Right to speedy trial: A fundamental right, under trial cases to be treated as “priority sector litigation”

High Court of Jammu and Kashmir: In the recent judgment passed by a Single Judge Bench comprising of M.K. Hanjura, J., addressed a bail application of an under trial prisoner, and directed the trial court for a speedy trial.

The brief facts of the case being that the applicant (a murder convict) has been in police custody for the last 8 years, while his proceedings are still ongoing in the trial court. Thus, aggrieved by the delay, the applicant filed an application for grant of bail in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, with the contention that even after examining 39 out of 49 witnesses nothing has surfaced that would tie the applicant to the actual murder, and further argued that the only important witness has already been proved hostile and all the other testimonies did not support the prosecution’s story. The applicant even contested that the trial court has still not adhered to the High Courts’ order for speedy disposal of cases.

This Court while passing its judgment relied on landmark cases like Narayan Ghosh @ Nanu v. State of Orrisa, Ved Prakash @ Kalu (JC) v. State through the NCT (Delhi), (2007) 1 LR 2 Delhi 176 and State of Tamil Nadu v. S.A. Raja [Criminal Appeal No. 1470 of 2005], and held that bail cannot be granted since the applicant’s proceeding is still ongoing in the trial court, and further directed the trial court to complete the proceedings within 6 weeks because the fate of an accused cannot be left hanging as a “Trishunka” on the absolute discretion of the trial judge, and further held that ‘right to speedy trial is a fundamental right’ available to the accused. Furthermore, the Court directed apropos the cases relating to ‘under trial prisoners’ to be treated and categorized as “priority sector litigation”. [Rajesh Pandoh v. State, 2017 SCC OnLine J&K 859, decided on 30.12.2017]

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