Legal experts differ with Jethmalani

NEW DELHI, JULY 20. Eminent lawyers totally differ with the Union Law Minister, Mr. Ram Jethmalani, that there was time bar in prosecuting the Shiv Sena leader, Mr. Bal Thackeray.

(Mr. Jethmalani had stated on Wednesday that the Maharashtra Government could not prosecute Mr. Thackeray as the case was time-barred.)

Refuting Mr. Jethmalani's argument, senior lawyers said there was no time limit for initiation of prosecution in any criminal case. It was for the court to accept or reject the filing of the case depending on the facts and circumstances and the material placed before the court. Also if the instigation of a person resulted in the loss of lives, then there could be no time limit for prosecuting the case against him.

Mr. U.R. Lalit, senior Supreme Court advocate and expert in criminal law, said ``there is no absolute time limit for prosecuting a criminal case. There is a specific provision in Cr.P.C. under which the court can permit prosecution of a case looking into the given circumstances and material placed before it. The court can always condone the delay and it is left to the court's discretion to do so or not''.

Mr. P.P. Rao, senior Supreme Court advocate and expert in criminal law, said ``there is no time limit which can bar the court from taking up a criminal case''. He cited a Supreme Court ruling which said ``time limit does not take away the jurisdiction of the court to allow prosecution of a case''.

He described the threat by Sena leaders as a challenge to the rule of law. Stating that nobody was above law, Mr. Rao was of the view that ``those who agitate feel that they have a strong case, they can move the High Court to get the FIR quashed''.

Meanwhile, the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley, has said that the case against Mr. Thackeray was time-barred as it had to be filed within three years. He questioned the motive behind the Maharashtra Government's decision to prosecute Mr. Thackeray. Talking to reporters in Shimla, he said the decision must be supported by solid reasons, but now it appeared to be guided by considerations other than the mandate of law.