Sunday 25 May 2014

Right of accused to have speedy trial Vs Right of society to get justice

It is to be kept in mind that on one hand, the right of the accused is to have 

a speedy trial and on the other, the quashment of the indictment or the acquittal 

or refusal for sending the matter for re-trial has to be weighed, regard being had 

to the impact of the crime on the society and the confidence of the people in the 

judicial system. There cannot be a mechanical approach. From the principles 

laid down in many an authority of this Court, it is clear as crystal that no time 

limit can be stipulated for disposal of the criminal trial. The delay caused has to 

be weighed on the factual score, regard being had to the nature of the offence 

and the concept of social justice and the cry of the collective. 



                     WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO. 50 OF 2012

Niranjan Hemchandra Sashittal
and another                                  ... Petitioners


State of Maharashtra                                       ...Respondent

Citation;AIR2013 SC 1682 

      The  gravamen  of  grievance  of  the  petitioners  in  this  petition
preferred under  Article  32  of  the  Constitution  of  India  pertains  to
procrastination in trial, gradual  corrosion  of  their  social  reputation,
deprivation of respectable livelihood because of order of suspension  passed
against  the  petitioner  No.  1  during  which  he  was  getting  a  meagre
subsistence allowance and has reached  the  age  of  superannuation  without
being considered for promotion, extreme suffering of  emotional  and  mental
stress and strain, and denial  of  speedy  trial  that  has  impaired  their
Fundamental Right enshrined under  Article  21  of  the  Constitution.   The
asseverations pertaining to long delay  in  trial  have  been  made  on  the
constitutional  backdrop  leading  to  the  prayer  for  quashment  of   the
proceedings of Special Case No. 4 of 1993 pending in the  court  of  learned
Special Judge, Greater Bombay.

   2. Before we proceed to state the  factual  score,  it  is  necessary  to
      mention that this is not the first  time  that  the  petitioners  have
      approached this Court.  They, along  with  others,  had  assailed  the
      order of the High Court of Bombay  declining  to  quash  the  criminal
      proceedings against the petitioners and others on the ground of  delay
      in investigation and filing of charge sheet  in  three  special  leave
      petitions which were converted  to  three  criminal  appeals,  namely,
      Criminal Appeal Nos. 176 of 2001, 177 of 2001 and 178 of  2001.   This
      Court adverted to the facts and expressed the view that there  was  no
      justification to quash the criminal prosecution on the ground of delay
      highlighted by the appellants in all the appeals.  However, this Court
      took note of the allegations against two  senescent  ladies  who  were
      octogenarians relating to their abetment  in  the  commission  of  the
      crime and opined that the materials were insufficient  to  prove  that
      the old ladies intentionally abetted the public servant  in  acquiring
      assets which were disproportionate to his known sources of income  and
      further it would be unfair and unreasonable to  compel  them,  who  by
      advancement of old age,  would  possibly  have  already  crossed  into
      geriatric stage, to stand the long trial having no reasonable prospect
      of ultimate conviction against them and,  accordingly,  on  those  two
      grounds, allowed  the  appeals  preferred  by  them  and  quashed  the
      criminal prosecution  as  far  as  they  were  concerned.   The  other
      appeals,  preferred  by  the  public  servant  and  his  wife,   stood

   3. Be it noted, in the said  judgment,  while  quashing  the  proceedings
      against the two ladies, this Court referred to the decision in  Rajdeo
      Sharma v. State of Bihar[1] and observed that the trial was not likely
      to end within one or two  years,  even  if  the  special  court  would
      strictly adhere to the directions  issued  by  this  Court  in  Rajdeo
      Sharma’s case.

