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Constitutional Right to Fair and Speedy Trial

The preamble of the Indian Constitution states that India is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic country which provides Justice, Liberty, and Equality to all its citizens. Justice means providing relief to a person with whom something wrong has happened. The natural principle of justice states that “It should not only be done but it should see to have been done” which means if there is a delay in justice, there is no justice for a person who suffers. There should be a speedy trial for providing justice in a reasonable time. There should be a Right to Speedy Trial, it is as important as Fundamental Rights.

The Right to Speedy Trial is first introduced in the US by the sixth amendment of the US Constitution and by the Speedy Trial Act of 1974. In India, the concept of Speedy Trial is introduced in Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar. In this case, the Supreme Court has done a broad interpretation of Article 21 and states that the Right to Speedy trial is a Fundamental Right. Speedy Trial is an essence of the Criminal Justice. “Delay in Trial constitutes a denial of Justice”, means if there is a delay in the trial then it is a denial of justice. In India, there is no limit of dissolving any case so there is a delay in justice and an innocent person suffers because of this. Justice is meant to be fair, simple, and speedy. Speedy Trial is important to improve the condition of criminal justice in India; it will give justice to innocent person and cases will not pending so long. There should be a time limit for dissolving a particular case for improving the condition of criminal justice and it will be done by Speedy Trial. Right to Speedy Trial makes the judiciary more efficient and trustworthy. In some cases, there is an unreasonable delay where there is no matter of delay, so there should be a Speedy Trial. With the help of a speedy trial, the cases will dispose of in a reasonable time. This paper analyzes the effects of a speedy trial and how it makes the judicial system of India more effective and it also does the betterment of criminal justice.

India is a democratic country that is governed by various rules and regulations which is given in the Indian Constitution; it is governed by the rule of law. Rule of law means that no one is above the law, that law doesn’t give any special rights for any individual or group of individuals. No one can be punished without a proper trial. Rule of law also includes that there should be a fair trial and there should be a speedy trial. The right to a speedy trial is as important as a fundamental right which is given in constitution it means that there is no delay in trials. India is a developing country and development of any country is measured by the economic and judicial system of a country, the living standard of people living there also includes a fair and speedy trial. The judiciary must give this right to all the citizens. The function of the judiciary is to protect the rights of the people and provide fair justice to them. A person came to the door of court with an expectation of justice but if there is a delay in justice then no one will believe in the system of judiciary. For the smooth working in criminal justice, there should be a speedy trial. The quality of justice does not only suffer when an innocent person was punished or proved guilty, but it also suffers when justice is not on time or at a reasonable time. It should be in a reasonable time only then it meant to be justice, and it can be done by a speedy and fair trial.

Meaning of Fair Trial

Fair trial means that there everything should be fair there is no partiality at the time of trial. The right to equality means that everyone should be treated equally and they should get a chance of being heard. If there is no fair trial and a person who is not guilty is punished, it violates his fundamental right i.e., Article 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Article 21 states the right to life and personal liberty if a person who is not guilty and get a life-sentenced then it violates his right to life. There should be a fair trial according to the principle of natural justice. In Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v. State of Gujarat case, it has been observed;  

“Each one has an inbuilt right to be dealt with fairly in a criminal trial. Denial of a fair trial is as much injustice to the accused as is to the victim and the society. Fair trial obviously would mean a trial before an impartial judge, a fair prosecutor, and an 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”.[1]

Everyone has a right to a fair trial and that fair trial should be expeditious, and this is the duty of the judicial system to provide a fair trial. Fair trial means that trial should be conducted by competent judges, there should be no partiality and everyone should get a chance of being heard.

Meaning of Speedy Trial

The trial is a process in which a person is proven guilty or not, there is a court of law where a judge or a person who is competent and eligible to represent him as a judge heard all the arguments and saw all the evidence and decided the case. What is meant by speedy trial? Speedy trial means that there should be a time limit for a particular case; trials should not be so long that a particular case is in processing from the last 5 years, this is a delay in justice and it is no justice given to a person who is under trial. As the delay in justice means that denial of justice, means that if justice is not on time then there is no justice is providing to them. The right to a speedy trial is an essence of criminal justice, as if there is a delay in judgments of criminal cases for example there is a murder case and no decision is given on this case for 10 years then it didn’t give a good message to society. The person who wants to commit this type of crime will think that if they perform this, the case will be in processing for more than 10 years and it will be in more than that also. They will think there is no hard punishment for crimes for so long and they will commit more crimes without any fear, it makes our judicial system weaker and if our judicial system became weaker then it will affect on country’s economy and people lose their faith on our judiciary. The situation can be different also if a person is arrested by the police but he is innocent and he is under trial for 5 years and after that, he is proven innocent, do you think that justice is provided to that person? The person will lose his reputation, the society sees him as a criminal after 5 years no one believes that he is innocent, so there should be a speedy trial to provide fair justice to everyone so that people will not lose their faith in the judicial system.

