By Nishita Makkar

Published On: September 29, 2021 at 13:11 IST


Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.

This maxim says a lot within itself. The justice system is only said to be efficient when not only it works with impartiality but also give its decisions on time. The philosophy of Right to Speedy trial has grown in age but its goals are yet unforeseen. Speedy Trials means disposal of the cases as soon as possible so as to make judiciary more trustworthy.

Administration of Justice is not limited to conviction of the guilty person and acquittal of the innocent one, speedy trials and non-biasness. Speedy Trials is the need of the hour. In this fast changing and progressing world, delay in trials is not acceptable and even intolerable. An organized law system also contains the concept of speedy trials within it.

In India, a system of independent judiciary prevails making it an effective and trustworthy organ of the state machinery. The right to speedy trial was first mentioned in the landmark document of English Law, the Manga Carta. The right to Speedy Trials is covered under Article 21 of the constitution as a fundamental right of citizens of the country.

This is a necessary to do task in the society where state is a Welfare State and not only a sovereign power. But till date there is nothing done practically especially in India. Recently, Khwaja Yunus[1] custodial death case is in hype where a person indulged in case got died without any justice after waiting for 12 years. The State Crime Investigation Department (CID), the police were accused for not taking concrete steps.

Article 21 and Speedy Trials

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution talks about the Protection of life and Personal liberty. The article is quite comprehensive and has a wide scope. It provides that-

“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

And in case of Munn Vs Illinois[2], the court held that the term ‘life’ meant something more than mere animal existence. Justice Bhagwati in the Maneka Gandhi Case, observed that:

“The expression ‘personal liberty’ in Article 21 is the widest amplitude and it covers a variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of man and some of them have raised to the status of distinct fundamental rights and given additional protection under Article19.”

Contrasting the concept of ‘Life and Liberty’ and right to a speedy trial is a very interesting and relatable phenomenon. Every person has a right to live a free and healthy life. For instance, in case of victim, he has been continuously visiting courts for years to get justice and on the other hand, the accused has to reside in jail or police custody for years for trial.

In both cases, parties are suffering a lot due to delay in proceedings. Such delay in proceedings violates their right to life and personal liberty and effect the mental health of a person. The term law written in requires two conditions to be fulfilled approved by court in Maneka Gandhi case[3], these are:

  • There should be a law, and
  • The law should be ‘reasonable’, ‘fair’ and ‘just.’

It is concluded that the law prescribed for depriving a person of his liberty cannot be “reasonable, fair and just”, unless and until that procedure ensures a speedy trial.

Speedy Trials and History in India

In India, criminal cases or civil cases both have no time-limitation and even in some cases it takes decades to solve them due to various reasons. Even after adoption of the constitution, for two decades, courts were never concerned about the length of time taken on a trial. Even an under-trial prisoner has to spend that length of time in prison. There shows a laziness and lack of working spirit in the judiciary.

But then, Supreme Court assessed and recognized the importance of giving speedy trials as delay in trials had a lot of bad consequences on the whole system of judiciary as well as people’s trust on judiciary. This gave a rise to series of Fundamental Rights that were not expressly present in the Indian Constitution. This included the Fundamental Right of Speedy Trial under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Hussainara Khatoon Vs Home Secretary, State of Bihar[4], 1979, the case made the basis of speedy trial. It was held that due to longer time in trials, prisoners have been in jail and if convicted, their detention in jail is totally inhumane and it violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Speedy trials is a basic right and in order to establish that Section 482 and Section 483 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1972. lays that every possible measure to be taken to be dispose of the case within 6 months from today. Also, judiciary has to keep check on under-trial prisoners and bring them to trial.

What are the Reasons of Delay in Trials?

There are various problems prevailing in the system leading to delay in the cases. These are:

  • The very first and basic reason of the delay in judiciary is the number of judges present in the system is far less than the required one. This leads to increase in pendency of the cases with the growing population.
  • The in-competitive as well as non-professional attitude of judicial system is also considered to be a reason for the delay. This is quite relatable with the virtues of powers that come with the post. It is said that ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’
  • Moreover, even some legislation also lead to wastage of time as Section 309 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1972. deals with adjournments and powers of the courts to postpone the hearing.
  • Various conflicting and overlapping enactments and laws also worsen the situation. Hence, effective measures are needed to be taken to make laws more straight –forward and clear to avoid any contradiction.
  • Sometimes lack of evidence and delay in investigation is also responsible for hampering the trials to be processed properly like Aarushi Murder Case[5].