   4. The facts as uncurtained are that the Anti  Corruption  Bureau  (ACB),
      after conducting a preliminary enquiry,  filed  an  FIR  on  26.6.1986
      against the petitioner No. 1 who was  a  Deputy  Commissioner  in  the
      Department of Prohibition  and  Excise,  Maharashtra  Government,  for
      offence punishable under Section 5(2) of the Prevention of  Corruption
      Act, 1947.  The lodgement of the FIR led to  conducting  of  raids  at
      various places and, eventually, it was found that  the  petitioner,  a
      public servant, had acquired assets worth Rs.33.44 lakhs which were in
      excess of his known sources of income.  After the  investigation,  the
      Government of Maharashtra was moved for grant of  sanction  which  was
      accorded on 22.1.1993  and  thereupon,  the  charge-sheet  was  lodged
      against the petitioners along with two old ladies on  4.3.1993  before
      the Special Court.  The offence alleged against  the  petitioner,  the
      public servant, was under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(e)  of
      the Prevention of  Corruption  Act,  1988.   Allegations  against  the
      ladies were abetment for the main offences.  As  there  was  delay  in
      conducting the investigation and filing of charge-sheet  and  disposal
      of certain interlocutory applications, the High Court  of  Bombay  was
      moved on 15.4.1997 for quashing of the criminal proceedings.   As  has
      been stated earlier, the High Court declined to interfere and,  hence,
      all the accused persons approached this Court in appeal,  wherein  the
      criminal case in respect of the old ladies was delinked and quashed.

   5. It is asserted in this petition that after this Court disposed of  the
      earlier criminal appeals,  charges  were  framed  only  on  15.12.2007
      nearly after expiry of seven years.  It is put forth that  during  the
      pendency of the trial, the wife of the petitioner No. 1  has  breathed
      her last on 23.5.2008.  It is averred that nearly after four years  of
      framing  of  charges,  on  1.2.2011,  Shri  Vasant   S.   Shete,   the
      Investigating Officer, was partly examined  by  the  prosecution  and,
      thereafter, the matter was adjourned on many an occasion.  Despite the
      last opportunity being granted  by  the  learned  Special  Judge,  the
      Investigating Officer was not produced for examination.   As  pleaded,
      the  Investigating  Officer  appeared  before  the  Special  Judge  on
      20.7.2011 and sought further time instead of getting himself examined.
       Thereafter, the matter was  adjourned  on  25.8.2011,  21.9.2011  and
      18.10.2011 and the examination of the Investigating Officer could  not
      take place.  On 15.11.2011,  the  Investigating  Officer  submitted  a
      letter to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACB, stating  that  he
      had already taken voluntary retirement  and  due  to  bad  health  was
      unable to attend the court and follow up the case.  He made a  request
      to the ACP to appoint some other officer  for  prosecuting  the  case.
      Thereafter, the Investigating  Officer  absented  himself  before  the
      learned trial judge to  give  his  evidence.   It  is  contended  that
      because of the said situation, the examination-in-chief  of  PW-1  has
      not yet been completed and the other witnesses have not been  produced
      for examination by the prosecution.  It is urged that  despite  prayer
      made by the petitioner that the prosecution case ought  to  be  closed
      because of its inability to produce the witnesses, the learned Special
      Judge has not closed the evidence.  It is urged  that  more  than  ten
      years have elapsed since  the  earlier  judgment  of  this  Court  was
      rendered and, therefore, the whole proceeding deserved to be  quashed.
      Emphasis has been laid on the loss of  reputation,  mental  suffering,
      stress and anxiety and the gross violation of the  concept  of  speedy
      trial as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.

   6. The stand of the State of Maharashtra, respondent No. 1, is that after
      delivery of the judgment  in  the  earlier  appeals,  the  accused  on
      29.3.2001 moved numerous miscellaneous  applications  seeking  various
      reliefs and made a prayer that framing of charges should  be  deferred
      till all the miscellaneous applications were decided.   He  moved  the
      High Court in its revisional jurisdiction and  writ  jurisdiction  and
      though the High Court did not grant stay, yet the case  was  adjourned
      at the instance of the accused.  On number of occasions,  the  accused
      himself moved applications  for  adjournment  and  some  times  sought
      adjournment to  go  out  of  the  country  to  Bangkok,  Thailand  and

