A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice A.K. Goel , while allowing the appeal in the case of Sirajul & Ors. v. The State of U.P. & Anr. (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.854 OF 2011) held that though right to speedy trial is a Fundamental Right, mere delay is by itself not ground to quash criminal proceedings.
The Court was hearing a petition challenging a judgment of the Allahabad High Court through which the Court had declined to quash the order of summons and criminal complaint against the petitioner.
According to the appellants, the complaint and the proceedings were gross abuse of process of the Court having been filed after gross delay of 16 years after the incident. A case under Section 307 of IPC (attempt to murder) was filed against the appellants in 2008, for an incident that allegedly occurred in 1992.
The High Court had dismissed the petition for quashing of criminal complaint on the ground that allegation in the complaint and preliminary evidence led in support thereof made out a case for summoning and thus no case for quashing was made out.
The appellants had prayed for quashing the complaint and the summons on the ground that the complainant kept quiet for 13 years after the incident and since the complaint has been filed after 16 years, the complainant having been convicted in the cross case, the prosecution of the appellants at this stage will be unfair and futile.
The complainant had submitted that the bar of limitation does not apply beyond the statutory bar under Section 468 Cr.P.C. They submitted that a criminal offence is a wrong against the society even though committed against an individual and thus the prosecution cannot be thrown out merely on the ground of delay.
While considering various precedents on the subject, the Court observed, “Mere delay in completion of proceedings may not be by itself a ground to quash proceedings where offences are serious, but the Court having regard to the conduct of the parties, nature of offence and the extent of delay in the facts and circumstances of a given case, quash the proceedings in exercise of jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C. in the interest of justice and to prevent abuse of process of the Court.”
The Court took into consideration the fact that the complainant had been convicted in a cross case. Allowing the appeal, the Court observed, “At least for ten years after commencement of the trial, the complainant did not even bother to seek simultaneous trial of the cross case, the step which was taken for the first time in the year 2005 which could certainly have been taken in the year 1995 itself when the trial against respondent No.2 commenced.”
Read the Judgment here.