Rape trials must end within two months as stipulated under law, the Supreme Court has said directing trial courts to "strictly adhere" to existing norms while asking them to rule out the possibility of "manoeuvring" through undue long adjournments.
A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Fakkir Mohammed Ibrahim Kalifulla gave their judgement on December 6, 10 days before the Delhi gangrape which triggered nation-wide outrage with strong demands for fast-tracking of rape cases.
The apex court's verdict came while dismissing the appeal of a man convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the offences of murder and robbery.
The convict, Akil, along with two others in October 1998 while robbing a woman of her cash and jewellery at gunpoint inside her home at Maujpur here had shot her friend when he had objected to the accused's attempt to molest her.
"We issue directions in light of the provisions contained in section 231 (evidence for prosecution) read along with section 309 (power to postpone or adjourn proceedings) of CrPC for the trial court to strictly adhere to the procedure prescribed therein in order to ensure speedy trial of cases.
"And also rule out the possibility of any manoeuvring taking place by granting undue long adjournments for mere asking," the bench said in its 37-page judgement.
Section 309 of the CrPC provides that in every inquiry or trial the proceedings should be held as expeditiously as possible and once the examination of witnesses begins the same shall be continued on a day-to-day basis till all the witnesses are examined.
The apex court also noted that in cases that come under section 376 (rape) and related offences under sections 376 A to D of the IPC, the CrPC stipulates that "the inquiry or trial shall, as far as possible, be completed within a period of two months from the date of commencement of the examination of witnesses."