   7. Even after the trial commenced, the  accused  did  not  cooperate  and
      remained non-responsive.  A chart has been filed showing the manner in
      which adjournments were taken by the accused at the stage  of  framing
      of charge on the ground that the matter was pending  before  the  High
      Court.  A reference  has  been  made  to  the  order  dated  30.1.2003
      directing all the accused to  remain  present  on  the  next  date  of
      hearing, i.e., 07.2.2003, for framing of charge.  Reference  has  been
      made to the orders passed wherefrom  it  is  clear  that  the  accused
      persons had sought adjournment on the ground that writ petitions  were
      pending before the High Court.  It is  also  put  forth  that  certain
      applications were filed by the accused persons seeking longer date  by
      giving  personal  reasons  and  sometimes  on  the  ground   of   non-
      availability of the counsel.  It is the case of the  prosecution  that
      because of adjournments, the charges could  not  be  framed  within  a
      reasonable time  but  ultimately,  on  15.12.2007,  the  charges  were
      framed.  The factual  narration  would  further  reveal  that  certain
      miscellaneous  applications  were  filed  and  they  were   ultimately
      dismissed on 20.2.2008.  On 04.4.2009, an order was  passed  requiring
      the counsel for the accused to submit  admission  and  denial  of  the
      documents as per the description mentioned in  the  application  under
      Section 294 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.  Some time was consumed
      to carry out the said exercise.  The matter was also adjourned as PW.1
      had undergone an operation.  On 26.8.2012, the  trial  Court  recorded
      that the witness, Shetye, was unable to attend the Court  and  on  the
      next date, i.e., 13.7.2012, the Prosecution Witness No. 1 stated  that
      he was suffering from mental imbalance and was not in  a  position  to
      depose and in view of the  said  situation,  the  Court  directed  the
      prosecution to lead evidence of other  witnesses  on  the  next  date.
      Relying on the documents annexed  to  the  counter  affidavit,  it  is
      contended that on most of the dates, the accused has taken adjournment
      on some pretext or the other.

   8. In the body of the counter affidavit, various dates have been referred
      to and, computing the same, it has been stated that delay attributable
      to the accused is 15.5 years and the delay in bringing the  matter  in
      queue in the trial Court is one year.  The rest of the delay is caused
      as the prosecution has taken time on certain  occasions  and  on  some
      dates, the learned trial Judge was on leave.  In this backdrop, it has
      been contended that it is not a fit  case,  where  this  Court  should
      quash the proceedings in exercise of powers under Article  32  of  the
      Constitution of India.

   9. An affidavit-in-rejoinder has been filed  stating,  inter  alia,  that
      applications were filed for release which were within the legal rights
      and hence, the delay cannot be attributed to the accused persons.   It
      is urged that though number of orders have  been  passed,  yet  not  a
      single witness has been examined.  The allegation that the accused had
      gone on vacation has been seriously disputed.  Emphasis has been  laid
      on the order dated 18.3.2005 passed by the High Court  clarifying  the
      position that it had not granted stay and the pendency of  the  matter
      should not be a ground to adjourn the case.  It is contended that  the
      Investigating Officer is neither serious nor  interested  to  see  the
      progress of the trial but is desirous of delaying as he is aware  that
      the case of the prosecution is totally devoid of merit.  It is further
      stated that there has been gross and unexplained delay at  each  stage
      of the proceedings and hence, the same deserves to be quashed.

  10. We have heard Dr.  Rajeev  Dhavan,  learned  senior  counsel  for  the
      petitioner,  and  Mr.  Sanjay  V.  Kharde,  learned  counsel  for  the

  11. To appreciate the centripodal issue whether in such a case this Court,
      in exercise of powers under Article 32  of  the  Constitution,  should
      quash the criminal trial on the ground of delay, it  is  requisite  to
      state that in the present petition, we are  only  concerned  with  the
      time spent after 02.3.2001, i.e., the date  of  pronouncement  of  the
      judgment in the earlier criminal  appeals,  and  further  the  factual
      matrix as already exposited shows how the  delay  has  occurred.   The
      factum of delay and its resultant effect are to be tested on the basis
      of the exposition of law by this Court.

  12. In Abdul Rehman Antulay and others v. R.S.  Nayak  and  another[2],  a
      proponement was advanced that unless a time limit  is  fixed  for  the
      conclusion of the criminal proceedings,  the  right  to  speedy  trial
      would be illusory.  The Constitution Bench,  after  referring  to  the
      factual matrix  and  various  submissions,  opined  that  there  is  a
      constitutional guarantee of speedy trial  emanating  from  Article  21
      which  is  also  reflected  in  the  Code   of   Criminal   Procedure.
      Thereafter, the Court proceeded to state as follows:-

          “83.   But then speedy trial or other expressions  conveying  the
          said concept – are necessarily relative in nature.  One may ask –
          speedy means, how speedy?  How long a delay is too long?   We  do
          not think it is possible to  lay  down  any  time  schedules  for
          conclusion of criminal proceedings.  The nature of  offence,  the
          number of accused, the number of witnesses, the workload  in  the
          particular  court,  means  of  communication  and  several  other
          circumstances have to be kept in mind.”

