Man in jail for 21 years acquitted for case against him not proved beyond reasonable doubt; held issue of pending appeals needs to be looked into urgently

Allahabad High Court: The High Court recently heard a criminal appeal pending since 2005 of an accused person who was in jail for last 21 years. The Division Bench was hearing it against the sentence passed by Sessions judge by which the accused-appellant had been convicted for offence punishable under Section 302 IPC and sentenced to undergo life imprisonment.

The Bench thoroughly went through the facts of the case and observed that 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 and also highlighted the concern of the Apex Court for the same that the procedure as mentioned in Art. 21 of the Constitution of India must be fair, just, reasonable and expedient enough. It cited Sheela Barse  v. Union of India, (1986) 3 SCC 632 : (1986) 3 SCR 562 wherein it has clearly been held that right to speedy trial is a fundamental right implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Court tried to explain the point through right from citing the latest judgments from 2017 to going back to judgments of Privy Council. Chandra Dhari Singh, J. further cited the 41st law Commission Report in which it had been 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.

Further, it noted down that pertaining to the facts of the case in hand, the prosecution has miserably failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, the motive has not been proved and also, the delay in lodging the FIR has also not been explained. Further adding to the circumstances was the fact that 21 years of jail term had already been served by the accused. Hence, the Court decided to acquit the appellant. [Ram Lakhan v. State,  2017 SCC OnLine All 2463, decided on 15.11.2017]

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