The Supreme Court Guidelines
The Supreme Court of India (SC) recently issued significant directions to all Sessions courts in the country in regard to trials of rape cases.
The important points of the Supreme Court directions are as follows.
- All Sessions courts in the country are to conduct rape trials daily.
- The courts will have to complete the process in two months from the date of commencement of examination of witnesses.
- In particular, when examination of witnesses has begun, it shall be continued from day to day until all witnesses in attendance have been examined.
- On frequent adjournments: The SC has noted with concern that it is almost a common practice and regular occurrence that trial courts allow cases to be adjourned on less serious reasons or even on flippant grounds. Adjournments are granted for the asking, quite often to suit the convenience of the advocate. Such practices delay the delivery of justice. The SC has made clear that adjournments can be given only in exceptional circumstances. Even the legislature has frowned upon granting adjournments so frequently.
- When witnesses of a party are present, the court should make every possible endeavour to record their evidence and they should not be called back again.
- Work fixation of the court should be so arranged as not to direct the presence of witnesses whose evidence cannot be recorded.
- Cross-examination should be complete immediately after the examination-in-chief and, if need be, within a short time thereafter.
The SC has directed all High Courts to issue circulars to subordinate courts to strictly adhere to the prescribed procedure to ensure speedy trial and also rule out any manoeuvring taking place by granting an undue, long adjournment for the mere asking.
Significance of the SC directive
In India, the manner in which rape trials are conducted has been a matter of grave concern. The victims of rape are often reluctant to approach the police and the courts for several reasons. One of them is the fear of delays arising out of adjournments and the accused being able to manoeuvre the legal process.
It is hoped that the High Courts would take serious note of the directions issued, which should fundamentally change the manner in which rape trials are held across the country and justice is delivered to the victims.