      After so stating, the  Court  gave  certain  examples  relating  to  a
murder trial where less number of witnesses are examined and certain  trials
which involve large number  of  witnesses.   It  also  referred  to  certain
offences which, by their very  nature,  e.g.,  conspiracy  cases,  cases  of
misappropriation, embezzlement, fraud,  forgery,  sedition,  acquisition  of
disproportionate assets by public  servants,  cases  of  corruption  against
high public officials, take longer time for investigation  and  trial.   The
Court also took note of the workload in each court, district,  regional  and
State-wise and the strikes by the members of the Bar  which  interfere  with
the work schedules.  The Bench further proceeded  to  observe  that  in  the
very nature of things, it is difficult to draw a time limit beyond  which  a
criminal proceeding will not be  allowed  to  go,  and  if  it  is  a  minor
offence, not an economic offence and the delay is too long,  not  caused  by
the accused, different considerations may arise but each case must  be  left
to be decided on its own facts and  the  right  to  speedy  trial  does  not
become illusory when a time limit is not fixed.

  13.  In  the  said  case,  in  paragraph  86,  the  Court  culled  out  11
      propositions  which  are  meant  to  sub-serve  as  guidelines.    The
      Constitution  Bench  observed  that  the  said  propositions  are  not
      exhaustive as it is difficult to foresee all situations  and  further,
      it is not  possible  to  lay  down  any  hard  and  fast  rules.   The
      propositions which are relevant for the present purpose are reproduced

          “(5)    While  determining  whether  undue  delay  has   occurred
          (resulting in violation of Right to Speedy Trial) one  must  have
          regard to all the attendant circumstances,  including  nature  of
          offence, number of accused and witnesses,  the  workload  of  the
          court concerned, prevailing local conditions and so on – what  is
          called,  the  systemic  delays.   It  is  true  that  it  is  the
          obligation of the State  to  ensure  a  speedy  trial  and  State
          includes  judiciary  as  well,  but  a  realistic  and  practical
          approach should be adopted in such matters instead of a  pedantic

                 xxx           xxx           xxx

          (8)    Ultimately, the Court has to balance and weigh the several
          relevant factors -  ‘balancing test’ or ‘balancing process’ – and
           determine in each case whether the right  to  speedy  trial  has
          been denied in a given case.

          (9)     Ordinarily  speaking,  where  the  court  comes  to   the
          conclusion that right to speedy trial  of  an  accused  has  been
          infringed the charges or the conviction,  as  the  case  may  be,
          shall be quashed.  But this is not the  only  course  open.   The
          nature of the offence and other circumstances in a given case may
          be such that quashing of proceedings may not be in  the  interest
          of justice.  In such a case, it is open to the court to make such
          other appropriate order – including  an  order  to  conclude  the
          trial within a fixed time where the trial  is  not  concluded  or
          reducing the sentence where the trial has concluded – as  may  be
          deemed just and equitable in the circumstances of the case.

      It has been laid  down  therein  that  it  is  neither  advisable  nor
practicable to fix any time-limit for trial  of  offences  inasmuch  as  any
such rule is bound to be qualified one.

  14. In Kartar Singh v. State of  Punjab[3],  another  Constitution  Bench,
      while accepting the principle that denial of the right to speedy trial
      to the accused may eventually result in  a  decision  to  dismiss  the
      indictment or a reversal of conviction, further went on  to  state  as

           “92. Of course, no length of time is per se  too  long  to  pass
           scrutiny under this principle nor the accused is called upon  to
           show the actual prejudice by delay of disposal of cases. On  the
           other hand, the court has  to  adopt  a  balancing  approach  by
           taking note of the possible prejudices and disadvantages  to  be
           suffered by the accused by  avoidable  delay  and  to  determine
           whether the accused in a criminal proceeding has  been  deprived
           of his right of having  speedy  trial  with  unreasonable  delay
           which could be identified by the factors — (1) length of  delay,
           (2) the justification for the delay, (3) the accused's assertion
           of his right to speedy trial, and (4) prejudice  caused  to  the
           accused by such delay.”

