Allahabad HC wrong ruling irks SC no end

Rebuking Allahabad High Court for its "casual approach" in acquitting a rapist, the Supreme Court has said such a serious crime has been handled without application of mind.

Last Updated: Jan 14, 2011, 22:30 PM IST

New Delhi: Rebuking Allahabad High Court
for its "casual approach" in acquitting a rapist, the Supreme
Court has said such a serious crime has been handled without
application of mind even as it lamented that "criminal justice
system is not working in our country" properly.

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.

"It is high time that immediate and urgent steps are
taken in amending the procedural and other laws to achieve the
above objectives," the bench said.

The bench also touched on the issue of police reforms,
saying they "are yet to take place despite (September 2006)
directions of this (apex) court."

The investigators hardly have professional
orientation; they do not have modern tools."

The victim`s brother reported the matter to police
nine days after the incident after he failed to get her freed
from the kidnappers` clutches.

The police traced the girl on Oct 13 and arrested the
trio, one of whom died during the trial proceedings. A second
person was also acquitted while Lal was convicted by the trial
court.

But the high court, on an appeal by Lal acquitted him
on three grounds which included late registration of FIR,
uncertainty about the girl`s age, which it said "could even be
19 years" and also described the girl as "habitual of sexual
intercourse" as there was no internal or external injury on
her body.

PTI