State of Bihar Vs. Uma Shankar
Ketriwal & Ors  INSC 238 (18 December 1980)
FAZALALI, SYED MURTAZA
CITATION: 1981 AIR 641 1981 SCR (2) 402 1981
SCC (1) 75
RF 1992 SC1701 (30)
Criminal trial-Prosecution commenced in the
year 1963- Continuing in 1979-High Court quashing proceedings as an abuse of
the process of court- Order whether valid-Limit to period for criminal
litigation to continue at trial stage- Necessity of.
A case was initiated through a report lodged
with the police on the 9th April, 1960 that the respondent's firm had
misappropriated a large quantity of G. C. Sheets meant for distribution to
quota and sub-quota holders. After investigation, a police report was submitted
on the 23rd December 1962 to the Magistrate, who took cognizance of the case on
the 25th January, 1963. Charges were framed against the respondents under
section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act on 15th September, 1967. The
progress of the case thereafter was very tardy.
In 1979, the respondents made two
applications to the High Court for quashing the proceedings initiated against
them. The High Court allowed them on the ground that the police report did not
disclose any offence against any of the respondents and that as the prosecution
commenced in the year 1963 was still going on in 1979; it would be an abuse of
the process of the Court to allow the prosecution to continue any further.
In the appeal by the State to this Court, it
was contended that the finding about the police report not disclosing any
offence was erroneous and that the delay in the conclusion of the trial was not
a justification for quashing the proceedings.
Dismissing the appeal
HELD: 1. There has to be a limit to the
period for which criminal litigation is allowed to go on at the trial stage.
2. The present case is not a proper one for
interference inspite of the fact that the allegations disclose the commission
of an offence which is quite serious. [404E] In the instant case the trial has
not made much headway even though no less than 20 years have gone by. Such
protraction itself means considerable harassment to the accused not only
monetarily but also by way of constant attention to the case and repeated
appearances in court, apart from anxiety. [404C-D]
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 699 of 1980.
Appeal by Special Leave from the Judgment and
Order dated 6-11-1979 of Patna High Court in Criminal Misc. Nos. 3679 and
403 K. G. Bhagat and D. Goburdhan for the Appellant.
S. C. Misra, M. P. Jha and A. K. Jha for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KOSHAL, J. This is an appeal by special leave against an order dated the 6th
November, 1979 of a learned Single Judge of the Patna High Court quashing the
entire proceedings in a criminal case against the 7 respondents who were facing
a charge under section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act in the Court of a
Magistrate at Bhagalpur.
2. The case was initiated through a report
lodged with the police on the 9th of April 1960 with the allegation that the
respondents' firm which held a licence for dealing in iron and steel had
misappropriated a large quantity of G.C.
sheets meant for distribution to quota and
sub-quota holders. After investigation a police report was submitted on the
23rd December 1962 to a Bhagalpur Magistrate who took cognizance of the case on
the 25th January 1963. However, the charge against the respondents was framed
as late as 15th September 1967 and since then the progress of the case was very
tardy as the orders passed therein were challenged in appeals or on the
revisional side from time to time.
Ultimately in 1979 the respondents made two
applications to the High Court praying that the proceedings against them be
quashed and the same were accepted through the impugned order. The High Court
held for various reasons that the police report did not disclose any offence
against any of the respondents. Another reason for accepting the two
applications may be stated in the words of the learned Single Judge:
"Another important aspect of the matter
is that the prosecution commenced in the year 1963 and it is still going on in
1979. It is true that the accused persons themselves are partly blamed for this
delay because several revision applications have been filed at their instance
in the High Court and in the district court. The situation, however, continues
to be unjustified because the last revision application was some time disposed
in 1973 and the record was returned in 1974. This fact has been stated by the
learned counsel for the petitioners and five years have elapsed since then. I
am told that four witnesses have been examined and the last witness was
examined in April, 1979 and after that no witness has been examined. It has
been stated in the order sheet that prosecution is not in a position to know
the address of the witnesses who are mostly Government Officials. Luxury of
protracted trial cannot be allowed to the 404 prosecution. If they did not know
the address of their own witnesses and if the prosecution was not in a position
to conclude its evidence by now it will be an abuse of the process of the court
to allow the prosecution go on any further."
3. Learned counsel for the appellant State
has challenged the impugned order not only on the ground that its finding about
the police report not disclosing any offence against the respondents was
erroneous but also with the argument that the delay in the conclusion of the
trial was not a justification for quashing the proceedings. We have heard him
at length and although there is much to be said against the impugned order in
so far as the finding about the police report is concerned, we cannot lose
sight of the fact that the trial has not made much headway even though no less
than 20 years have gone by. Such protraction itself means considerable
harassment to the accused not only monetarily but also by way of constant
attention to the case and repeated appearances in court, apart from anxiety. It
may well be that the respondents themselves were responsible in a large measure
for the slow pace of the case inasmuch as quite a few orders made by the trial
magistrate were challenged in higher courts, but then there has to be a limit
to the period for which criminal litigation is allowed to go on at the trial
stage. In this view of the matter we do not consider the present case a proper
one for our interference in spite of the fact that we feel that the allegations
disclosed the commission of an offence which we regard as quite serious.
4. For the reasons stated we dismiss the
N.V.K. Appeal dismissed.