  15. However, thereafter, certain pronouncements, namely, “Common Cause”, A
      Registered  Society  through  its  director  v.  Union  of  India  and
      others[4], “Common Cause”, A Registered Society through  its  director
      v. Union of India and others[5], Raj Deo Sharma (supra)  and  Raj  Deo
      Sharma (II) v. State of  Bihar[6],  came  to  the  field  relating  to
      prescription of outer limit for the conclusion of the  criminal  trial
      and  the  consequences  of  such  delay,  being  either  discharge  or
      acquittal of the accused.  The controversy required  to  be  addressed
      and, accordingly, the matter was  referred to a Seven-Judge  Bench  in
      P. Ramchandra Rao v. State of Karnataka[7] and the larger Bench by the
      majority opinion, analyzing the dictum  of  A.R.  Antulay’s  case  and
      Kartar Singh’s case and other legal principles relating to  the  power
      of  the  Legislature,  the  power  of  the  Court  and  spectrums   of
      jurisdiction, recorded certain conclusions.  The conclusion Nos. 3 and
      4, which are pertinent for the present case, are as under:-

           “(3)  The guidelines laid down in  A.R.  Antulay  case  are  not
           exhaustive but only illustrative.   They  are  not  intended  to
           operate  as  hard-and-fast  rules  or  to  be  applied  like   a
           straitjacket formula.  Their applicability would depend  on  the
           fact situation of each case.  It is  difficult  to  foresee  all
           situations and no generalization can be made.

           4)  It  is  neither  advisable,  nor  feasible,  nor  judicially
              permissible  to  draw  or  prescribe  an  outer   limit   for
              conclusion of all criminal proceedings.  The  time-limits  or
              bars of limitation prescribed in the several directions  made
              in Common Cause (I), Raj Deo Sharma (I) and  Raj  Deo  Sharma
              (II) could not have been so prescribed or drawn and  are  not
              good law.  The criminal courts are not obliged  to  terminate
              trial or criminal proceedings merely on account of  lapse  of
              time, as prescribed by the directions made  in  Common  Cause
              Case (I), Raj Deo Sharma Case (I) and (II).  At the most  the
              periods of time prescribed in those decisions can be taken by
              the courts seized of the  trial  or  proceedings  to  act  as
              reminders when they may be persuaded to apply their  judicial
              mind to the facts and circumstances of the case  before  them
              and  determine  by  taking  into  consideration  the  several
              relevant factors as pointed out  in  A.R.  Antulay  case  and
              decide whether  the  trial  or  proceedings  have  become  so
              inordinately  delayed  as  to  be   called   oppressive   and
              unwarranted.   Such  time-limits  cannot  and  will  not   by
              themselves be treated by  any  Court  as  a  bar  to  further
              continuance of the trial or proceedings  and  as  mandatorily
              obliging the court  of  terminate  the  same  and  acquit  or
              discharge the accused.”

                                                            [Emphasis added]

  16. At this juncture,  we  may  notice  few  decisions  to  show  how  the
      principles  laid  down  in  Abdul  Rehman  Antulay  (supra)   and   P.
      Ramachandra Rao (supra) have been applied by this Court either for the
      purpose of quashing of the prosecution or refusal  to  accede  to  the
      prayer in that regard. In Vakil Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar[8], the
      two-Judge Bench took note of factual scenario that  the  investigation
      was conducted by an officer who had no jurisdiction to do so; that the
      accused-appellant therein could not be accused of causing delay in the
      trial because he had successfully exercised his right to challenge  an
      illegal investigation; that despite direction by  the  High  Court  to
      complete  the  investigation  within  a  period  of  three  months  on
      7.9.1990, nothing had happened till  27.2.2007  and  the  charge-sheet
      could only be filed on 1.5.2007 and, accordingly, opined that  it  was
      not a case where there was any exceptional circumstance which could be
      possibly taken into consideration for condoning the  inordinate  delay
      of more than two decades in investigation  and,  accordingly,  quashed
      the proceedings before the trial court.

