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HC ire over illegible depositions
- Govt rapped for poor facilities

Ranchi, July 30: Badly written records of witness depositions during criminal trials in lower courts have prompted Jharkhand High Court to pull up the state government for its failure to appoint proper writers in the subordinate judiciary.

The high court observed today that the state government had been insincere as it was its responsibility to provide manpower and infrastructure to the judiciary to ensure speedy justice.

These remarks were made while a division bench of Justice D.N. Patel and Justice P.P. Bhatt was hearing a criminal appeal filed by Murli Marandi, Som Tudu and Sukal Tudu against their life sentence in a case of double murder registered in Dumka.

The trio were convicted in June 2003 by the 2nd additional district judge Dumka and are in custody.

While going through the lower court records of the case, the high court observed that the depositions of witnesses, written by the Dumka district judge, weren’t legible. Neither the advocates of the appellants, nor the state counsel could decipher the contents of the depositions.

“If a judge is busy writing depositions, he loses the chance to see the facial expressions of the witness who reacts differently to questions asked by advocates. It is the duty of the judge to read the demeanour of the witness,” the bench observed.

The division bench then directed the state government to consider appointment of deposition writers on priority. But it called for a measured approach, saying appointments should be made in a phased manner to avoid financial burden.

The state, it said, would require at least 500 deposition writers across lower courts, but to begin with, the government could start with 150 deposition writers.

The court observed that there was huge outcry for speedy justice, but without proper assistance, the courts were handicapped.

A trial court judge, it added, was trapped with writing depositions that take a lot of time. Delay in criminal trials affected the delivery of justice.

The matter will be heard again on September 17.

The court had on an earlier occasion directed the chief secretary and home secretary to look into the matter. And although the officers had given an undertaking before it to appoint deposition writers in all districts, nothing has happened till date.

The bench also observed that orders of the court were not being complied with and, therefore, the state wasn’t performing its duty well.