Can writ under Art. 226 Constitution of India be filed for grant of compensation under public law for infringement of fundamental right? Chh HC answers

Chhattisgarh High Court: Sanjay K Agrawal, J., allowed the petition and granted compensation for infringement of right to a speedy trial under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Background

The facts of the case are such that the petitioner herein has filed the instant writ petition stating inter alia that he remained in jail for commission of offence under Sections 420/34 and 120B of Penal Code, 1860 i.e. IPC from 14.5.2012 till the date of delivery of judgment i.e. 08.11.2016 i.e. 4 years, 6 months and 7 days, whereas he has been awarded sentence only for three years for offence under Section 420/34 of the IPC and three years for offence under Section 120B of the IPC and sentences have been directed to run concurrently, as such, it is a clear case where his constitutional right of speedy trial enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India has admittedly been violated and for which he is entitled to appropriate compensation jointly and severally from the respondents.

Submissions

Counsel for the petitioner Ms Reena Singh submitted that that “right to speedy trial” is his fundamental right and on account of non-conclusion of trial within a reasonable time, the petitioner remained in jail for a period more than he has been sentenced now at the conclusion of trial, which is violative of his fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and for which, he is entitled for compensation of ₹ 30 lacks for his said illegal detention for about 1 year, 6 months and 8 days jointly and severally from the respondents.

Counsel for the respondents Mr Jitendra Pali submitted that detention of the petitioner was judicial custody in accordance with law and the procedure established by law, as such, the same cannot be termed as illegal detention and the petitioner. It was further submitted that the petitioner is not entitled for any compensation as his fundamental right of speedy trial has not been violated and he remained in judicial custody till the date of judgment for commission of offence which have been found proved by the trial Court.

Mr Prasoon Agrawal (Amicus Curiae) relied on judgment P. Ramchandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, (2002) 4 SCC 578 submitted that “right to speedy trial” is a fundamental right of an accused under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Observations

  1. The court relied on “Common Cause” v. Union of India, (1996) 4 SCC 33 and observed that it has clearly been established that the right to speedy trial in criminal case is valuable and important right of the accused therein and its violation would result in denial of justice and that would result in grave miscarriage of justice.
  2. The Court relied on judgment Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746 and wherein it was held ” Award of compensation in a proceeding under Article 32 by the Supreme Court or by the High Court under Article 226 is a remedy available in public law, based on strict liability for contravention of fundamental rights to which the principle of sovereign immunity does not apply, even though it may be available as a defence in private law in an action based on tort. A claim in public law for compensation for contravention of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the protection of which is guaranteed in the Constitution, is an acknowledged remedy for enforcement and protection, of such rights, and such a claim based on strict liability made by resorting to a constitutional remedy provided for the enforcement of a fundamental right is distinct from, and in addition to, the remedy in private law for damages for the tort resulting from the contravention of the fundamental right.”

The Court thus observed that this Court in the exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India under public law, can consider and grant compensation to the victim(s) who has suffered an infringement of fundamental right i.e. right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

  1. Right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and for its breach or violation, the petitioner is entitled to monetary compensation from the respondents who are responsible for its breach.
  2. The Court relied on judgment Vijay Kumar Gupta v. State, 2008 SCC OnLine Pat 568 has held that detention of a prisoner in custody in excess of the period that he has been sentenced infringes upon his fundamental right to life and liberty and as such, he is entitled for monetary compensation and further held that both the prosecuting authority and Court remained oblivious of his continuous detention for more than a period, the sentence for any of the offence would have carried.

The Court observed that following the principles of law and reverting to the facts of the present case, it is quite vivid that the petitioner remained in jail as undertrial for a period of 4 years, 6 months and 7 days, whereas he has been awarded punishment of 3 years for offences under Section 420/34 and Section 120B of the IPC (separately) and both sentences to run concurrently, as such, he remained in jail in excess (one year and six months) for more than the sentence awarded by concerned trial Magistrate, on account of delay in conducting the trial, despite twice this Court while hearing bail applications on 22.4.2013 and 24.6.2014 directed the trial Magistrate to conclude the trial expeditiously, which was not taken cognizance of by the learned trial Magistrate by which the petitioner continued in jail for a period more than the actual sentence awarded violating the petitioner’s right to speedy trial guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and for which he is entitled for monetary compensation.

Decision

The Court held the petitioner will be entitled for ₹10,400×18=1,87,200/along with 6% interest from today till the date of payment jointly and severally which respondents No.2 and 4 will deposit within a period of 30 days from today.”

 [Nitin Aryan v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 1636, decided on 07-06-2021]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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