Chennai, Dec. 16: A fast-track court here today convicted and sentenced four murder accused only 44 days from the date of the crime.
The prosecutor claimed it was the fastest disposal of a case in India. The achievement sparkles brightest when set against the backdrop of the country's dismal record of delay in delivery of justice.
Over three lakh cases were pending in various high courts across the country as on June 30, 2004, minister of state for law and justice K. Venkatapathy recently told Parliament.
'From the date of the crime to arresting the accused, filing the chargesheet, conducting the trial and handing down of the verdict, it was all completed in just 44 days, a unique judicial record in the country and the second fastest trial in a murder case in the world,' said prosecutor Jyothi Mani.
The fastest trial and verdict in a murder case was through in just 40 days in Scotland, he added.
Judge K. Ashokan today convicted and sentenced Gajendran, Yoganandan, Suresh and Selvakumar to seven years' rigorous imprisonment, holding them responsible for the death of Balaji, a college student, on the sidelines of a marriage reception in Chennai on November 2. He also slapped a fine of Rs 2,000 on each of the accused.
The prosecution had charged that the four were involved in a drunken brawl at the reception of Vairakannu, who runs an aluminium fabrication unit, and broke a bottle, shards of which struck Balaji, a friend of the groom. When he protested, they assaulted him till he fell unconscious. The accused then dumped the youth in a room, locked it and left.
Balaji's friends found him next morning and rushed him in a serious condition to the Royapettah government hospital here. But Balaji failed to respond to treatment and died.
Vadapalani police station registered a case and investigated it quickly.
The prosecution had charged the four initially with attempt to murder, but changed to charges under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC after Balaji died.
But the judge held that there was no evidence to show the four had a motive for the murder and convicted them under Section 304 of the IPC (causing death by negligence).
The achievement comes at a time when the problem of pending cases has taken such proportions that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has suggested that the judiciary cut down on vacations to clear the backlog. But the chief justices and chief ministers have failed to arrive at any conclusion at their recent conferences.