The Chhattisgarh High Court has awarded over Rs 1.8 lakhs as compensation to a man who remained in jail for over a year in more than the imprisonment sentence ultimately imposed upon conviction, on account of delays within the trial (Nitin Aryan v. the State of Chhattisgarh).
There is often little doubt that delay in trial by itself constitutes a denial of justice, said Justice Sanjay K Agrawal while directing the payment of Rs 1,87,200 alongside 6% interest to the petitioner.
The Bench found that the petitioner had remained in jail for a period over the term of his prison sentence on account of delays in conducting the trial, albeit the court had twice directed the Magistrate to conclude the trial expeditiously. "the petitioner in jail for a period awarded violating the petitioner's right to speedy trial guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and for which he is entitled to monetary compensation", the Court held.
The petitioner had moved the Court for compensation claiming infringement of his rights under Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life and personal liberty).
The Court was informed that he had remained in judicial custody for four years, six months, and seven days (from the date of his arrest in 2012) before a trial court convicted him during a cheating case in 2016. Notably, the jail sentence awarded to him by the court was just for three years. In other words, he remained in jail for 18 months longer than his sentence. It was the petitioner’s case that the “right to a speedy trial” is his fundamental right which was violated on account of non-conclusion of the trial within a reasonable time.
The State contested the petition on the bottom that the petitioner had not demonstrated that the delay in the trial was attributed to the prosecution.
The Court, however, stated that the right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and that the petitioner’s fundamental rights had been violated. In this regard, Justice Agrawal relied on the judgments in Pankaj Kumar v. the State of Maharashtra, Meneka Gandhi v Union of India, Hussainara Khatoon's case, Abdul Rehman Antulay's case, and P Ramchandra Rao's case, and Common Cause v. Union of India.
“It has clearly been established that the right to a speedy trial during a criminal case could also be a valuable and important right of the accused therein and its violation would result in denial of justice which would end in grave miscarriage of justice", the Court said. The Court reiterated that the proper to life and liberty may be a serious matter and can't be treated with indifference or callousness because the unauthorized detention of an individual is against human dignity.