SPEEDY JUSTICE: THE UNATTAINED
IN REFERENCE TO CRIMINAL JUSTICE
The quandary faced by the Indian Judicial System
when it comes to the effectiveness of bestowing justice
upon its citizens can be utterly enlightened by the saying
“Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Speedy trial is regarded as sine qua non of Article 21 as
stated by the Supreme Court in Hussainara Khatoon v.
UOI, AIR 1979 SC 1360. Hence, expeditious justice
being one of the essence of our Constitution must be
fostered at any cost. Moreover, to ensure speedy justice,
the efficiency of the judiciary is of utmost significance.
This necessity has also been emphasized in P.
Ramchandra Rao v. State of Karnataka(2002) 4 SCC
578 by the apex court. Thus, the legal contemplation and
manifestation of the arising quandaries along with
chalking out their solution has become obligatory.
This presentation is an endeavor to elucidate the
infirmities in our Criminal Justice System and how it
has subjugated the provision of speedy trial and justice
and what all measures should be taken by the
legislature and the judiciary to enhance the efficiency of
the system in providing timely justice to the ones who
are denied of it due to the delay.
According to recent statistics the Indian judiciary even after being
one of the biggest in world is still dealing with cases which were
filed even before the independence of the country. There are 3
Crore cases being dealt by the 18,871 courts or judges in India.
= 1589.7 cases per Judge.
The above ratio is the number of cases which a court should deal
with and the number of cases filed are increasing manifold.
Other than this out of the 886 post of judges in high courts 234
courts are vacant. Even 7 vacancy is reported in the Supreme
Court. Also there is a vacancy of 2,998 judges throughout the
district and subordinate courts in India. With the stats indicating a
hike of 1200%in the number of cases in the near future it will be
impossible for the judicial system to provide speedy justice with
the current level of efficiency.
The following problems persists in the Indian Judiciary.
• SC works for 180 days in a year, HC works for 210 days in a year
and lower courts work for 220-230 days in a year. The vacations that
the judges take inspite of the number of the arrears in the court is
not explained. By the number of judges that sit in pairs, it is
estimated that around 1/3rd of them are not working. Also the ratio of
judges per million population in our country is the lowest in the
• It is open secret that results of litigation can be bargained and settled.
It is not the High Court and Supreme Court to which the poor man
runs for help at least at the first instance.
• Speedy trial is a trial without unnecessary delays and not a trial
which is rushed through. Frivolous proceedings or proceedings taken
merely for delaying the day cannot be counted in good faith.
• Insufficient benches of High court in the State. The High court has
taken too much upon themselves. They are overburdened.
• Non availability of witnesses, disappearance of evidence in lapse of
time work against the interest of the prosecution. Cases are still
adjourned for the asking either for filling written statement or
documents and even for settlement of issues also lack of punctuality,
laxity and lack of control by the court delay in pronouncing
• The judicial function to appoint subordinate judges or staff, or
administrative function of acquiring land or building for courts is
denied by the State because of ‘financial constraints’.
• A large number of acquittals are on account of faulty, non-scientific
and disoriented investigation. They have very old techniques to fight
new technology crimes. Indeed the innocent should not be punished,
but why should the guilty escape.
• There are harrowing tales of innocent citizens accused of petty
offences languishing in jails as under trial prisoners for decades.
Judges have to read, study and devote more time for self-
improvement. This is a suggestion on which some feedback has to be
obtained from the members of the higher judiciary themselves.
• It is necessary to ensure that the people do not grow disenchanted
with the existing constitutional legal system and take recourse to
short-cuts. Lot of technicalities and complications in the procedure
affect the efficiency.
• Excessive case-load meant that most orders emanating from courts
would be by nature of granting stay instead of adjudication. Too
many appeals and revisions against even interim orders help vested
interest to prolong the litigation. Repeated ad nauseum in
judgments, wasting the time of the courts, cannot also be dispensed
Considering the problems the recommendations
suggested can be classified broadly into three based
on its area of result. They are steps to improve - • EFFICIENCY OF THE JUDICIARY: The
Indian judicial system is suffering with
backlogs. There is a requirement to fill up the
vacant courts immediately and also increase
the number of courts. These recommendations
involve plans and steps which could enhance
the speed in decision making process by the
• THE INVESTIGATION: New
methods are to be followed whilst
the investigation of the case which
can improve the transparency of the
system, improve the strength of
evidences. Video recording of the
whole court procedure, confession
by the accused and other
testimonies made by the witnesses
during investigation can be used as
• TRIAL PROCEDURE: The Indian judicial system needs an attention to
improve its functioning which could ensure a foolproof trial. Changes
regarding the power of the Judge, the inclusion or utilization of technology
available in the case of trying a witness or an accused are recommended and
also new measure to ensure the quality of judiciary is also discussed.
