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8/27/13

The Hindu : Panel for widening scope for summary trials

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Southern States - Karnataka

Panel for widening scope for summary trials


By Our Special Correspondent HUBLI July 2. The Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System has called for widening the scope for summary trials to hasten the process of justice in criminal courts in the country. The committee, constituted by the Union Government under the chairmanship of Justice V.S.Malimath, former Chief Justice of the Karnataka and Kerala high courts, in its report, has expressed concern over the long delay in decision-making, particularly in trial courts. If only the summary procedure prescribed under Sections 262 to 264 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P.C.) are exercised properly, the pace of justice will be quickened considerably, the committee has said. Criminal cases are divided into two categories, warrant cases relating to offences punishable with death, imprisonment for term exceeding two years, and summons cases where the upper limit of imprisonment that can be awarded is two years and/or fine. All summons cases, and a few enumerated warrant cases can be tried summarily by all magistrates, including metropolitan magistrates, and not all, but specially empowered judicial magistrates first class (JMFCs). At present, a large number of cases, in which the punishment is two years or less, are tried and, if only the summary procedure prescribed under Sections 262 to 264 of the Cr. P.C. is exercised properly, it will quicken the pace of justice considerably, according to the committee. However, the committee says that the number of cases, which are at present tried summarily, is quite small and the maximum punishment that can be given after a summary trial is three months. It has lamented that Section 260 (power to try summarily) and Section 355 (metropolitan magistrate's judgment) of the Cr. P.C. are either unutilised or underutilised. Only those magistrates who are duly empowered namely, the chief judicial magistrates and metropolitan magistrates, can try the cases summarily. But most of the magistrates are not empowered to do so. "This is among the many reasons why summary procedures are not fully utilised," the committee has said. As a judge of the same status can deal with the case summarily when he is posted as a metropolitan judge without any empowerment, there is no
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8/27/13

The Hindu : Panel for widening scope for summary trials

reason why such empowerment is needed for other magistrates to deal with cases summarily under Section 262 (procedure for summary trial) of the Cr.P.C. To speed up the process, the committee has expressed the view that all cases in which the punishment is three years and below should be tried summarily and punishment, which can be given, is increased to three years. The panel has said that it is in favour of the recommendation made by the Law Commission in its 154th report for enhancement of the limit of sentence prescribed under Section 262 to three years. Suitable amendments should be also be made to see that offences punishable with imprisonment lower than three years shall become summons case, which shall be tried through the summary procedure laid down. The committee has said that a ceiling of Rs. 200 fixed for the value of property under Section 262 is too low and it should be enhanced to Rs. 5,000 considering the declining value of the rupee. No prejudice will be caused to the accused by the enhancement, it says. The committee is of the view that a large number of cases, which do not involve serious offences, can be disposed of expeditiously, and it has stressed the need for arranging training to magistrates for following the summary procedure. The training should include mock trials and writing of judgments in summary trials, it has said. The committee has expressed the view that the definition of "petty offence" given in Section 206 of the Cr. P.C. should be suitably modified. It is necessary to enlarge the limit prescribed for fine in petty offences from the present Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000. The summary trial procedure and procedure for trying petty cases should be adopted with great advantage in dealing with offences under Special Local Laws, the committee has felt. One of the causes for delay even in the commencement of trial of a criminal case is the serving of summons on the accused. Despite the procedure laid down for the purpose in the Cr. P.C., the committee has noted that rules unfortunately have not been framed by many State governments to enable summons to be served other than through police officers. Section 62 of the Cr. P.C. should be amended to provide for serving summons on accused through registered post with acknowledgement due, and courier service should be adopted wherever the facility is available. If there is a fax facility it should also be used and any endorsement made by the postman that the summons has been "refused" should be deemed sufficient and warrant can be issued.
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The Hindu : Panel for widening scope for summary trials

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