Right to speedy trial can’t be diluted because accused a habitual offender: Delhi HC

Right to speedy trial guaranteed under the Constitution cannot be diluted because an accused is a habitual offender or an absconder, the Delhi High Court has said.

The court’s observation came on a petition by a murder accused, who was facing trial for the last 14 years, seeking conclusion of proceedings against him in two months.

The petitioner argued that the matter was hanging fire before the trial court since 2009 and therefore his fundamental rights under Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution was seriously jeopardised.

The State contended the plea was “unfair” as the petitioner was a habitual offender who has almost 20 cases pending against him and had also absconded for three years in 2013 which delayed the trial.

“It may be true that the petitioner is facing trial in about 20 criminal cases as on date and also is a habitual offender yet, the same cannot be a reason to deny the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India to the petitioner,” said Justice Tushar Rao Gedela in a recent order.

“Though, the abscondence of the petitioner may have delayed the trial for three years, yet the right of the petitioner as an offender in criminal law of this country and under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 for speedy trial, can neither be diluted nor whittled,” the judge said.

The court held that the petitioner was entitled to his rights under Article 21 of the Constitution for a speedy trial and thus requested the trial court to conclude the proceedings in the matter within six months.

“This court is of the considered opinion that the petitioner is entitled to his rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India for a speedy trial,” it said.

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