‘Direct Affront To Right To Speedy Trial’: Orissa HC

In Binod Bihari Sethy v. State of Odisha, the Orissa High Court quashed the relevant FIR and the related proceedings in the case on Monday in light of the investigating agency’s inability to wrap up the investigation in a Criminal Intimidation case for as long as 15 years. The Bench of Justice Sashikanta Mishra termed it as a direct affront to the cherished principle of the right to speedy trial ingrained in the provisions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Brief Facts Of The Case: The Bench was primarily dealing with the matter of one Binod Bihari Sethy, who was the subject of a FIR filed in October 2006 that resulted in the filing of a case for an offence under Sections 447/379/188/294/535/506 of the IPC. The petitioner filed a Section 482 Cr.P.C. application after the Final Report in the matter was provided after more than 15 years, claiming the investigating agency’s inactivity as justification for rescinding the FIR and any subsequent criminal actions.

The petitioner claimed that despite being around 72 years old, the ongoing criminal investigation and the uncertainties surrounding it had put him under a great deal of mental stress. On the other hand, the Additional Standing Counsel argued that because there is no final deadline for the end of a criminal prosecution, a case cannot be thrown out for a mere delay in submitting the Final Form or Final Report.

Judgement: The Court concluded that the investigating agency’s failure to wrap up the investigation for up to 15 years, and that too without providing even a passing justification, constitutes a flagrant violation of the cherished principle of the right to a speedy trial ingrained in the provisions of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Court also believed that instead of providing the I.O. full reign to conduct the inquiry as he pleased, the Court below should have requested a report from him about the state of the investigation. The FIR and the associated Criminal Proceeding were quashed, and the Court noted that notice was supposedly issued to the informant calling upon him to file protest petition after submission of the Final Report on 31.12.2019, but sadly, three more years have allegedly passed in the meantime with the matter being left in a state of suspended animation as it were.

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