Relevance: Remedies to make our legal system much more efficient
Synopsis: Pan-India guidelines for service of summons, warrants, grant of bail can help make the system quicker and more efficient
- A recent judgment of the Delhi High Court in Sunil Tyagi vs Government of NCT has highlighted the deficiency in criminal law and the criminal justice system with respect to proclaimed offenders.
- Further, the judgment has provided guidelines with respect to the process of service of summons, grant of warrants, grant of bail, and the process of the proclamation of an offender.
Major issues identified by the court
In this case, the Court identified two major issues.
First, that the process under sections 82 and 83 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Code) was being issued routinely.
- It was found that the State was unable to furnish the complete address of the accused and the notices weren’t sent to the correct address.
The second issue identified by the Court was that once a person is proclaimed as an offender, the case is usually confined to the record room attached with the Court and forgotten.
- On this point, the Court was of the view that the State must make all reasonable efforts to arrest the proclaimed offender, attach his properties and open a prosecution under section 174A of the Indian Penal Code.
- There is an urgent need to bring proclaimed offenders to book and to ensure that the processes of law are not abused by the accused as a loophole to delay criminal trials indefinitely.
- As per the figures submitted by the Delhi Police to the Court, there were approximately 18,541 proclaimed offenders in Delhi alone, of which nearly 6,000 had been accused of heinous offences.
- It can be safely assumed that the number would increase incrementally if such data is collated for the entire country.
- These figures translates into a backlog and contribute significantly to the number of pending cases.
- The issue leads to a violation of the right to speedy trial which has been read into the right to life by the Supreme Court in a plethora of cases.
- Trial-in-absentia provision: Section 299 of the Code does permit the recording of evidence in the absence of the accused to a limited extent. So, there is a need to reconsider our legal position regarding the insertion of trial-in-absentia provisions in the Code. Any such legislative exercise must be balanced with the rights of the accused.
- The insertion of the trial-in-absentia provisions can significantly deter the accused from abusing the processes of law as tactics to delay the trial.
- Addressing issues wrt attachment of properties: There are many issues pertaining to the attachment of property under section 83, like lack of manpower to physical verification of residential addresses, inadequate witness protection, difficulty in the attachment of movable property, etc. Addressing these issues requires addressing broader institutional issues pertaining to the functioning of our criminal justice system.