SC sets rules for time-bound completion of criminal trials

In order to bring uniformity in investigation and trial proceedings in criminal cases across the country and to wrap up hearings in a time-bound manner, the Supreme Court directed all high courts and governments to follow the rules approved by it which were drafted by three advocates on its suggestion.

As per the rules, a schedule should be fixed by the trial court to hold proceedings, preferably on a day-to-day basis, and application for bail in nonbailable cases must ordinarily be disposed off within three to seven days from the date of first hearing. It also said state governments shall appoint advocates, other than public prosecutors, to advise the investigating officer during the probe.

Approving the draft criminal rules on practice, a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat directed all HCs to take expeditious steps to incorporate the rules within six months. The rules were drafted by senior advocates Siddharth Luthra, R Basanth and lawyer K Parameshwar who assisted the court as amicus curiae in settling the issue.

The court passed the order after taking cognisance of the lack of uniform practices with regard to preparation of injury reports, deposition of witnesses, translation of statements, numbering and nomenclature of witnesses etc. The court said uniformity was needed to bring clarity with regard to trial court proceedings and records for the purpose of appreciation at the HC level and eventually, before the SC.

“This court is of the opinion that courts in all criminal trials should, at the beginning of the trial, ie after summoning the accused and framing of charges, hold a preliminary case management hearing. This hearing may take place immediately after the framing of charges. In this hearing, the court should consider the total number of witnesses, and classify them as eyewitness, material witness, formal witness and experts,” the rules said.

“The schedule of recording of witnesses should then be fixed, by giving consecutive dates. Each date so fixed should be scheduled for a specific number of witnesses. However, the witnesses may be bound down to appear for 2-3 consecutive dates, in case their depositions are not concluded. Also, in case any witness does not appear, or cannot be examined, the court shall indicate a fixed date for such purpose,” the rules added. The SC also directed state governments and the Centre to carry out consequential amendments to their police and other manuals, within six months.

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