The concept of speedy trial is first introduced in the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776. There is a sixth amendment in the constitution of the United States of America, which brought the concept of speedy trial. There is a Federal Act of 1974 in the USA, which is known as the Speedy Trial Act of 1974. It gives the entire person to enjoy their right to a speedy trial in the USA. This act specifies the particular time limit in how much time the case should be disposed off and in how much time the pieces of evidence should be present. The time limit is a minimum of 70 days and a maximum of nine months. Anyone can access his right to a speedy trial if his right is violated. This same concept is also followed in Canada. From Magna Carta also right to a speedy trial is considered common law. Further, under Article 14 of the International Convention on Civil and Political rights 1976[2], the right to a speedy trial is provided. Similarly, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution refer to it as a basic right. [3]

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Earlier there is no concept of speedy trial in India, it is introduced in case of Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar, In this Supreme Court do a broad interpretation of Article 21 which is a fundamental right i.e., Right to life and personal liberty, by this SC state that right to a speedy trial is a fundamental trial implicit in Article 21 of Indian Constitution because a procedure can’t be fair if it takes a too long time to provide justice. The right to a speedy trial is considered a fundamental right. Article 21 states that it is right to liberty but it also imposed some reasonable restrictions that if a person is guilty he can be deprived of his liberty under the procedure established by law which should be a just, fair, and in a reasonable time. In the case of Abdul Rahman Antulay vs. R.S. Nayak[4], the Constitutional bench declared in his judgment that the right to a speedy trial is implicit in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. There should be a proper implementation of the right to a speedy trial.

SPEEDY TRIAL- A CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE

  • Protection of life and personal liberty, Article 21 is a very broad article as it includes the right to life and a person has all the rights to enjoy their life what they want to do they can do so. In this case, SC held that travel abroad be his right to personal liberty and the government cannot deny passport[5]. In Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India[6], in this case, SC overruled the Gopalan’s case[7], and applied American Doctrine and said that the procedure mentioned in Article 21 must be just, fair and reasonable.
  • Right to Fair Trial, Justice should be meant only when it is done fairly without any partiality and bias with anyone. If it is not fair then it reduces the quality of the judicial system and people lose their faith in the judiciary and they suffer a lot and there is injustice with the innocent. There should be a right to free trial and it is given in Article 21.
  • Right to Speedy Trial, In India delay in the disposal of cases, is a major drawback in the judicial system. Justice that comes too late has no meaning to a person for whom it is meant. There is no specific right is given as a right to a speedy trial as a fundamental right but there is an essence of this right to improve the quality of criminal reforms. There is also no maximum time period for the disposition of any case. The case can be in processing for ten years, or more than that also; this is not providing justice to a person who is under trial. Delay in justice and a long time for trials will also affect a person physically, emotionally, and mentally and financially. But the SC do a broad interpretation of Article 21 and state that the right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right as implicit in Article 21[8]. There should be a right to a speedy trial and it must be just, fair and reasonable and there should be a fair trial. There is a need for speedy trial as a person who is innocent is under trial for 10 years and proves innocent after that, then it is not providing justice to him, society already sees him as a criminal and it also violates his right to life. For the smooth working of the judicial system and for improving the quality of criminal reforms, there should be a right to a speedy trial.

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS

No one has a right to violate the fundamental right of human beings which is given by the Constitution of India. The state is the guardian of fundamental rights of all the citizens which ensures the right to a speedy trial and to avoid the long delays in trial of criminal cases. If there is a delay in the trial it means there is the denial of justice. Speedy Trial is an urgent need for criminal reforms as there are many cases pending in the courts, pendency of a large number of undertrials. There should be a fair speedy trial. There should be a limited time period for the disposal of cases. For all the criminal offenses there should be a time specified. There should be a fair speedy trial; it will also give a good message to the society. 

Endnotes

  1. (2006) 3 SCC 374 at 395.
  2. Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right
  3. Right to a Speedy Criminal Trial, 57 Col. 846 (1957) L.R.
  4. Abdul Rahman Antulay vs. R.S. Nayak A.I.R. 1992 Sc 1701.
  5. Satuwant Singh vs. Assistant Passport Officer AIR 1967 SC 1836
  6. Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India AIR 1978 SC 597
  7. Gopalan vs. State of Madras AIR 1950 SC 27
  8. Supra note 1

Nidhi Garg | Geeta Institute of Law, Delhi NCR

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