  17. In Sudarshanacharya v. Purushottamacharya and another[9],  a  criminal
      prosecution  was  launched  for   commission   of   an   offence   for
      misappropriation and criminal breach  of  trust.   On  an  application
      being filed for quashing of the proceedings, the High  Court  declined
      to quash the proceedings taking note of the fact that the accused  had
      also played a role  in  the  procrastination  of  the  proceeding  and
      directed that the case be  heard  on  day-to-day  basis.   The  matter
      travelled to this Court and a contention was advanced that it would be
      unfair to submit the accused-appellant to the agony of a trial after a
      lapse of long time.  The Division Bench  referred  to  the  principles
      laid down in P. Ramachandra Rao (supra) and, further  taking  note  of
      the conduct of the accused, declined to quash the proceedings.

  18. At this stage, we think it apposite to advert to another aspect  which
      is some times highlighted.  It is quite common that  a  contention  is
      canvassed in certain cases that unless there is a  speedy  trial,  the
      concept of fair  trial  is  totally  crucified.   Recently,  in  Mohd.
      Hussain alias Julfikar Ali v. State (Government of NCT of  Delhi)[10],
      a three-Judge Bench, after  referring  to  the  pronouncements  in  P.
      Ramchandra Rao’s case, Zahira Habibulla H. Shekh and another v.  State
      of Gujarat and others[11], Satyajit Banerjee and others  v.  State  of
      West Bengal and others[12], pointed out the subtle distinction between
      the two in the following manner:-

          “40 “Speedy trial” and “fair trial” to  a  person  accused  of  a
          crime are integral  part  of  Article  21.   There  is,  however,
          qualitative difference between the right to speedy trial and  the
          accused’s right of fair trial.  Unlike  the  accused’s  right  of
          fair trial, deprivation of the right to speedy trial does not per
          se prejudice the accused in  defending  himself.   The  right  to
          speedy trial is in its very nature  relative.   It  depends  upon
          diverse circumstances.  Each case of delay  in  conclusion  of  a
          criminal trial has to be seen in the facts and  circumstances  of
          such case.  Mere lapse of several years since the commencement of
          prosecution by itself  may  not  justify  the  discontinuance  of
          prosecution or dismissal of indictment.  The  factors  concerning
          the accused’s right to speedy trial have to be weighed  vis-à-vis
          the impact of the crime on society  and  the  confidence  of  the
          people in judicial system.  Speedy trial  secures  rights  to  an
          accused but it does not preclude the rights  of  public  justice.
          The nature and gravity of crime, persons involved, social  impact
          and societal needs must be weighed along with the  right  of  the
          accused to speedy trial and if the balance tilts in favour of the
          former the long delay in conclusion of criminal trial should  not
          operate against the continuation of prosecution and if the  right
          of the accused in the facts and circumstances  of  the  case  and
          exigencies of situation tilts the  balance  in  his  favour,  the
          prosecution may be brought to an end.”

                                                            [Emphasis added]

  19. It is to be kept in mind that on one hand, the right of the accused is
      to have a speedy  trial  and  on  the  other,  the  quashment  of  the
      indictment or the acquittal or refusal for sending the matter for  re-
      trial has to be weighed, regard being had to the impact of  the  crime
      on the society and the  confidence  of  the  people  in  the  judicial
      system.  There cannot be a mechanical approach.  From  the  principles
      laid down in many an authority of this Court, it is clear  as  crystal
      that no time limit can be stipulated  for  disposal  of  the  criminal
      trial.  The delay caused has to  be  weighed  on  the  factual  score,
      regard being had to the nature of  the  offence  and  the  concept  of
      social justice and the cry of the collective.  In the  case  at  hand,
      the  appellant  has  been  charge-sheeted  under  the  Prevention   of
      Corruption Act, 1988 for disproportionate assets.  The said Act has  a
      purpose to serve.  The Parliament intended to eradicate corruption and
      provide deterrent punishment when criminal culpability is proven.  The
      intendment of the legislature has an immense social relevance.  In the
      present  day  scenario,  corruption  has  been  treated  to  have  the
      potentiality of corroding the marrows of the economy.  There are cases
      where the amount is small and in certain cases, it is extremely  high.
      The gravity of the offence in such a case, in our considered  opinion,
      is not to be adjudged on the bedrock of  the  quantum  of  bribe.   An
      attitude to abuse the official position to extend favour  in  lieu  of
      benefit is a crime against the collective and an anathema to the basic
      tenet of democracy, for it erodes the  faith  of  the  people  in  the
      system.  It creates an incurable concavity in the Rule of Law.  Be  it
      noted, system of good governance is founded on collective faith in the
      institutions.   If  corrosions  are  allowed  to  continue  by  giving
      allowance to quash the proceedings in corruption cases solely  because
      of delay without scrutinizing other relevant factors, a time may  come
      when the unscrupulous people would foster and garner the  tendency  to
      pave the path of anarchism.

