Drug cases: Punjab and Haryana high court issues slew of directions for speedy trials - Hindustan Times
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Drug cases: Punjab and Haryana high court issues slew of directions for speedy trials

By, Chandigarh
Feb 22, 2024 08:50 AM IST

The high court bench of justice Pankaj Jain, issued a slew of directions, including departmental action against cops not appearing before the courts and deadlines for courts to complete the trials

Taking serious note of the delay in trials due to the lethargy of the prosecuting agency, the Punjab and Haryana high court has said that the situation looks like a cobweb where the object of the enactment of special law to deal with the drug menace is getting defeated in Punjab.

Drug cases: Punjab and Haryana high court issues slew of directions for speedy trials
Drug cases: Punjab and Haryana high court issues slew of directions for speedy trials

The high court bench of justice Pankaj Jain, issued a slew of directions, including departmental action against cops not appearing before the courts and deadlines for courts to complete the trials.

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“The defiance of the official witnesses needs to be addressed. The prosecuting agencies have to shoulder the burden and own responsibility. Expeditious disposal of trial is the key for the criminal justice system to succeed. Time has come to manage progress of trial under NDPS Act involving ‘commercial quantity’ of Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances just like case management introduced in commercial suits by the Commercial Courts Act, 2015,” the bench further recorded.

It was hearing a bail plea from one Kulwinder Singh booked in a case of seizure of 260 gm of heroin on September 4, 2021, by Tarn Taran police. He had approached high court seeking bail and arguing that charges have been framed on May 4, 2023, but only two out of 16 witnesses have been examined to date. The accused also faces four more NDPS cases.

The court had sought a report from the police on the delay in the examination of witnesses and found a “deliberate attempt” by the official witnesses to “scuttle” down the prosecution.

“The legislation was enacted in discharge of obligations under International Convention of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The objective is to make stringent provisions for the control and regulation of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The offences under the Act are heinous and the punishments provided are stringent. Keeping in view the factual situation, especially in the border States of the country, the Courts are reeling under the ever increasing load of list related to offences punishable under the 1985 Act,” the bench remarked adding that this is not the only case where the trial is being delayed for want of co-operation from the official witnesses and many more such cases have come to light in the recent past.

The court further added that trials remain pending for years together as the witnesses, despite being police personnel, keep evading trial. “This callousness that too of the official witnesses remains unexplained, resulting in a situation where the law appears helpless. As a result, it neither serves the interest of accused nor that of the prosecution. In some situations, innocents are facing prolonged incarceration whereas in some, repeated offenders are getting bails only on account of prolonged incarceration, abusing the concession granted by the courts,” the bench further added underlining the need for more concrete steps for early conclusion of trials. It further directed that a copy of the order be sent to the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh administration for necessary compliance.

Court’s directives

Police reports filed before the trial court shall carry the details of officer heading the prosecuting agency

Head of the prosecuting agency shall be responsible for supervising the progress of the trial

On the day of framing of charges, the court shall draw a schedule for management of the trial. Schedule to be part of the order passed by the court

The court shall fix the date for examination of each and every witness cited in the police report

Duty of the head of the prosecuting agency to make sure that the official witnesses are served and appear before the trial court

For the official witness, court duty shall have priority over any other duty apart from call on account of emergency situation.

Departmental action against erring officials

Officer heading prosecution shall keep a note of the progress of trial

Trial court while framing schedule shall make sure that the trial is concluded preferably within 18 months from presentation of challan and not later than 12 months from the date charges are framed

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