7 Jan 2023 6:11 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court has advised trial court judges to pay “special attention” and “show sensitivity” in cases where accused persons are languishing in jails as undertrials and also where they may be rendered remediless.Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed that although criminal courts are duty bound to consider rights of the victim, they cannot overlook or brush aside the rights of...
The Delhi High Court has advised trial court judges to pay “special attention” and “show sensitivity” in cases where accused persons are languishing in jails as undertrials and also where they may be rendered remediless.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed that although criminal courts are duty bound to consider rights of the victim, they cannot overlook or brush aside the rights of an accused or a convict.
“A person who gets convicted has a statutory right to challenge the conviction in a higher court as well as seek suspension of sentence. However, such statutory right can only be exercised once the order on sentence is also pronounced by the Court concerned, as sentence is a part of the judgment in a trial,” the court said.
It was also observed that where a court takes an accused into custody after pronouncement of the judgment and adjourns the matter to a long date for hearing on the point of sentencing, a valuable right of the convict remains suspended, as the person can neither challenge the conviction nor seek suspension of sentence and bail.
“A copy of this judgment be circulated by the learned Registrar General of this Court to all the District Courts in Delhi and be also sent to the learned Director (Academy), Delhi Judicial Academy for the purpose of sensitizing judges dealing with the criminal cases that they need to pay special attention and show sensitivity in cases where accused(s) languish in jail as under trials and also those cases and circumstances wherein the accused at times may be rendered remediless, so that the lapses which are against the principles of natural justice and criminal justice system do not occur,” the court ordered.
The court was dealing with a plea moved by various convicts seeking their release from judicial custody till the pronouncement of order of sentence pending before the trial court.
The FIR was registered in 2021 for various offences including kidnapping and robbery. They were convicted by the trial court on November 25, 2022 under sections 363 (punishment for kidnapping) and 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) of IPC. As they were taken into custody immediately thereafter, the trial court adjourned the matter for hearing arguments on sentence to February 4, 2023.
It was thus the petitioners’ case that they were in judicial custody since November 25, 2022 and that there is no provision in Cr.P.C to challenge the judgment without passing of order on sentence. It was also submitted that they had altogether remained in judicial custody as undertrial prisoners for around four months.
Noting that it was a case where the convicts were taken into custody at the time of pronouncement of judgment of conviction, the court said that in such a case, the petitioners were remediless to either challenge their conviction or seek suspension of sentence and grant of bail, till the time order on sentence was passed.
“It seems that the learned Trial Court has totally ignored the valuable right of speedy trial to the accused. It is the duty of the courts to ensure that the rights of the victim and of the accused are balanced. No doubt, striking a balance is a delicate task, however, the canons of criminal justice system so demand that an accused who is in judicial custody as well as any other person facing criminal trial, especially, those who are in judicial custody be given speedy trial by ensuring early hearings,” the court said.
The court also noted that while the petitioners were taken into custody on the same day of their conviction, neither reasons for the same nor the fact that they were taken into judicial custody was mentioned in the order sheet.
“It is reflected only through this Writ Petition, that the accused persons are in judicial custody, whereas the judicial record of the learned Trial Court does not reflect the same. This amounts to a serious lapse on the part of learned Trial Court. The courts have to remain conscious of the fact that taking a person into judicial custody is taking away a valuable right of a person,” the court said.
Justice Sharma also took exception to the directions of the trial court asking the convicts to file their affidavit of income and assets on the same day of the conviction and also to DSLSA for verifying the same “on or before the next date of hearing.”
Observing that the said direction was against the ruling of High Court’s full bench in Karan v. State NCT of Delhi, the court noted that as per the said decision, DSLSA has to assess the paying capacity of the accused, prepare the Victim Impact Report and file the same within a period of 30 days of conviction.
The court said that the trial courts are obliged to issue specific directions on the same day when the judgment of conviction is pronounced with respect to filing of affidavit by the accused and filing of cost of prosecution by State and Victim Impact Report by DSLSA within specified time period.
The court also said that the period of 10 days or 30 days as mentioned in the said judgment “is the maximum period and not the minimum time period.”
“To elaborate, the period of 10 days for filing of affidavit of income and assets by the accused is the outer limit for filing the same, and similarly, assessing the paying capacity of accused and filing of Victim Impact Report by DSLSA, and filing of cost of prosecution by State within 30 days is also the outer time limit,” the court said.
Justice Sharma concluded that the trial court failed to follow the timeline for filing of affidavits by convicts and State, Victim Impact Report, as well as summoning the victims, adding that the said documents could have been called for within a shorter period of time as the petitioners were taken into custody after pronouncement of judgment of conviction and were therefore rendered remediless.
“The long date of 70 days given for hearing arguments on sentence was not reasonable, since the accused persons had been taken into custody,” the court added.
Cancelling the date fixed of February 4 for hearing arguments on sentence, the court directed the parties to appear before the trial court on January 9.
The court added that the trial court shall take up the matter for hearing on the said date and shall call for the reports expeditiously and also fix earliest possible date to hear arguments on sentence as per law.
Title: MR. SAAD AHMED SIDDIQUI (IN J.C.) & ORS. v. THE STATE (GOVT. OF NCT OF DELHI)
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 12
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