India Needs to Take a Cue from Bangladesh on Speeding up Criminal Cases: SC Seeks Centre's Reply

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A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur expressed regrets that the trial court was liberal in granting adjournments even though the property dispute involved an octogenarian woman fighting for over a decade.

New Delhi: India has a lesson to learn from Bangladesh when it comes to speeding up its justice delivery system. And the Supreme Court of India is leading this change.

Trials in India are invariably delayed when an accused flees from justice, and doesn't show up during the court proceedings.

The situation in Bangladesh is however different.

In order to make sure the trials are not overstretched, Bangladesh has a provision for ‘trial in absentia’. When an accused absconds, a court can still go ahead and try him in his absence after getting the notices published in newspapers. This way, the trials are not prolonged and the courts can take up other cases.

A bench headed by Justice Adarsh K Goel has now sought a response from the central government whether it was also willing to change its law to unburden its courts of criminal cases that are pending on account of accused having run away.

The top court recalled its judgment in March last year when it had underlined the significance of the amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code by Bangladesh, enabling trials to proceed even in the absence of the accused.

Citing the 2017-judgment, the bench noted: “We have observed that criminal trials remain pending for long time because of one or more accused absconding. To overcome the situation, in Hussain and Anr Vs Union of India, (2017) 5 SCC 702, we observed that an amendment be considered at par with Section 339-B of the CrPC as applicable in Bangladesh providing for trial in absentia of an accused who absents during the trial.”

It then demanded an explanation from the Centre about the progress made by the latter in deliberating upon changing the criminal law.

“We direct Union of India, through Ministry of Law and Justice to apprise this Court of the status of such consideration,” stated the court in a recent order.

The bench requested PS Narasimha, Additional Solicitor General, to assist the court in the matter.

“The Registry is directed to send a copy of this order to Ministry of Law and Justice, Union of India, so that an affidavit is filed in the matter by June 30, 2018. List again on Tuesday, the 3rd July, 2018, for consideration of this issue,” the court order said.

The occasion for the apex court to seek a reply from the Centre arose when it came across yet another criminal case which remained pending despite its direction of time-bound conclusion because an accused had absconded.

The Allahabad High Court had given bail to the accused in a case of dacoity with murder in April 2016. The SC dismissed the appeal against the bail in October 2016 but directed that the trial should be concluded in the next six months.

But the direction could not be complied with because the accused ran away after obtaining the bail and never showed up to stand the trial.

When this matter was again called up before the SC bench, it regretted that the scores of trials in India are still inconclusive on this ground and then pointed up the pertinent amendment in Bangladesh.