“Justice delayed is justice denied andjustice hurried, justice buried” Both are true but till when can you wait?
The constitution of India is one of the longest written constitutions of the world where powers are divided into three pillars of government executive, legislation and judiciary. Judiciary is a final resortfor the protector of justice, human rightsthe final resort for the administration of justice, and the people of India look towards it withgreat respect and eternal hope. This places a heavy burden on the entire judicial system to live up to the expectations placed in it and to keep the sacred aura attached to it untainted.
The Courts bear enormous responsibility as a result of their role as the judiciary. The judicial system’s dynamism and innovativeness are equally important to the nation’s development. As a result, there is an urgent need to ensure that no justice is delayed and that the current situation is resolved as soon as possible and there comes right to a speedy trial.One of the fundamental human rights is the right to a speedy trial because, without it, justice cannot be said to be served. Almost all international charters and conventions have endorsed it. Despite the increased dependence on the courts, substantial portions of the public are unable to use it due to issues such as poverty, a lack of understanding, and social and societal inequality. The grounds for the vast pendency and delay in disposal include a lack of infrastructure, literacy, confidence in the system, accessibility, resources, the influence of law, living standards, and new dimensions to relationships, large population, less than sufficient courts, judge strength that is disproportionate to the population, a lack of ministerial manpower.
WHAT IS A SPEEDY TRIAL AND ITS HISTORY
A “speedy” trial means that the offender gets tried for the accused offences within a reasonable period after being apprehended. However, many states have statutes dictating how long a trial must go once charges are filed, whether or not a trial is “speedy” enough under the law typically depends on the facts of the case and the reasons for any delays. In the most severe cases, where a judge judges that the wait between arrest and trial was unjustified and harmful to the defendant, the case is dismissed entirely.
The constitutional provision of a speedy trial is essential protection to prevent excessive and oppressive confinement before trial; to reduce the anxiety that comes with public accusation, and to limit the possibility that extended delays may harm an accused’s capacity to defend himself.
The right to a speedy trial is originally recognized in the Magna Carta, a historic instrument of English law. Despite the fact that the constitutional theory promoted as the right to a speedy trial has been there for about two and a half decades, the objective desired to be accomplished remains a long way off. It is a notion that deals with the expeditious disposition of cases to make the courts more efficient and to provide justice as quickly as feasible.
In Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, the Supreme Court notes that a speedy trial is a necessary component of a “reasonable, fair, and just system”. Article 21 states that “no one shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty unless in accordance with the legal procedure”.
While hearing the bail petition in Babu Singh v. the State of UP, Justice Krishna Iyer commented, “Even in the most serious instances, our justice system suffers from the slow-motion syndrome, which is fatal to a fair trial, regardless of the final judgement. Speedy justice is a component of social justice since the society as a whole is concerned with the criminal being treated with dignity and eventually punished within a reasonable time frame and the innocent being spared the anguish of criminal procedures”. Moreover, the court had held that speedy trial is a fundamental right in Sheela Barse v. Union of India.
“VIOLATION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL IS A GROUND FOR CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO GRANT BAIL IN UAPA CASES”: SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court of India in the case of Union of India v. K. A. Najeeb declared that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 does not restrict constitutional courts from giving bail on the grounds of violation of basic rights under the Constitution, and thus, upheld the bail granted to an accused prosecuted under the UAPA. The bench comprised of N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose.
The Supreme Court ruled that Section 43(D)(5) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) which says that“a person accused of an offence under Chapters IV and VI of the UAPA (terrorism and belonging to a terrorist organization) shall not be released on bail if the court, after perusing the case diary and police report, is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true”. Per-se, this would not prevent the Constitutional Courts from issuing bail based on a violation of the Fundamental Right to Speedy Justice.
K.A. Najeeb, a member of a fundamentalist organisation, was accused in 2010 of instigating an attack on Professor TJ Joseph in Thodupuzha, Kerala. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) detained Najeeb for the first time in 2015 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). After further investigation, according to records, the attack was part of a bigger conspiracy including extensive pre-planning, multiple failed attempts, and the use of hazardous weaponry.
