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Convict Awarded Sentence Lesser Than His Period Of Detention As Undertrial: Chhattisgarh High Court Orders Compensation

Akshita Saxena
19 Jun 2021 9:01 AM GMT
Convict Awarded Sentence Lesser Than His Period Of Detention As Undertrial: Chhattisgarh High Court Orders Compensation
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Holding that denial of right to speedy trial to an accused is a "grave miscarriage of justice", the Chhattisgarh High Court has ordered the State Law Ministry and the Director General of Police to compensate a criminal offender who was awarded lesser sentence than the period already spent by him in the prison as an undertrial. "It is quite vivid that the petitioner remained in...

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Holding that denial of right to speedy trial to an accused is a "grave miscarriage of justice", the Chhattisgarh High Court has ordered the State Law Ministry and the Director General of Police to compensate a criminal offender who was awarded lesser sentence than the period already spent by him in the prison as an undertrial.

"It is quite vivid that the petitioner remained in jail as under­trial for a period of 4 years, 6 months and 7 days, whereas he has been awarded punishment of 3 years for offences under Section 420/34 and Section 120B of the IPC," a Single Bench of Justice Sanjay K. Agrawal observed.

It noted that the accused remained in jail in excess (one year and six months) for more than the sentence awarded by concerned trial Magistrate, on account of delay in conducting the trial, despite two reminders by the High Court for concluding the trial expeditiously.

In this backdrop, the Single Judge allowed the Petitioner's application for compensation and awarded an amount of Rs. 1.87L (calculated at semi-sSkilled labour rate) with 6% interest.

"Right to speedy trial may not be expressly guaranteed constitutional right in India, but it is implicit in right to fair trial which has been held to be part of right to life and liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

…the right to speedy trial in criminal case is valuable and important right of the accused therein and its violation would result in denial of justice and that would result in grave miscarriage of justice," the High Court observed.

Reliance was placed on the Supreme Court's verdict in Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar, where a writ petition seeking compensation for illegal detention in jail for over 14 years was allowed and it was held that the only effective remedy open to the judiciary to prevent violation of the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is payment of compensation.

The High Court also referred to the case of Pankaj Kumar v. State of Maharashtra, where it was held that if the Court comes to a conclusion that the right to speedy trial of an accused has been infringed, the charges or the conviction may be quashed unless, the court feels that having regard to the nature of offence and other relevant circumstances, quashing of proceedings may not be in the interest of justice. In such a situation, it is open to the court to make an appropriate order as it may deem just.

In this case, the Petitioner had remained in jail 14.5.2012 till the date of delivery of judgment i.e. 08.11.2016 i.e. for 4 years, 6 months and 7 days, whereas was awarded sentence for three years.

He claimed to have made several applications for grant of regular bail but all were rejected, and no steps were taken for expeditious conclusion of his trial. He claimed compensation of ₹ 30 lacks for his said illegal detention for about 1 year, 6 months and 8 days.

The State on the other hand argued that the Petitioner was convicted for a serious offence of cheating and even otherwise, the Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the trial could not be concluded at the earliest due to fault of the respondents.

It was also been pleaded that detention of the Petitioner was judicial custody in accordance with law and the procedure established by law, as such, the same cannot be termed as illegal detention.

The High Court observed,

"It is well established by catena of decisions that if the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India has been denied by illegal action of the State or its officers, the person concerned is entitled for compensation, though loss to personal liberty cannot be compensated in terms of money.

In conclusion, it is held that right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and for its breach or violation, the petitioner is entitled for monetary compensation from the respondents who are responsible for its breach. It is held accordingly."

Case Title: Nitin Aryan @ Satish Kumar Sonwani v. State Of Chhattisgarh

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