‘Criminal cases can’t be quashed on delay in court proceeding’

New Delhi: Delay in deciding criminal cases cannot be a ground for quashing them, the Supreme Court has said while upholding the life sentence of a man, convicted 25 years after he killed five persons.

While dismissing Uttar Pradesh native Shyam Babu’s plea for his discharge on the round he was convicted by the high court on state’s appeal 25 years after commission of the crime, a bench of justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan ruled that an accused cannot be discharged on the ground of delay.

“In the case on hand, merely because the high court had taken nearly 25 years to dispose of the appeal, the present appellant cannot be exonerated on the ground of delay. As stated earlier, it is not a case of single murder but due to firing and gunshot, five persons died and one injured. Accordingly, we reject the said contention,” the bench said.

Shyam Babu was acquitted in the murder case by the trial court in 1980. The state government then filed an appeal in the high court in 1981 which convicted him and sentenced him to life term imprisonment in 2006.

Shyam Babu then approached the apex court challenging the high court’s order on the ground of delay. He also said that the high court had wrongly convicted him on the basis of unreliable statements of the relatives of the deceased.

The apex court dismissed his plea saying “version of an eyewitness cannot be discarded by the court merely on the ground that such eye-witness happened to be a relative or friend of the deceased”.

“Where the presence of the eye-witnesses is proved to be natural and their statements are nothing but truthful disclosure of actual facts leading to the occurrence, it will not be permissible for the court to discard the statement of such related or friendly witnesses,” the bench said.