In bail cancellation, the Court said at the beginning that there is a clear contrast between the limits to be considered when examining a bail application and those relevant when assessing a petition for its cancellation.“Bail once granted by the trial Court could be cancelled by the same Court only in case of new circumstances/evidence, failing which, it would be necessary to approach the Higher Court exercising appellate jurisdiction.”
In this case, High Court granted the bail because of the extended term of confinement and the improbability of the trial being concluded anytime soon, the court used its discretion to grant bail. The High Court’s grounds may be traced back to Article 21 of our Constitution, without addressing the legislative embargo introduced by Section 43-D (5) of UAPA.
Supreme Court of India did not act any differently, in this case, they examined that the respondent had already in prison for even longer than five years and there are still 276 witnesses to be questioned. Supreme court ruled: “Given that two-thirds of such incarceration is already complete, it appears that the respondent has already paid heavily for his acts of fleeing from justice.” And held that “the presence of statutory restrictions like Section 43-D (5) of UAPA per-se does not oust the ability of Constitutional Courts to grant bail on grounds of violation of Part III of the Constitution.”
“Owing to the practicalities of real-life were to secure an effective trial and to ameliorate the risk to society in case a potential criminal is left at large pending trial, Courts are tasked with deciding whether an individual ought to be released pending trial or not. Once it is obvious that a time trial would not be possible and the accused has suffered incarceration for a significant period of time, Courts would ordinarily be obligated to enlarge them on bail.”
Furthermore, the Court observed that Section 43D(5) of the UAPA is less restrictive than Section 37 of the NDPS. Unlike the NDPS, where the competent court must be convinced that the accused is not guilty prima facie and is not likely to commit another offence while on bail, there is no such need under the UAPA. Instead, Section 43D (5) of the UAPA merely adds another possible reason for the competent Court to refuse bail, in addition to the well established considerations such as the gravity of the offence, the possibility of tampering with evidence, influencing witnesses, or the accused evading the trial through absconsion, and so on.
Although the Court took into consideration that the charges levelled against the respondent are grave and pose a serious threat to societal harmony, the High Court appears to have been left with no other option than to grant bail, given the length of time he has been in custody and the improbability of the trial being completed anytime soon. As a result, the Court upheld the decision of the High Court, attempting to strike a balance between the appellant’s right to lead evidence of its choosing and establish the charges beyond all doubt, while also ensuring that the respondent’s rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution were well protected.
Author’s Name: Shreya Sharma (NMIMS Bangalore)
- Mr Kamal Kumar Arya, RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL AND MERCY PETITIONS IN INDIA, Bharati Law Review, Jan. – Mar., 2016http://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/BA797A43-0B75-4EB2-A2D6-1DA716E0A99E.pdf
- Apoorva Mandhani, UAPA doesn’t stop courts from granting bail when fundamental rights are violated, SC says, The Print (June 12, 2021, 11:45 PM), https://theprint.in/judiciary/uapa-doesnt-stop-courts-from-granting-bail-when-fundamental-rights-are-violated-sc-says/597133/
- The Leaflet, Constitutional Courts can grant bail to accused under UAPA on grounds of fundamental rights violations: SC,(June 14 2021, 12:15 AM), https://www.theleaflet.in/constitutional-courts-can-grant-bail-to-accused-under-uapa-on-grounds-of-fundamental-rights-violations-sc/
 Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, AIR 1978 SC 579.
 India Const. art. 21.
 Babu Singh v. State of UP, AIR 1977 SC 2147, 2148.
 Sheela Barse v. Union of India, AIR 1986 SC 1773.
 Union of India v. K. A. Najeeb, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 50.
 The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, No. 37, Acts of Parliament, 1967.
 The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, § 43(D)(5), No. 37, Acts of Parliament, 1967.