  20. It can be stated without any fear of contradiction that corruption  is
      not to be judged by degree, for corruption mothers disorder,  destroys
      societal will to progress, accelerates undeserved ambitions, kills the
      conscience, jettisons the glory of  the  institutions,  paralyses  the
      economic health of a country, corrodes the sense of civility and  mars
      the  marrows  of  governance.   It  is  worth  noting   that   immoral
      acquisition of wealth destroys the energy of the people  believing  in
      honesty, and history records with agony how they have  suffered.   The
      only redeeming fact  is  that  collective  sensibility  respects  such
      suffering as it is in consonance  with  the  constitutional  morality.
      Therefore, the relief for quashing of a trial under the 1988  Act  has
      to be considered in the above backdrop.

  21. It is perceivable that delay has  occurred  due  to  dilatory  tactics
      adopted by the accused, laxity on the  part  of  the  prosecution  and
      faults on the part of the system, i.e., to keep the court vacant.   It
      is also interesting to note that though there was no  order  directing
      stay of the proceedings before the trial court, yet at the instance of
      the accused, adjournments were sought.  After the High Court clarified
      the position, the  accused,  by  exhibition  of  inherent  proclivity,
      sought adjournment and filed miscellaneous applications for prolonging
      the trial, possibly harbouring the notion that asking for  adjournment
      is a right of the accused and filing applications is his unexceptional
      legal right.  When we say so, we may not be understood  to  have  said
      that the accused is debarred in law to  file  applications,  but  when
      delay is caused on the said score, he cannot advance a plea  that  the
      delay in trial has  caused  colossal  hardship  and  agony  warranting
      quashment of the entire criminal proceeding.  In the present case,  as
      has been stated earlier, the accused, as alleged, had acquired  assets
      worth Rs. 33.44 lacs.  The value of the said amount  at  the  time  of
      launching of the prosecution has to be kept in mind.  It can be stated
      with absolute assurance  that  the  tendency  to  abuse  the  official
      position has spread like an epidemic  and  has  shown  its  propensity
      making the collective to believe that unless bribe is given, the  work
      may not be done.  To put it differently, giving bribe, whether in cash
      or in kind, may become the “mantra” of the people.  We may  hasten  to
      add, some citizens do protest but the said  protest  may  not  inspire
      others to follow the path of sacredness of boldness and  sacrosanctity
      of courage.  Many may try to deviate.  This deviation is  against  the
      social and national interest.  Thus, we are disposed to think that the
      balance to continue  the  proceeding  against  the  accused-appellants
      tilts in favour of the prosecution and, hence, we are not inclined  to
      exercise the jurisdiction under Article  32  of  the  Constitution  to
      quash the proceedings.  However, the learned Special Judge is directed
      to dispose of the trial by the end of December, 2013 positively.

  22. The writ petition is accordingly disposed of.

                            [K. S. Radhakrishnan]

                                                     [Dipak Misra]
New Delhi;
March 15, 2013

[1]    (1998) 7 SCC 507
[2]    (1992) 1 SCC 225
[3]    (1994) 3 SCC 569
[4]    (1996) 4 SCC 33
[5]    (1996) 6 SCC 775
[6]    (1999) 7 SCC 604
[7]    (2002) 4 SCC 578
[8]    (2009) 3 SCC 355
[9]    (2012) 9 SCC 241
[10]   (2012) 9 SCC 408
[11]   (2004) 4 SCC 158
[12]   (2005) 1 SCC 115


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