HC wrong ruling irks SC no end

New Delhi, Jan 14 (PTI) Rebuking Allahabad High Courtfor its "casual approach" in acquitting a rapist, the SupremeCourt has said such a serious crime has been handled withoutapplication of mind even as it lamented that "criminal justicesystem is not working in our country" properly.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha said thehigh 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 kidnappeda 17-year-old girl from his village on September 19, 1989 incollusion with two of his friends and raped her repeatedly,while keeping her in his captivity for nearly a month till Oct13.

"We are indeed surprised by the casual approach withwhich the high court has dealt with the matter. Its judgmentis not only cryptic and perfunctory but it has also not takeninto consideration the crucial evidence on record," the courtobserved in its judgement.

"On flimsy grounds, the accused convicted of a seriouscrime of kidnapping and rape has been acquitted. There is noapplication of mind to the evidence of the prosecutrix atall," said the bench adding "The high court was not at alljustified in taking a different view or conclusion from thetrial court."

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

"We must remember that a strong and efficient criminaljustice system is a guarantee to the rule of law and vibrantcivil society," the judges observed.

The court also spoke of "political interference" inseveral cases hampering investigations. "On many occasionsimpartial investigation suffers because of politicalinterference."

The bench went on to list several maladies plaguing thecriminal justice system, while also seeking urgent steps tostem the rot.

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

"The public prosecutors have their limitations; thedefence lawyers do not make themselves available and the courtwould be routinely informed about their pre-occupation withother matters; the courts remain over-burdened with the briefslisted on the day and they do not have adequateinfrastructure," the bench ruled.

The bench rued that adjournments have become routineand the casualty is justice.

"It is imperative that the criminal cases relating tooffences against the State, corruption, dowry death, domesticviolence, sexual assault, financial fraud and cyber crimes arefast-tracked and decided in a fixed time frame, preferably,within three years," the bench suggested..

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