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The right to speedy trial is not a fact or literature but a "Constitutional reality" and it has to be given its due respect. Rule of Law is a doctrine of wide significance, not only does it connote equal treatment before law, but also the supremacy of the authority of law over the powers of individuals.

The Indian Constitution is a modem, egalitarian, understanding embodying the rule of law, which guarantees, and not merely proclaims, that rights of all individuals are equally protected. The Founding fathers of our Constitution placed "Justice" at the highest pedestal and Preamble to our Constitution, considerably noticed justice higher than the other principles that is liberty, equality and fraternity. Again, the Preamble clearly demonstrates the precedence to social and economic justice over political justice. The State as a guardian of Fundamental Rights of its Citizens is duty-bound to ensure speedy trial and avoid extremely long delays in trial of criminal cases that could result in grave miscarriage of justice. It is in the interest of all worried that the guilt or inexperience of the accused is determined as quickly as possible.

In Sheela Barse v. Union of India, court reaffirmed that speedy trial to be fundamentaly right. Right to speedy trial is a concept gaining acknowledgment and importance day by day. There are 3 pillars of social restraint and order in India Legislature Executive Judiciary Legislature is a power, which makes the law, & Executive takes into consideration effective implementation of the legislations, while judiciary implements it practically. The question is whether is anyone really serious and worried about these problems? With the rapid growth in technological, industrial field and population, workload has increased on the judiciary system which calls for effective and rapid removal of ever increasing cases but the effectiveness of the court is hampered badly.


Speedy Trial means a reasonable expeditiously trial which comply with all essentials of a trial. It is a trial where the prosecution with reasonable diligence begins promptly and conducts expeditiously. The Right to Speedy Justice includes all the stages of criminal justice system, namely, stage of investigation, enquiry, trial, appeal, revision and retrial. In short, everything commencing with an accusation and expiring with a final verdict – the two being respectively the terminus a quo and terminus and quem – of the journey, which an accused must automatically undertake once, faced with an allegation. It is almost a quarter of century ago, the Apex Court bestowed the status of ‘Fundamental Right’ on the Right to Speedy Trial.

Yet, this right is a mere chimera and cliché for millions of litigants in India. Fair, just and reasonable procedure implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution creates a Right in accused to be tried speedily, the concern for the right of speedy trial from the point of view of the accused are - The period of remand and pre conviction and detention should be as short as possible. The worry, anxiety, expenses and disturbances to this vocation and peace resulting from and unduly prolonged investigation, enquiry and trial should be minimal. Undue delay results in impairment of the ability of the accused to defend him.

In general “Speedy Trial” means the disposal of a case within a “Reasonable Time” but it cannot be taken to mean the “Khomeini Trial” where proceedings are held in a camera and trial is over within no time, followed by an immediate execution without any Right of Appeal.

If JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED then JUSTICE HURRIED IS JUSTICE BURRIED, slow justice is bad but speedy injustice is no replacement. Therefore while stressing on the need of Speedy Trial in the Disposal of Cases, we must also be cautious against undue speed or haste because this would be substitute one evil from another.


Delay in cases can be of two types:

1. Court system delay which accounts for the period of entering the cause till it’s taken up for trial. 
2. Delay due to professional courtesy of lawyers towards each other and lawyer's vis-à-vis the court. 


In hussainara khatoon v. State of Bihar 1979 AIR 1369 1979 SCR (3) 532 1980 SCC (1) 98 which formed the basis of the theory of the Speedy Trial, it was held that where under trial prisoners have been in jail for duration longer than prescribe, if convicted, their detention in jail is totally unfair and in violation to Fundamental Rights under Article 21.

Inordinate delays violates Article 21 of the constitution: for more than 11 years the trial is pending without any progress for no faults of the accused-petitioner. An expeditious right is a basic right to everybody and cannot be trampled upon unless any of the parties can be accused of the delay. Delay in trial unreasonably confers a right upon the accused to apply for bail. Under sec. 482 read with 483, Cr. P.C lays that every possible measure to be taken to dispose off the case within 6 months from today. No adjournments to be granted until and unless conditions are beyond the control of judiciary.

It is the responsibility of the judiciary to keep a check on under trial prisoners and bring them to trial. Overcrowded courts, inadequate resources, fiscal deficiency cannot be the reasons for withdrawal of a person. In cases relating corruption, judiciary should deal with it quickly and dispose the case as fast as possible. In the case P. Ram Chandra Rao v. State of Karnataka, the court overruled decision of Raj Deo Sharma and common source and held that no time bound direction for carrying out a trial can be issued by a High Court.


This right is contained in Article 14, 19(1) (a) and 21 of the constitution as well as the Code Of Civil Procedure, 1908. It is the constitutional obligation of the government to create such procedures as would ensure and realize speedy trial. Supreme Court being majestic power has to act as guardian of fundamental rights of citizens.


Fundamental Rights are not teasing illusions but are intended to be enforced effectively. On a number of matters, cases were adjourned or delayed but now the court has a right to quash the case or the measures to meet ends of justice. In the case Katar Singh v. State of Punjab 1994 SCC (3) 569, JT 1994 (2) 423, it was stated that right to speedy trial is an essential part of Fundamental Right to Life and Liberty.

In the case Abdul Rahman Antulay v. R.S. Nayak 1992 AIR 1701 = 1991, the bench stated certain aspects and guidelines concerning the speedy trial and quashing of cases should depend upon nature of the case. At the same time it cannot be denied that cases are delayed in the attention of the defendant. It’s rightly said that delay is known as a defence tactic. To effectively apply this right of speedy trial the come close to be adopted by the judiciary should be a realistic one instead of a pedantic one.

On the contrary in White, J. in U.S. v. Ewell, it was said that whether a delay of case is there or not and whether the litigants are depressed of their Fundamental Rights depends upon the circumstance of the cases.

Same was outlined in Powell, J. in Barker's case. It should be taken care that examination does not become harassment. Moreover, we cannot give effect to insist rule' as justice cant de denied or delayed on the grounds that the litigants did not ask for speedy trials. Hence, the court has to apply various balance tests and identify whether the right has been infringed or not. It is not advisable to fix a period of trial because it will lock up and restrict the judiciary and there will be a burden of swift disposal of cases which may deteriorate the value of justice. The right to a speedy trial has been known, on occasion, to work to the drawback of the defendant -- as when sufficient time is not acceptable for preparation of an adequate protection and the higher courts have found it essential to keep a close eye on this.


To conclude all the judicial pronouncements related to Right to speedy trial one thing should be noted that people of India not receiving speedy justice, undue delay has become a common feature of Indian legal system. A number of Judgments given by judiciary for elimination of delay and a number of steps have been formulated by State but the object of speedy trial leftovers a myth and has not, so for, translated into reality. There is need to enact a new comprehensive law on the speedy trial of cases. Criminal laws should be suitably amended to achieve the purpose of speedy trial of offences.

There should be understanding campaign for speedy trial of offences. It is revealed that although the Constitution of India does not straight talk of the right to speedy trial but the same has been given a status of Fundamental Right by way of explanation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Besides the Constitution of India, the Code of Criminal Procedure also guarantees the right to speedy trial in its various provisions. The judiciary, which is instrumental in giving this, rights the status of fundamental. No person can hope to get justice in a literally reasonable period. Proceedings in criminal cases go on for years, sometimes decades. This is despite the legal position powerfully favoring speedy trial.

By: Navin Kumar Jaggi & Archi Jain

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Category Constitutional Law, Other Articles by - Navin Kumar Jaggi