Fairness of the Trial

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Conviction – The charges are proved.

Acquittal – The charges are either disproved or not proved

All trials need to fulfil pre conditions:

  • Free and Fair Trial must be there –
    1. The accused must be given a chance to present a case.
    2. Charges to be framed by the court – Section 228 and Section 240
    3. Right to know the charges – Section 205, Section 273. EXCEPTION: Section 317.
    4. Prosecution can’t withdraw the case without consent of the court – Section 321
    5. Some cases can’t be compounded without the permission of the court – Section 320
    6. Power to examine any witness – Section 311
    7. Court may or may not accept the plea of guilt – Section 229, Section 241, Section 252.
    8. There must be an open trial; this must not be in a confined space with restricted entry. This also means that there can be media in the court. But, there is a problem that if media is in the court they might mobilize the public opinion. It might become an unfair process. Thus, the media trial is subjected to reasonable procedure. The Supreme Court has held that there has to be certain rules operating for any trial if the media needs to be there. If this is not followed, it would lead to contempt of the court.

This may be waived if it is a rape case, family law cases, anti-terrorism case.

The trial can’t be held in your absentia (absence), physically

Exception : Section 317 of the CrPC (Provisions for inquiries and trial being held in the absence of accused in certain cases). The Judge/ Magistrate may decide that the presence of the accused is not needed or is disturbing. Then the person will be represented by the pleader. This is also for physically challenged people (but this is also discretion)

The second part of this is that the physical presence is useless unless the person understands the proceedings (language). Section 318- Procedure where accused does not understand proceedings.  Example: Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case, the accused did not understand the judgement; the whole thing was translated to Tamil.

  1. Impartial Judge – Section 479- Cases in which Judge or Magistrate is personally interested. (i.e. personal bias, pecuniary interest, pre conceived notion of the judge or apparent bias. Actual bias in not necessary.
  2. Due process
  3. Equal protection before laws
  4. Speedy Trial- Ramachandra Rao case they said that you cant put a time limit for trial because it might not be good for a proper trial. Section 167 and other sections point out specific time period. So, what is the status of speedy trial in India? The thing is that if you can see that there is an unnecessary delay, then you can question the fairness of the trial. This is different from limitation period. This is however just a useless section. There is no substance to it.
  • Trial is usually conducted by territorial jurisdiction. Section 177 – Ordinary place of inquiry and trial.

Exception: The transfer of a trial can be done to a different territorial jurisdiction if according to Section 178- Place of inquiry or trial; Section 179- Offence triable where act is done or consequence ensues; Section 180- Place of trial where act is an offence by reason of relation to other offence; Section 181- Place of trial in case of certain offences; Section 182- Offences committed by letters, etc.; Section 183- Offence committed on journey or voyage.

Section 406 – Power of Supreme Court to transfer cases and appeals, allows interstate transfer of case if it is for expedient justice. This is also given in Article 139.

Section 407- Power of High Court to transfer cases and appeals. The powers of the High Court is greater to that of the Supreme Court

CBI v. Hopeson

The court held:

  • ordinary place of trial is not congenial for a trial
  • Risk of intimidation of witness
  • Friction between various groups in the State

P. Ramachandra Rao v. Karnataka

Issues:  Whether bars of limitation on trial to ensure speedy trial can be enacted by the court when legislature has not done so? ( 5 judge) Whether earlier judgments which provides for limitation can be applied to POCA and other economic offences? Whether such limitations provided by case laws can be laid down?


The bench discussed cases previously decided which discussed the matter in detail

The 2 common clause case and the 2 Raj Deo Sharma cases are opposed to the directions set by the constitution bench in A.R.Antulay’s case which holds that it is not advisable/ feasible to prescribe time limits for criminal proceedings.

Whether dictum of Antulay’s case holds or general directions given in judgments are permissible and should be upheld?  (To be considered by a 7 judge bench)

  1. Maneka Gandhi v. UOI inspired a declaration in Hussainara Khatoon case that speedy trial is encompassed by the fundamental right to life and personal liberty enshrined under art. 21 of the constitution.
  2. Common Cause cases- Court issued two sets of directions: one, regarding bail, and the other, regarding quashing of trial. (contrary to guidelines set by constitution bench)
  3. The other set of directions  common cause( II) directed the trial in pending cases to be terminated and the accused to be discharged or acquitted depending on the nature of offence by reference to (i) the maximum sentence inflict able whether fine only or imprisonment, and if imprisonment, then the maximum set out in the law, and (ii) the period for which the case has remained pending in the criminal court
  4. Guidelines laid down in A.R. Antulay’s case:
  • Fair and just trial provides that an accused MUST to be tried.
  • This encompasses all stages starting with investigation.
  • Factors (local and other) have to be considered and who and what is responsible for a delay is to be taken into account.
  • Each delay does not disadvantage the accused and cannot be held unconstitutional
  • Court has to balance various factors.

Read S. (8) (9) (10) and(11)

Speedy trial is relative in nature.

Holding:  Bars of limitation are impractical, tantamount to impermissible legislation. They go against doctrine of precedents and their binding efficiency ( Antulay’s case).

You can find notes on other topics on CrPC here.  You can grab notes for other law subjects from here.

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