Bombay High Court says judicial system answerable to accused, fair and speedy trial expected

The Bombay High Court recently observed that “the judicial system is answerable to jailed accused and speedy and fair trial is basic expectation from trial courts” and reprimanded delay by a special court hearing cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) to start a trial despite the passing of more than a year.

The high court expressed displeasure over the slow pace of the proceedings before as the special court did not commence trial within six months from its order. The high court, while hearing the bail plea by an accused arrested by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in February 2018, also sought the details of the pending cases before the concerned special court.

A single-judge bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre on September 5 was hearing a bail plea by Abdul Nasir Bhai Miya Shaikh, who was arrested on February 4, 2018. He had withdrawn the bail plea in the high court after it ordered a special court to expedite the trial.

The high court on April 7 last year granted liberty to the applicant to revive his request for bail if the charges are not framed and the trial is not commenced within a period of six months. However, more than six months elapsed since the order was passed and once again, the accused made a second bail application before the court through advocate Ayaz Khan.

Advocate Shreeram Shirsat for the NCB submitted a report showing sequences of events in the case and their dates after the order was passed by the high court. The bench noted: “On its perusal, what is apparent is the liberal approach adopted by the court. It can be seen that the charge was framed on July 15, 2021, and till September 3, 2022, nothing fruitful has happened.”

The judge observed that the charges were framed in the case three months after the high court order and the trial has “not even moved an inch” till September 3, 2022. The judge noted that there are around 15 witnesses in the case and still the trial had not commenced.

Justice Dangre observed: “This depicts the sorrowful state of affairs as the applicant remained incarcerated since February 4, 2018, and more than four years have expired and still the trial is proceeding at a snail pace. Speedy justice being identified as an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, the judicial system is also answerable to the accused who are incarcerated, though no serious charges and what is the bare minimum expected from this system is a fair and speedy trial.”

The bench called for a report from the concerned special NDPS Court seeking an explanation “as to why such leniency is granted either to the prosecution or to the accused who had moved medical bail application, which in any case could not have detained the court from proceeding to the trial but the court has taken”.

The court also sought details about the number of pending cases before the concerned special court along with the year since which they are pending. It also asked the concerned judge to submit several high court and Supreme Court expedited trials which are pending and directed the report to be submitted within two weeks. The high court will hear the bail plea next on September 19.

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