At a time when the country is confronting a pendency of over three crore cases, the Supreme Court has come to the rescue of a man facing criminal complaint for 13 years. The apex court ruled that the archaic practice of summoning files from one court to another should be stopped, as it hindered speedy justice.
A Bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur in an order passed on Thursday expressed serious concern over files getting stuck in the apex court for years, after summoned from lower courts, and the trials coming to a virtual halt. The court’s strong observa
tion came on a petition filed by G N Verma against whom a criminal complaint was filed in August 2000. Verma sought quashing of the complaint, which the Jharkhand High Court declined in September 2002. Verma then moved the apex court wherein special leave to appeal was granted in January 2004.
“Despite the fact that this court did not pass any interim order, staying the proceedings before the trial judge, we were informed that the criminal complaint has made absolutely no progress for 13 years. We were understandably disturbed with the state of affairs. However, we were later informed that the trial could not progress since the original records of the case had been transmitted to this court. In the absence of the original records, the Chief Judicial Magistrate obviously could not proceed with the trial,” the apex court observed.
“It is time to revisit the rules, practices and procedures being followed not only by this court but also by other courts, requiring the summoning of the original records of a trial for no apparent reason except that the rules, practices and procedures provide for their requisitioning. This routine brings the trial to a grinding halt and delays the delivery of justice to an aggrieved litigant,” the court said.
Asking the policy planners and decision makers to wake up to harsh realities, the court said: “It is time to decide on the customary summoning of the original records of a trial. This appeal is an indicator that the disposal of some cases is delayed only because of some archaic rules, practices and procedures. If the original records had not been routinely summoned from the Chief Judicial Magistrate, we are confident that the trial could well have concluded many years ago.”
In this particular case, Verma was the Chief General Manager (North Karanpura Area) and deemed agent of Karkata Colliery, where an unfortunate fatal incident took place in March 2000 despite prohibitory orders on mining activities there until certain defects were corrected.
Quashing the complaint against Verma, the Bench said: “Insofar as the criminal complaint is concerned, it does not contain any allegation against Verma. The only statement concerning him is that he was the Chief General Manager/deemed Agent of the mine and was exercising supervision, management and control of the mine and in that capacity he was bound to see that all mining operations were conducted in accordance with the act, the rules, regulations and orders made thereunder. On the facts of this case, we would need to unreasonably stretch the law to include Verma as a person vicariously responsible for the lapse that occurred in the mine resulting in a fatal accident. We are of the view that under these circumstances, there is no basis for proceeding against him.”