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Report No. 213

4. Right to Fair and Speedy Trial

4.1 A fair trial implies a speedy trial.1 While the Sixth Amendment to the ad hoc US Constitution expressly states that "in all criminal prosecutions, the ad hoc accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial", our Constitution ad hoc does not expressly declare this as a fundamental right. The right to a speedy ad hoc trial was first recognized in the first Hussainara Khatoon case, AIR 1979 SC 1360.

In ad hoc Surinder Singh v. State of Panjab, (2005) 7 SCC 387, the Supreme Court held that a speedy ad hoc trial is implicit in the broad sweep and content of Article 21 of the ad hoc Constitution. In Hussainara Khatoon case, AIR 1979 SC 1369, the Supreme Court directed ad hoc that all undertrial prisoners against whom charge-sheets had not been filed ad hoc within the limitation-period should be released.

The Court observed in the ad hoc second Hussainara Khatoon case32 that the State can not avoid its ad hoc constitutional obligation to provide for a speedy trial by pleading financial ad hoc or administrative inability. Directions were issued for taking positive action, ad hoc like setting up new courts, providing more staff and equipment to courts, ad hoc appointment of additional judges and other measures calculated to ensure ad hoc speedy trial.

1. State of Maharashtra v. Champalal Punjaji Shah, AIR 1981 SC 1675.

4.2 Subsequently, the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized the importance of speedy trial in many cases. State of Bihar v. Uma Shankar Kotriwal. AOR 1981 SC 641; Kadra Pahadiya v. State of Bihar, AIR 1982 SC 1167; State of Maharashtra v. Champalal Punjaji Shah,1 ; S. Guin V. Grindlays Bank, AIR 1986 SC 289; Sheela Barse v. Union of India, AIR 1986 SC 1773; Raghubir Singh v. State of Bihar, (1986) 4 SCC 481; Rakesh Saxena v. State, (1987) 1 SCR 173 ; Srinivas Pal v. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh, AIR 1988 SC 1729; State of Andhra Pradesh v. P. V. Pavithran, AIR 1990 SC 1266.

In Abdul Rehman Antulay v. R.S. Nayak, AIR 1992 SC 1701, the Supreme Court summarized 11 principles as guidelines applicable to a speedy trial. These guidelines are only illustrative and not exhaustive. They are not intended to operate as hard and fast rules or be applied as a straitjacket formula. This decision was held to be correct in P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, (2002) 4 SCC 578.

1. State of Maharashtra v. Champalal Punjai Shah, AIR 1981 SC 1675.

4.3 The speedy trail is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Any delay in expeditious disposal of criminal trial infringes the right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The debate on judicial arrears has thrown up number of ideas on how the judiciary can set its own house in order. Alarmed by the inordinate delay in disposal of the backlog of cases, it has been decided to introduce Fast Track Courts. Thus, Fast Track Courts are to tackle the cases of undertrials first, as the graph of such persons in jail has gone high. It is high time to restore the confidence of people in this country in judiciary by providing speedy justice.1

1. Dr. Justice AR. Lakshamanan, Voice of Justice, Universal Law Publishing Co., Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, (2006), p. 245.

4.4 Fair trial obviously would mean a trial before an impartial judge, a fair prosecutor and atmosphere of judicial calm. Fair trial means a trial in which bias or prejudice for or against the accused, the witnesses or the cause which is being tried is eliminated. Failure to accord fair hearing either to the accused or the prosecution violates even minimum standards of due process of law.1

1. Zahira Habibulla H. Sheikh v. State of Gujarat (2004) 4 SCC 158 (Best Bakery case).

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