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The Allahabad High Court declared the excessive delay in the trial to be oppressive and unjustified on Thursday, and it halted criminal proceedings that had been ongoing against a man accused of stealing energy for 18 years.

The charge sheet and all ongoing case proceedings under Section 39/49B of the Electricity Act against the accused, Madan Mohan Saxena, was dismissed by the bench of Justice Sameer Jain after finding that the accused's fundamental right to a speedy trial had been breached in the case.

Excessive delay of 18 years 

"The order sheet in the current case suggests that the accused applicant is regularly appearing in court, either in person or through his attorney, and the trial in the case relates to Section 39/49B of the Electricity Act, which cannot be said to be a heinous crime, and the trial of the same has been pending since the year 2004, or for the last about 18 years, and the prosecution failed. Therefore, an excessive delay of 18 years without justification should be considered oppressive and unnecessary."

The accused had filed a motion with the High Court asking for the proceedings to be stopped, arguing that even though the original FIR for the current case was not on file and that even though the charge sheet was submitted in December 2003 and cognizance was granted in February 2004, the case against him has been pending for roughly 18 years.

Furthermore, it was argued that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees both the complainant and the accused the fundamental right to a speedy trial. The complainant has been subject to the agony of a criminal trial for the past 18 years without any fault, and the proceedings in the current case have been ongoing for the past 20 years.

The applicant has been going through the pain of a criminal trial under Section 39/49B of the Electricity Act since 2004, even though the State and the U.P. Power Corporation's attorneys opposed the accused's prayer.

Court observation 

In light of this, the Court made a note at the commencement of the case that, despite the applicant's regular attendance in court, whether in person or through his attorney, the trial of the current case has been pending against him since the year 2004 and has now lasted more than 18 years.

The Court further cited the Supreme Court's ruling in Hussainara Khatoon and Others v. Home Secretary State of Bihar AIR 1979 SC 1360, in which it was noted that a violation of the right to a speedy trial constitutes a violation of the fundamental freedom protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Significantly, the Court also cited the Supreme Court's ruling in Vakil Prasad Singh v. State of Bihar (2009) 3 SCC 355, which stated that if the Court determines that the accused's right to a speedy trial has been violated, the charges or the conviction may be overturned, depending on the situation, unless the Court determines that doing so would not be in the best interests of justice given the nature of the offense and other pertinent factors.

In light of the merits of the applicant's argument, the Court invalidated the proceedings while emphasizing that the accused applicant was not to blame for the trial's delay.


 

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