Judge: I feel guilty that it takes 25 yrs to deliver justice

Sending out a clear message that all it takes is a strong will for expeditious disposal of cases,a city court on Saturday closed a murder case lingering on for 25 years.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published:March 8, 2009 3:16 am

Sending out a clear message that all it takes is a strong will for expeditious disposal of cases,a city court on Saturday closed a murder case lingering on for 25 years.

Additional Sessions Judge Surinder S Rathi handed down rigorous life imprisonment to the three convicts,who had murdered a truck driver and a cleaner in a ‘diabolical’ manner in July 1984.

The decision evoked an emotional outburst from the judge over the slow justice disposal system and ‘tricks’ used by lawyers to prolong a trial. “I feel guilty,for I am a part of the system that takes almost one quarter of a century to decide a murder case. It is certainly a sad state of affairs,and being a part of it,I feel it’s my duty to do something about it,” ASJ Rathi said in the open court as he delivered the judgement.

Overstretched a trial is an “atrocity” on the victims of crime; they cannot be blamed for not reposing faith in the system,the judge noted,adding that while seeking adjournment was a lawyer’s right,declining the request was a judicial officer’s prerogative. A judge should keep in mind that justice does not become the eventual casualty,an emotional ASJ said.

“The system must be shaken out of its stupor so that something better can be expected in future,” ASJ Rathi said. He informed the counsel present in the court that he recently wrapped up another criminal case pending since 1996 in just six consecutive hearings.

The judge’s comments came even as the defence counsel questioned his notings in the final order against the delaying tactics adopted by lawyers.

“Perusal of the records shows that for more than two decades,instead of playing a proactive and positive role in assisting the court in early disposal of the case,the defence has worked otherwise. Records show that at times numerous adjournments were sought on the pretext of bar strikes and also by claiming that the counsel is busy in some other court,” ASJ Rathi had written in his order,which had prompted the counsel to intervene.

Citing the case as an example of the dismal state of affairs as far as handing out justice was concerned,the court also appealed to the members of the bar to “introspect” and take remedial measures to ensure that cases are not allowed to linger on for years.

It also criticised the prosecution for its lackadaisical approach after noting that it had taken almost 23 years to complete the recording of the evidence.

In the case,the court held Krishan Lal (42),Tej Pal (48) and Gopi Chand (39) guilty under the murder charge and imposed a penalty of Rs 5.5 lakh on each of them.

On July 12,1984,the trio had beheaded truck driver Arun and cleaner Jasbir,while committing robbery on the highway near Burari village.

They remained in custody till 1989 after which the court released them on bail on the ground that nothing substantial was happening in the trial.

While pronouncing them guilty,the court relied on the statement of a co-accused,who had turned approver in the case,and other strong circumstantial evidence establishing their complicity.

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