Investigation of a case is the initial step and a strong and genuine investigation report is eminent in the future of the case.
The following measures should be taken to improve the investigation procedure and methods of investigation.
• Stringent punishment should be provided for false registration of cases and false complaints. Hence, suitable
amendment of Section 182/211 of IPC, 1860 should be done.
• For quick and quality investigation, there should be an increase in the number of Investigating Officers, at least two-
fold from the present count.
• Audio/video recording of statements of witnesses, dying declarations and confessions should be authorized by law.
• Statements of witnesses (Under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code) should be videotaped by the police.
Confessions made to a police officer, which are intended to be admissible as evidence under special statutes must
also be videotaped.
• The investigating officer should complete investigation of rape cases and other sexual offences on priority basis and
the courts must dispose of such cases expeditiously within a period of four months.
• Assistant Public Prosecutors should be given intensive training, both theoretical and practical.
ARREST DETENTION INVESTIGATION
Summary Trials: To speed up the process, all the
cases in which punishment is three years and below
should be subjected to ‘summary trial’ as described
from Section 262-264 of CrPC and punishment that
can be awarded in summary trials should be
increased to three years. In this respect only, Section
260 (1) (c) of the Code should be amended
empowering any Magistrate of First Class to exercise
the power to try the cases summarily without any
special empowerment in this behalf by the High
Use of Technology: Technical evidence like
recovery of material as well as samples can be done
through electronic systems so that hostile witnesses
can be avoided.
Extensive use of Video conferencing should be made
in the production of accused before the Courts and
also must be made available from the police station
itself to enable police officers to attend remand
Accordingly the following clause should be added to Sec.
311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure- Power to issue
directions regarding investigation “Any court shall, at any
stage of inquiry or trial under this Code, shall have such
power to issue directions to the investigating officer to make
further investigation or to direct the Supervisory Officer to
take appropriate action for proper or adequate investigation
so as to assist the Court in search for truth.”
IMPROVEMENT OF TRIAL PROCEDURE
The following measures could be opted to improve the trial procedure in Indian Judicial system.
Implementation of Inquisitorial type of judicial system-
currently the system followed in India is Adversarial type
courts where the attorney is the main gatherer of
information. The judge only takes in the information which
are presented by the attorney and the examination of
witness is also done by the attorney. In Inquisitorial system
which is currently followed in U.S judicial system the
judge is the main gatherer of information and leads to
investigation. He has the power to question the witness for
the details he want, can ask for the evidence missing and
also can direct the investigating agency to conduct a probe
for obtaining a particular evidence.
IMPROVEMENT OF TRIAL PROCEDURE (Contd.):
CHARGES ON TERRORISM
AND NATIONAL SECURITY
THREAT: Crime Units comprising
dedicated investigators and
prosecutors, and Special Courts
should be set up to expeditiously deal
with the challenges of ‘terrorist and
organised’ crimes saving the time and
resources of the nation.
In the last decade, the no. of
economic crimes have
accentuated both in magnitude
and variety. Despite having
more than 70 laws dealing with
these sorts of crimes, we
haven’t been able to chalk out
an efficient solution to this. The
solution which oozes out is the
establishment of Ad hoc courts
for this purpose appointing the
Judges having expertise in this
subject. This would help in
expeditious and qualitative
disposal of cases
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
AND BURDEN OF PROOF:
The standard of proof beyond
reasonable doubt presently followed in
criminal cases should be replaced by
‘clear and convincing standard’ which
is standard of proof lower than that of
‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ and
higher than the standard of ‘proof on
preponderance of probabilities’ as
trailed in many western countries.
Accordingly, a clause should be added
in Section 3 of CrPC on the following
lines: “In criminal cases, unless
otherwise provided, a fact is said to be
proved when, after considering the
matter before it, the court is convinced
that it is true”.
EFFICIENCY OF JUDICIARY:
The following steps are recommended as a measure to enhance the efficiency of the judicial system.
• The Judge strength in all the states should be increased five times from the present count.
• The vacancies of 238 judges in the High Courts which have remained unfilled for years should be
remedied with prime priority.
• To ensure the quality, qualifications prescribed for appointment of Judges at different levels should be
reviewed to ensure that highly competent Judges are inducted at different levels.
