Delay in trials leading to undertrials languishing in jail, says HC

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Mumbai, Jul 14 (PTI) Trials in cases are not being completed in the stipulated time due to which undertrials are languishing in jail, the Bombay High Court said on Wednesday while reserving its order on a bail plea filed by a 28-year-old man arrested for allegedly being a member of the Islamic State terror group.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar made the observation while hearing a petition filed by the accused, Iqbal Ahmed Kabir Ahmed, challenging an order of a special court refusing him bail.

Ahmed was arrested over four years back and booked under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for being part of a terror outfit, and also under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The prosecution's case was that Ahmed was a part of the 'Parbhani module' (named after a town in central Maharashtra) which was allegedly planning to carry out a terror attack.

The module was cracked by the Maharashtra ATS, but the NIA is now handling the case.

Ahmed's advocate Mihir Desai argued there was no evidence against the petitioner and that the trial in the case is yet to commence and there are over 150 witnesses to be examined.

The court sought to know how much time it would take for the trial to commence and reach completion.

NIA counsel Aruna Kamat Pai told the court that the special NIA court here is scheduled to hear the matter on July 20.

The court then asked if the special court assembles daily and would hear the trial on a day-to-day basis.

“Trials are not completed in the stipulated time…maybe the fault is in the defence lawyers or the prosecution. But this is resulting in the undertrials languishing in jail,” Justice Shinde said.

“Take the example of the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case…so many times we, and even the Supreme Court, have said the trial needs to be completed expeditiously,” Justice Shinde said.

The bench said with the pandemic, the situation has become worse with regard to trials.

On Pai's argument that there was evidence to show Ahmed was discussing joining the ISIS with a co-accused, the court said it might just be discussion and nothing more.

“In rural areas, youth and others sit around and discuss everything…from the village politics to Delhi politics to Trump…” Justice Shinde said.

The HC later reserved its order on the bail plea. PTI SP RSY RSY

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