“Deferring cross examination for a long time is anathema to the concept of fair trail”: SC directs circulation of judgment among trial Judges

“Deferring cross examination for a long time is anathema to the concept of fair trail”: SC directs circulation of judgment among trial Judges

A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice R.F. Nariman, while dismissing an Appeal and confirming the conviction of the appellant under Prevention of Corruption Act expressed their anguish over the manner in which trials in respect of serious offences relating to corruption are being conducted by the trial courts.

“It is imperative if the examination-in-chief is over, the cross-examination should be completed on the same day. If the examination of a witness continues till late hours the trial can be adjourned to the next day for cross-examination. It is inconceivable in law that the cross-examination should be deferred for such a long time. It is anathema to the concept of proper and fair trial,” the Bench added.

It hence directed that the copies of the judgment should be sent to the High Courts for circulating the same among the learned trial Judges with a command to follow the principles relating to trial in a requisite manner, observing, “Let it be remembered that law cannot allowed to be lonely; a destitute.”

Highlighting the unacceptable practices, the Court noted that adjournments are sought on the drop of a hat by the counsel, even though the witness is present in court, contrary to all principles of holding a trial. That apart, after the examination-in-chief of a witness is over, adjournment is sought for cross-examination and the disquieting feature is that the Trial Courts grant time.

The law requires special reasons to be recorded for grant of time but the same is not taken note of. “If an accused for his benefit takes the trial on the path of total mockery, it cannot be countenanced. The Court has a sacred duty to see that the trial is conducted as per law. If adjournments are granted in this manner it would tantamount to violation of rule of law and eventually turn such trials to a farce. It is legally impermissible and jurisprudentially abominable. The trial courts are expected in law to follow the command of the procedure relating to trial and not yield to the request of the counsel to grant adjournment for non-acceptable reasons,” the Bench observed.

During the trial, one of the witnesses had turned hostile after he was cross-examined after 1 year and 8 months. The delay, according to the Court, had given enough time for prevarication due to many a reason.

This laxity was chided by the Supreme Court, observing that, “A fair trial is to be fair both to the defence and the prosecution as well as to the victim. An offence registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act is to be tried with all seriousness. We fail to appreciate how the learned trial Judge could exhibit such laxity in granting so much time for cross-examination in a case of this nature.”

The Bench said that the cross-examination was deferred for no reason and took place after 20 months, when the witness had all the time in the world to be gained over.

The Court was hearing an Appeal against a judgment of Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh which had affirmed the judgment of a Special Judge, convicting the appellant, Vinod Kumar under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The appellant had allegedly demanded a bride for allowing passage of tractor trolley within the municipal area of Rajpura.

Read the judgment here.