Hence, like this there are various other reasons that are responsible for delay in trials.

Effects of Delay in Trials

Delaying trials raises a lot bad effects and the main is mental health. The victim, the accused person as well as their families all have to go through mental stress and trauma. If a victim is to be provided justice but say the victim dies before he got justice on his part, then there is no use of it like we saw in Delhi Gang Rape case[6]. Moreover, if in a case an accused die, rather he is guilty or not, or it took so long period to get justice, again in this case, the justice is delayed one.

Naturally, a person who has to go regularly to the court would have to deal with mental stress and agony. This would lead to pressure and loads on their families also. Also, the goodwill, the reputation of a person gets at risk. And social pressures and hatred are very commonly found to be a great cause to make a person’s life feel like a doom. And the struggle for years adds up to the cause.

Also, it concludes up to distrust of the citizens in the country’s judicial system. Many cases have been come under limelight recently where people are taking law in their hands rather believing on judiciary. It also disrupts the peace and harmony of the society.

What are the measures which could prevent Delay in Trials?

The increasing problem gives rise to concern to the whole judicial system of the country. As it breaks the trust of the common people in the prevailing system which could have adverse effect on the society and may lead to “Eye for an eye rule” to be prevailed again, which can be disastrous to the whole human race[7]. Hence, there is a need to take effective measures to stop this problem of delayed trials and implement speedy trials within whole system.

  • The main link of the whole problem is poor management if the courts and hence, time scheduling should be done so that there is effective management of time leading to better management of judicial system.
  • Also, the judges should be provided proper training and vocations on a regular basis to improvise their drafting, hearing and writing skills and skill of taking fast judgments.
  • Moreover the ratio of judges to population must be increased so that both hearing and disposal of case must be done fast and properly. Specialization can play an important role in the timely disposal of the cases.
  • There is also a need to improve the investigation system. Proper checks and timely feedback must be taken from the agency to which the case is handed-over by the court.
  • Review of cases under trial and giving them priority as per chronological order also can relief the pendency of the cases a lot.
  • Nyay Panchayats must also be given different powers and authorization to dispose off small cases at lower levels. Division of work concept can also be taken in consideration for speedy trials.
  • Even Fast Track Courts have been made by the government to deal with the matters but it has not been successful in achieving its goal.
  • Moreover, Article 323-A and 323-B talks about the establishment of tribunals but still the working of tribunals as well as unawareness among the people has also hot the concept hard.

Like these, many more measures and steps can be taken to make the trials speedy and managing the delays.


As per conclusion, we can say that “Late Justice is No Justice”as both the parties whether the victim or the accused have to suffer a lot due to delay in trials leading to delay in justice. The concept of Speedy Trial is adopted as a fundamental right for the sake of people’s trust in judicial scenario. It is meant to expedite the legal system being unfair for the injured party to have to sustain the injury with little hope of resolution.

The court system forms the very basis of judicial processes which have been made convenient and time-bound so that no more cases of delay in justice concern the future of country and judiciary. In a democracy, people’s faith forms the very basis of a country to stand. And legal system is very important to keep up a balance between people and state.

Moreover, as now, Article 21 provides right to speedy trial as a fundamental right but to provide it various measures have to be taken to improve the whole system and to make the fundamental right practically available to the people.

Edited by: Aashima Kakkar, Associate Editor, Law Insider


[1]Khwaja Yunus Custodial Death: Court Raps Prosecution for ‘Lackadaisical’ Approach”, (Last visited on September 24, 2021)

[2] Munn Vs Illions, 94 U.S. 113

[3] Maneka Gandhi Vs Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597

[4] Hussainara Khatoon Vs Home Secretary, State of Bihar, (1980) 1 SCC 98

[5] ABHISHEK SHARAN, “CBI Hits dead end, closes Aarushi double murder case”, (Last visited on September 24th, 2021)

[6]2012 Delhi gang rape case: What happened on December 16”, (last visited on September 24th,2021)

[7] RACHIT GARG, “Right to speedy trial: an inalienable right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution”, (Last visited on September 24th,2021)

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