HC wrong ruling irks SC no end

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha said the High Court's ruling was "based on conjectures and surmises" and that the accused was acquitted on "flimsy grounds".

A resident of Hardoi in UP, Chhotay Lal had kidnapped a 17-year-old girl from his village on September 19, 1989 in collusion with two of his friends and raped her repeatedly, while keeping her in his captivity for nearly a month till Oct 13.

"We are indeed surprised by the casual approach with which the High Court has dealt with the matter. Its judgment is not only cryptic and perfunctory but it has also not taken into consideration the crucial evidence on record," the court observed in its judgement.
"On flimsy grounds, the accused convicted of a serious crime of kidnapping and rape has been acquitted. There is no application of mind to the evidence of the prosecutrix at all," said the bench adding "The high court was not at all justified in taking a different view or conclusion from the trial court."

Setting aside the high court's ruling, the apex court restored Chhotay Lal's conviction, entailing a seven year-long jail term.

"We must remember that a strong and efficient criminal justice system is a guarantee to the rule of law and vibrant civil society," the judges observed.

The court also spoke of "political interference" in several cases hampering investigations. "On many occasions impartial investigation suffers because of political interference."
The bench went on to list several maladies plaguing the criminal justice system, while also seeking urgent steps to stem the rot.

"The criminal trials are protracted because of non-appearance of official witnesses on time and the non-availability of the facilities for recording evidence by video conferencing, said the bench.

"The public prosecutors have their limitations; the defence lawyers do not make themselves available and the court would be routinely informed about their pre-occupation with other matters; the courts remain over-burdened with the briefs listed on the day and they do not have adequate infrastructure," the bench ruled.
The bench rued that adjournments have become routine and the casualty is justice.
"It is imperative that the criminal cases relating to offences against the State, corruption, dowry death, domestic violence, sexual assault, financial fraud and cyber crimes are fast-tracked and decided in a fixed time frame, preferably, within three years," the bench suggested.

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