Right to speedy trial is a right which is granted to the accused in order to relieve him from criminal proceedings and to provide justice to the person who has suffered injuries. In common parlance, speedy trial means that the trial should be conducted in such an orderly and systematic manner that no one is deprived of his personal liberty. It is however to be noted that the right to speedy trial in India does not mean exaggerating the process of rendering justice, but it means and strives to remove the hurdles which come in the way of execution of justice. If the process of rendering justice is exaggerated then the accused and the claimant may not get proper chance to represent their case, which will ultimately lead to injustice being served.
Article 21 of the Indian constitution mentions about ‘Right to life and liberty’. Liberty is the term, of such a broad nature, that it includes right to get justice by execution of a fair trial. Right to speedy trial is the fundamental right mentioned in the fundamental legal document of England, Magna Carta. Thus every person who feels that his right to speedy and fair trial is infringed, can knock the doors of Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian constitution and can enforce his right. The Supreme Court is also bound to recognize the plea of the plaintiff and ensure justice to him.
Justice Krishna Iyer while dealing with the bail petition in Babu singh v. sate of UP, remarked, “Our justice system, even in grave cases, suffers from slow motion syndrome which is lethal to ‘fair trial’ whatever the ultimate decision. Speedy justice is the component of social justice since the community, as a whole, is concerned in the criminal being condignly and finally punished with a reasonable time and the innocent being absolved from the inordinate ordeal of criminal proceedings.”
This delay in the process of administration of justice can be because of various reasons. This can be grouped into two broad heads: Delays caused by Courts, and Delays caused by Advocates. Some of the important reasons ascertained for this are- Huge numbers of cases being undecided and the less number of judges available (compared to the cases) for deciding the matter in dispute, the adjournments which are granted by the courts on vexatious grounds, and the delay which is caused by the investigating agencies.
The right to speedy trial strives to achieve the below three ends:
- The minimum possible time for period or remand should be allocated
- Worry, anxiety, expenses and disturbance in conducting the trial should be minimal
- Undue delay may result in impairment of the disability of the accused to defend him.
Justice Bhagawati in Hussainara Khatoon case observed that, “the state cannot avoid its constitutional obligation to provide speedy trial to the accused by pleading financial or administrative inability. It is also the constitutional obligation of this court as the guardian of fundamental rights of the people, as a sentinel on the qui vive, to enforce the fundamental right of the accused to speedy trial by enforcing necessary directions to the state which may include taking of positive action, such as augmenting and strengthening the investigation machinery, setting up new courts, building new court houses, providing more staff and equipment’s to the court, appointment of additional judges and other measures calculated to ensure speedy trial. The similar view was reiterated by the honourable Supreme Court in Khadra paharia v. state of Bihar, and State of Maharashtra v. Champalal Punjaji Shah. In the latter case, Justice Chinnappa Reddy observed that it is a prejudice to a man to be detained without trial. It is a prejudice to a man to be denied a fair trial.
Keeping the importance of speedy trial as the inevitable right available to the accused, it is suggested that ‘Right to Speedy Trial Act’ should be enacted in India, as prevalent in the United States of America. For this, the 221st Law Commission of India Report should be taken into consideration. The need for this act is felt is because of the reason that there is no sifting observed in the administration of criminal justice in India. The right to speedy trial must also apply to post-trial criminal proceedings also, such as parole and probation hearings.