The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court delay lets goons free, rue cops

The abnormal delay in the judicial process has put the city police in a spot. The trials of at least 1,000 accused have not taken off in the past three years in different criminal courts.

The police say that even after they completed the investigations and prepared the chargesheets against all the accused, the courts don’t have time to hear the cases. As a result, the accused have obtained bail and returned to their “turf” to resume their life of crime.

Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, said he kept prodding advocate-general Balai Roy “but unfortunately, none of the cases has been up for hearing so far”. The accused are now awaiting acquittal. According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, if the trial is not completed within three years, the accused will be acquitted. “If the courts do not start the trials, some of the accused, who are already moving in and around the city after getting bail, will be acquitted soon,” said an officer.

According to Mitra, altogether 450 people were arrested on charges of carrying illegal arms, while 429 were booked for peddling drugs over the past three years. “Our officers had to stretch themselves to complete the investigation and prepare chargesheets against all of them. Despite this, the accused, armed with bail orders, are moving around freely but we have nothing to do,” said Mitra.

The Centre had directed the state government to start 57 fast-track courts, including 13 in Calcutta, to deal with pending cases. Only one such court has been set up recently in the city. But it has not heard a single case in which the accused was arrested under the Arms Act or the Narcotic Drugs Act.

“We don’t expect the accused to be convicted. Had the court heard the cases, at least 50 per cent of the accused could have been punished,” said Mitra. “Conviction under the two Acts is not too stiff — at most imprisonment for two to three years. If 500 city-based criminals spend three years behind bars, crime will take a beating in the city,” he added.

According to Clause V, Rule 167 of the CrPC, if the sessions court fails to finish hearing the cases under these Acts within three years and the police fail to complete their investigations in the same period, the court is bound to release the accused.

“No one can raise a finger at us. Our officers have prepared the chargesheets much before the stipulated time. Now, we are waiting for the court’s call,” said a detective department official.

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