Speedy justice doesn’t mean rash injustice to victim: High Court

K.T. Sangameswaran

CHENNAI: Speedy trial is not only a human right but also a fundamental right of an accused; at the same time, speedy justice does not mean rash injustice to the victim of crime for non-production of prosecution witnesses by the police, the Madras High Court has said.

Allowing a revision challenging the acquittal of an accused in a case, Justice S. Nagamuthu observed that while considering the prosecution case for acquitting the accused on grounds of delay in producing witnesses, “the courts are expected to have cautious approach to ensure that the ultimate ends of justice are not allowed to be defeated by the indifferent/wilful attitude of the prosecuting agency/police.”

Petitioner Kavitha said charges were framed against a person for cheating and criminal intimidation, and summons issued to her and her mother. As they did not appear, non-bailable warrants (NBWs) were issued against them in August last year. Though the case was listed for hearing on three dates, witnesses were not produced by the prosecution.

The Judicial Magistrate acquitted the accused on August 28, 2009. The All Women Police Station, Coimbatore East, did not prefer any appeal. Aggrieved, Kavitha filed the revision.

The petitioner submitted that the summons were never served on them. They were not aware of the warrants against them.

The Additional Public Prosecutor submitted that the trial court was not right in acquitting the accused. Counsel for the accused opposed the revision.

Mr. Justice Nagamuthu said every endeavour should be made by the court to impel the prosecution to produce witnesses and all steps, including coercive ones, should be taken. Though NBWs had been issued, obviously, they had not been executed. The police did not inform the court as to why the warrants could not be executed.

Mr. Justice Nagamuthu said the court’s duty did not end with mere issue of process to the witnesses. If an arrest warrant had not been executed, it was the police officer’s duty to report to the court as to why the warrant could not be executed.

In the present case, obviously, no such report was submitted.

The court should not have closed the evidence and acquitted the accused as that would amount to denial of justice to crime victims. The court had not even taken care to verify from the police as to why warrants had not been executed.

Setting aside the acquittal order, Mr. Justice Nagamuthu remitted the matter to the JM for trial. He directed the police to produce witnesses promptly before trial court so that the case could be disposed of in six months.

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