CHENNAI: Taking a serious view of the prolonged incarceration of undertrials involved in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance (NDPS) Act cases due to slow or non-progression of trial, the Madras High Court observed the issue has to be fixed by taking steps for speedy trial.
The court made the observation while hearing a petition filed by five accused seeking bail in a narcotics case. They claimed there is slow or no progress in trial due to vacant posts of magistrates in certain special courts for NDPS Act cases. One of the petitioners has already spent 635 days in jail while another is behind the bars for nearly 518 days.
When the petitions came up before Justice AD Jagadish Chandira recently, the counsels for the petitioners pointed out over 100 undertrial prisoners are forced to spend longer time in prisons due to lack of judicial officers in special courts and slow progress in trial.
One of the counsels, I Abdul Basith, brought to the notice of the court an order passed by SC on prolonged incarceration in NDPS Act cases. Now to refuse bail on the one hand and to delay trial of cases on the other is clearly unfair and unreasonable, and contrary to the spirit of Section 36(1) of the Act, Section 309 of the CrPC and Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the SC had remarked.
Viewing the prolonged incarceration affecting the undertrial prisoners from lower strata due to non-availability of presiding officers in the special courts, the judge said, “This court is of the firm view that a quietus has to be given to the issue by either affording a speedy trial or granting bail.” As per the directions of the court, a report on the number of undertrial prisoners on prolonged incarceration was submitted. However, the judge sought additional information and posted the matter to October 11, 2023.