The Delhi High Court has observed that if the period of deprivation pending trial or disposal of criminal appeal becomes unduly long, the fairness assured by Article 21 of the Constitution of India would receive a jolt.
Justice Chandra Dhari Singh further added that the delay in disposal of criminal appeals pending in the High Court is matter of serious concern to all those involved in the administration of criminal justice.
"It is conceded that some amount of deprivation of personal liberty cannot be avoided, but if the period of deprivation pending trial/disposal of criminal appeal becomes unduly long, the fairness assured by Article 21 would receive a jolt," the Court observed.
The Court also noted that in its 41st Report, the Law Commission had observed that the Criminal Appeals should be heard at earliest by the High Court to avoid miscarriage of justice and to secure a uniform standard in dealing with such criminal appeals.
"Delay in the context of justice denotes the time consumed in the disposal of case, in excess of the time within which a case can be reasonably expected to be decided by the Court. No one expects a case to be decided overnight. However, difficulty arises when the actual time taken for disposal of the case for exceeds its expected life span and that is when we say there is a delay in dispensation of justice," the Court said further.
The Court allowed a criminal appeal against the impugned judgment and order dated 9th January, 2007 and 15th January, 2007 passed by Trial Court whereby the appellant was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years and a fine of Rs. 5000 in default, rigorous imprisonment for three months under sec. 366 of the IPC, rigorous imprisonment for two years and a fine of Rs. 5000 in default, rigorous imprisonment for three months under sec. 506 of IPC. All the sentences were directed to run concurrently.
The prosecution case was that on 25th September, 1998, the daughter of the complainant aged about 15 years left the house for purchasing fruits and vegetables but she did not return home. A missing report was lodged on 26th September, 1998. On 28th September, 1998, an FIR was registered on the basis of the said complaint. After completion of investigation, chargesheet was filed against the accused persons, including the present appellant.
The Court noted that as per the prosecution, the role assigned to appellant was that he went to the house of the prosecutrix and told her that her friend was calling her at bus stand. Furthermore, it was also noted that at the statement of the appellant, she accompanied him and went to the bus stand, but, she did not find her friend there.
It was also noted that no document was placed by the prosecution to prove the age of the prosecutrix.
"The learned Trial Court gave observation that according to the ossification test, she was more than 16 years but less than 18 years. But even, if it is to be taken that she was 18 years on the day of commission of offence, it is well settled principle of law that if two views are possible then the one favouring the accused be followed. Therefore, the age of the prosecutrix at the time of incident was not below 18 years," it said.
The Court was of the view that the FIR was lodged by the complainant after an inordinate and unexplained delay of three days which renders the FIR in this case wholly unreliable.
"The delay in lodging the FIR corrodes the credibility of the prosecution story. The Hon'ble Supreme Court in several cases held that delay in loading the FIR creates a doubt, if the said delay is not properly explained," the Court observed.
The Court observed that the findings of the trial court were decipherably strained in favour of the prosecution by overlooking many irreconcilable inconsistencies, anomalies and omissions rendering the prosecution case unworthy of credit.
It also said that the prosecution had failed to prove the charge against the appellant to the hilt as obligated in law and thus, he was entitled to the benefit of doubt.
"Keeping in view the above facts and circumstances, the criminal appeal filed by the appellant is allowed and the impugned order/judgment dated 9th January, 2007 and order on sentence dated 15th January, 2007 passed by learned Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi is set aside. The appellant is acquitted for the offences punishable under Sections 366/506/34 of the IPC," the Court held.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed.
Title: JASBIR SINGH v. STATE
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 447