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Report No. 239

Expeditious Investigation and Trial of Criminal Cases Against Influential Public Personalitie.- Submitted to the Supreme Court of India in W.P. (C) No. 341/2004, Virender Kumar Ohri v. Union of India & Others

1. Introductory remarks

1.1 Inordinate delays in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases involving serious offences and in the trial of such cases in the Courts is a blot on justice system. The objective of penal law and the societal interest in setting the criminal law in motion against the offenders with reasonable expedition is thereby frustrated. The adverse effect of delay on the society at large is immeasurable. The fear of law and the faith in the criminal justice system is eroded irretrievably.

1.2 The case referred to in this Writ Petition is an extreme example of the slow-motion of criminal justice process and the extent to which it can be subverted. It unfolds the apparent apathy on the part of all those concerned with administration of criminal justice. The fact that influential political personalities and their henchmen are involved in this case presents an added dimension to the issue and raises questions on the efficacy of the existing systems and practices to counter the moves of such influential persons facing serious criminal charges.

1.3 Public interest demands that the criminal cases especially those related to serious crimes are concluded within a reasonable time so that those guilty are punished. Further, from the point of view of accused also, the right to speedy trial is a fundamental right. People get frustrated in the system if at every stage there is delay and the process of justice is not allowed to take its normal course, more so, when deliberate attempts are made to subvert and delay the process.

Further, with the long passage of time, whatever evidence is there, it will vanish or eclipse. Oral evidence which in most of the cases is vital to the prosecution, will take a devious or distorted course. Hostile witnesses and witnesses with faded memories will be writ large in the system, with the long passage of time. Heavy reliance on oral evidence has telling drawbacks. Lack of expertise and sustained effort in investigation and non-utilization of scientific methods of investigation is resulting in low rate of convictions and even implication of innocent accused persons.

1.4 Before the specifics of the problem are discussed, it would be useful to refer to certain data touching on the general scenario of criminal justice in the country with special reference to the cases pending in the District and Subordinate (D&S) courts.

1.5 The total number of criminal cases pending before D&S Courts is about 1.90 crore (190 lakh) cases, about 82¼ lakhs civil cases are pending. That means, the number of criminal cases is about 2 ½ times more than civil cases. The largest number of criminal cases are from the States of UP, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar, Rajasthan and Odisha.1

In 12 States, out of which there are eight major States, the disposals are less than the institutions. However, on the whole, the institutions and disposals are almost matching in the year 2010. Out of the pending criminal cases, about 25% of the cases are pending for five years and more in many States.

1. Data received from High Courts

1.6 At the end of the year 2010, 72.58 lakh cognizable criminal cases under IPC were pending trial1 and 48.54 lakh cognizable criminal cases under Special and Local Laws were pending trial.2 Trials were concluded in about 55.88 lakh cases (both IPC & SLL cases) during that year.

1. Table 4.9, Crimes in India, 2010 Statistics, published by National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

2. Ibid, Table 4.13

1.7 According to the data compiled by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in its Publication relating to the year 2010, over 1.78 crore cognizable criminal cases, including cases registered under IPC and special/local laws (SLL), were pending for trial at the beginning of 2010 in various criminal courts.1 67.51 lakh cognizable crimes comprising 22.25 lakh IPC Crimes and 45.26 lakh crimes under SLL were reported in 2010. 2 The figures relating to cases pending trial do not apparently tally with the statistics shown in 'Court News' published by Supreme Court and the data furnished by the High Courts to Law Commission of India and this aspect is being rechecked.

1. Ibid, Tales 4.9 and 4.13

2. Ibid, Figures At A Glanc.- 2010

1.8 6330 cases have been pending investigation from previous year under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PoCA) & related sections of the IPC in 2010 and 3822 cases were registered during the year. Therefore, a total of 10152 cases were pending investigation in 2010 out of which chargesheet was filed for 2929 cases.1 In relation to these cases, 4578 persons were chargesheeted. Trial was completed for 3379 persons, out of whom 891 persons were convicted. Hence, the conviction rate vis-à-vis persons accused under PoCA in 2009 is 26.4%.2

1. Ibid, Table 9.1

2. Ibid, Table 9.2

1.9 Conviction rate in 2010 for violent crimes such as attempt to commit murder, rape, riots etc., is 27.7%. Conviction rate for crimes against women (IPC and SLL cases) for 2010 is 27.8%.1 Conviction rate for all cognizable cases under IPC is 40.7%.2

1. Ibid, Figures At A Glanc.- 2010

2. Ibid, Table 4.11

1.10 In the State of Jharkhand (which needs special mention as specific reference has been made to that State in this W.P.), about 2.41 lakh criminal cases are pending. The total pendency of Civil and Crl. Cases in that State is about 2.93 lakh. Out of the Criminal cases, 60,500 including sessions cases are more than five years old.1 There were as many as 192 vacancies in District & Subordinate Judiciary in the State of Jharkhand as on 31 ST December, 2010.

1. Data received from High Court of Jharkhand

1.11 Year to year, the trend of increase in pendency of criminal cases including old cases is noticed except in a few States.

1.12 The total number of Jails (upto 2009) is 1374 and the total capacity of all jails in India is 3,07,052. However, the total number of inmates as on 31.12.2009 are 3,76,969. This shows that the number of jail inmates far exceeds the capacity of the jails in India. Out of them, 2,50,204 inmates representing 66.4% of the jail population are undertrial prisoners. Among them, the highest percentage (20%) of undertrials were charged with murder. 2422 (1%) undertrials were detained in jails for more than 5 years at the end of the year 2009.1

1. Snapshot.- 2009, Prison Statistics India 2009, National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs,

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