Justice Hurried Is Justice Buried: Delhi HC Slams Trial Judge's 'Super-Fast' Procedure In Murder Trial [Read Judgment]

Justice Hurried Is Justice Buried: Delhi HC Slams Trial Judge

The Delhi High Court, on Monday, came down heavily on a Trial Court Judge for rushing through a trial involving allegations of serious offences like murder and unnatural sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Noting that the Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) had allowed examination of "disproportionately" large number of prosecution witnesses on a single day, the Bench comprising Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta observed,

"The Court finds merit in the contention of counsel for the Appellants that grave prejudice was caused to the accused by the above 'super-fast' track procedure adopted by the learned trial Judge. The Court is unable to appreciate why the learned trial Judge considered it necessary to rush through the prosecution evidence in a case of this nature and how she failed to realise that it would result in a grave miscarriage of justice. Justice hurried is justice buried."

The Court was hearing two Appeals challenging an order passed in October, 2014 by the ASJ, wherein the accused had been sentenced to life imprisonment for kidnapping, murdering and having unnatural intercourse with a 14 year old boy.

Examining the case, the High Court noted that while the prosecution had examined 24 witnesses in total, 22 of them had been examined on the very first day of trial. Deprecating the Trial Court for examining too many witnesses in a single day, the Court observed,

"At the outset, the Court is constrained to observe that this is yet another case where the learned ASJ who conducted the trial and delivered the impugned judgment has, not for the first time, in her enthusiasm for speeding up the trial process, committed a serious error by examining a disproportionately large number of prosecution witnesses (PWs) on a single day."

The Court then noted that it had come across several such cases involving the same Judge, wherein she had conducted the trial in a similar manner, fixing one date for presentation of the entire prosecution evidence, despite the allegations in such cases being of serious nature. It observed that this deprives the defence counsel of requisite time for preparation for such examination.

The Court went on to advice Trial Courts to provide sufficient time to the defence for their cross-examination, observing, "Although the mandate in the Cr PC is to conduct the trial on a day to day basis, it would be an extreme proposition that the entire prosecution evidence is recorded on a single day in such cases involving grave offences. While it is necessary for the trial Court to be vigilant against defence tactics that might seek to unreasonably postpone the trial and use the interregnum to win over witnesses, it would be an over-reaction to have the entire prosecution evidence of as many as 22 witnesses recorded on a single day.

In a case where the defendants face charges that are punishable with the death sentence and particularly where they are represented by legal aid counsel, the trial Court should exercise some caution as well as restraint to ensure that the counsel has sufficient time to prepare for the cross-examination. It must be realised, that counsel may have to consult the accused who is represented before putting specific questions to a witness. This requires some time and privacy and cannot be expected to happen in the court room in front of the judge."

The Court, however, cautioned that a case by case approach should be taken while deciding how many witnesses should be examined in a day.

It then went on to scrutinize the chain of events and ruled out allegations of unnatural sex with the deceased, observing, "Significantly, as regards the rectum and genital organs the remark was that no abnormality was detected (NAD). The medical evidence, therefore did not support the conclusion drawn by the trial court that forced carnal intercourse was either performed or even attempted on the deceased. Therefore, while the medical evidence was proof of the circumstance of homicidal death by strangulation, it was a negative proof of the offence under Section 377 IPC."

The Court, thereafter, ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove the case with regard to other charges as well, observing, "The circumstances proved do not form a complete chain. Those that have not been satisfactorily proved or not proved make it difficult for the Court to conclude that the circumstances proved point unerringly to the guilt only of the two accused and no one else. It is trite that suspicion howsoever strong cannot substitute proof."

It then opined that there had been a "miscarriage of justice as a result of the manner of conducting the trial by the earned trial Judge" and set aside the impugned order, directing the accused to be released forthwith.

Read the Judgment Here