Delhi trial court examines 22 witness in sodomy-murder case in day, earns rebuke from high court

New Delhi: A trial court's endeavour to hurriedly examine 22 out of 24 witnesses in a day in a case of murder and attempt to commit unnatural sex with a 14-year-old boy has come for a severe criticism from the Delhi High Court, which dubbed it as a classic example of "justice hurried is justice buried".

The high court lamented over the trial court's "super fast track" procedure of examining 22 witnesses in a day, saying it was unable to appreciate why the trial court judge rushed through the prosecution evidence in a case of this nature, resulting in serious miscarriage of justice.

A bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice IS Mehta set aside the trial court's October 2014 judgement convicting and sentencing two men to life term for the offences of kidnapping, attempting to commit unnatural sex and murdering the minor in north west Delhi in 2012. It also acquitted the duo.

"The court finds merit in the contention of counsel for the appellants (convicts) that grave prejudice was caused to the accused by the above 'super-fast' track procedure adopted by the trial judge. The court is unable to appreciate why the trial judge considered it necessary to rush through the prosecution evidence in a case of this nature and how she failed to realise that it would result in a grave miscarriage of justice. Justice hurried is justice buried," the bench said.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The court granted benefit of doubt to the two men and acquitted them in the case, saying the circumstances proved do not form a complete chain and "suspicion howsoever strong cannot substitute proof."

"There has been a serious miscarriage of justice as a result of the manner of conducting the trial by the trial judge," the bench said.

The bench said it was constrained to observe that this was yet another case in which the additional sessions judge, in her enthusiasm to speed up the trial process, committed a serious error by examining a disproportionately large number of prosecution witnesses on a single day. It noted that out of 24 prosecution witnesses, 22 were examined by the court on a single day in the case whose trial had begun on 23 May, 2013.

The bench said in a trial involving offences punishable with imprisonment for life or death, where there are independent, formal and main witnesses to the investigation, the trial court must ensure that sufficient time is granted to the defence, especially if there are legal aid counsel for their cross-examination.

"Although the mandate in the CrPC is to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis, it would be an extreme proposition that the entire prosecution evidence is recorded on a single day in such cases involving grave offences.

"While it is necessary for the trial court to be vigilant against defence tactics that might seek to unreasonably postpone the trial and use the interregnum to win over witnesses, it would be an over-reaction to have the entire prosecution evidence of as many as 22 witnesses recorded on a single day," it observed.

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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2018 14:34:32 IST

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