• The power to exercise supervision and control over the subordinate courts should be given to the
Supreme Court of India as it is given to the High Court under Article 235 of the Constitution.
• The Chief justice of the High Court may issue circulars to the judges of the same and the Subordinate
Courts asking date of conclusion of conclusion of arguments, date of reserving the judgment and date
of pronouncement of the judgment, so that the judges who delay in signing the orders are identified.
• A National Framework of Court Excellence (NFCE) that will set measurable performance standards for
Indian courts, addressing issues of quality, responsiveness and timeliness as recommended by the
National Court Management Systems should be set-up.
• The number of offences that can be brought within the category of compoundable/settlement category
should be increased so as to lessen the burden of the judiciary.
EFFICIENCY OF JUDICIARY (Contd.)
There should be an ‘Arrears Obliteration Scheme’ to tackle all the cases that are pending for more than 2
years. Under this scheme:
• There should be a cell in the High Court whose duty should be to gather information and particulars
from all the Subordinate courts in regard to cases pending in the respective courts for more than two
years, to identify the cases among them which can be disposed of summarily under Section 262 of the
Code or as petty cases under Section 206 of the Code and cases which can be compounded with or
without the leave of the court.
• Once the case is posted for hearing it shall not be adjourned.
• The High Court shall take effective measures to ensure that the current cases are disposed of
expeditiously and that no current cases would be pending for more than two years. Additional Courts if
needed for this purpose should be sanctioned quickly.
EFFICIENCY OF JUDICIARY (Contd.):
Improving the efficiency of Judiciary also include improving the working environment. For this the
infrastructure, resources etc. should be improved.
• It is very much visible that many courts in the country are in dilapidated conditions. There is no proper
facility for safe keeping of documents and files.
• The courtrooms are not electrified at many district and sub-ordinate courts.
• Judges and attorneys find it difficult to work under such environments which decrease their efficiency
• The court staffs play a vital role in assisting the judges in serving justice. The vacancies of court staffs
should be filled.
• The work load on Judges (1589.7 cases per Judge) increases the stress which indeed deteriorate the
judgment they give, so the no. of cases per judge should be decreased to 500 per judge by increasing the
number of courts.
• Separate Bar for mediators, arbitrators and conciliators should be evolved to embolden speedy justice
and reducing the burden of the Courts.
In the light of the aforementioned quandaries and the recommendations proposed, we can substantially
deduce that a lot needs to be amended in our ‘justice delivering system’ in reference to expeditious
and fair trial which has also been implicitly stated by our judiciary in various cases from time to time.
We all have cognizance of the authentic fact that justice delayed is justice denied, but simultaneously, we
should pay equal heed to the saying, “Justice hurried is justice buried”. Every action plan needs to be
chalked out with due care and diligence keeping in mind the limitations as well as the extent of
privilege conferred upon us by various statutes in regard to this matter. Keeping in mind this notion,
not only we have tended to intervene in some of the existing laws but also have come up with some
The System needs to understand that the increasing number of cases also indicate that the people still
trust the judiciary as their saviors and thus, it should take adequate steps in order to retain their faith.
The overflowing dockets of the courts all over the country shouldn’t just be taken as a sign of failure
of the system.
Along with paying reverence to the present adversarial system, we bid of chalking out a hybrid system
which also has some good features of the inquisitorial one, taking inspiration from our own
Therefore, we anticipate and hope that our recommendations when executed effectively will prove
themselves prolific to some extent in reinforcing and reforming our Criminal Justice System.
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2. Criminal procedure today – Issues and Cases; Cliff Roberson; Prentice Hall Inc., New Jersey.
3. The proof of guilt – a study of English criminal trial; Glanville Williams; The Hamlyn Trust, London.
4. Equal Justice & forensic process: Truth and Myth; Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer; Eastern Book Company, Lucknow.
5. The Criminal Prosecution in England; Patrick Deblin; Oxford University Press
6. The origins of adversary criminal trial; John H. Langbein; Oxford University Press
7. Nature of Judicial Process; Hon’ble Shri Justice D.M. Dharmadhikar (Former Judge, Supreme Court India); (2002) 6 SCC
1. Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System; Sri C.M. Basavarya (Formerly, District & Sessions Judge); Government of
India, Ministry of Home Affairs; Volume 1
2. NATIONAL MISSION FOR DELIVERY OF JUSTICE AND LEGAL REFORM “Towards Timely Delivery of Justice to All”;
Hon’ble Union Minister for Law and Justice, Dr. M. Veerappa Moily (Resolutions presented to Hon’ble Chief Justice of India
Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan)