a precedent by convicting a gangrape accused in just eight days of production of chargesheet. About half a dozen abduction and rape cases, some of which were pending for close to two years, have since been settled. On January 25, additional sessions judge Manjinder Singh disposed of a case within two days of the challan.
Major reasons for delay are usually the non-appearance of witnesses and the faulty service of summons which provides ground for adjournments. But in the recent cases, justice delivery process could be fast-tracked mainly because summons got served on time, and witnesses were produced on fixed days. In the fastest ever trial in the court of Manjinder Singh, nine witnesses were examined in a single day. The very next day, the court pronounced the verdict.
Prosecution lawyer Vinay Bhakhri attributed the quick completion of the trial to police’s swiftness and court’s readiness.
This implies that if the police and the judiciary have the willingness to work together, faster justice is no utopian concept. A case in which the challan was produced in February 2011 was settled by a sessions court on February 1 this year – it was lingering as the lone remaining witness was not appearing. But when the court took serious view of it, the police produced him and the case was settled.
Legal experts, however, caution against over-ambitiousness. Said senior criminal lawyer Maninderpal Singh, “Accused who are in jail during trial do not get the opportunity to discuss the points of defence with their lawyers. And when the accused’s family members are also named in the FIR for criminal conspiracy, it becomes all the more difficult. Moreover, all complaints are not true. The courts must avoid judicial rape of innocent people.”
A retired deputy district attorney, BS Riar, said cases of crime against women should not be the only ones fast-tracked: “How fair is it that in a single court, one case is disposed of in a matter of days while several others keep gathering dust?”
As for the police, senior superintendent of police Sukhchain Singh Gill said, “Now we are not depending on process servers to deliver the summons. It is the duty of the station house officer (SHO) or the investigating officer to ensure that the summons reach on time and witnesses do not turn hostile,” he said, but claimed that all heinous crimes are being taken seriously.
“Women-related crimes and their court trials are being reported more prominently by the media these days. But it’s a good thing that you know now that the police have become more sensitive,” said the SSP.