The Madras High Court recently refused to quash a case that had been pending trial for nearly 22 years, stating that it needed to be investigated whether the accused were to blame for the delay (SS Govindaraj v. State).
The prosecution cannot begin the trial if the accused make a concerted effort to sabotage the proceedings by absconding, according to the Court. It went on to say that in such a case, the accused would have to deal with the repercussions of the trial’s postponement.
Justice CV Karthikeyan was hearing a case involving the alleged embezzlement of roughly Rs 42 crore by the Anubhav group of firms, for which no charges had been filed since 1999.
The petitioner was a former Director of Anubhav Plantations Limited, serving in that position from 1995 to 1997. The petitioner also claimed that he had been acquitted in a related matter, in addition to the delay in starting the trial.
The matter has been on the file of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Egmore, for about 22 years, according to Justice Karthikeyan. Regardless, he believes it is necessary to investigate if the accused were directly or indirectly responsible for the delay.
The Court noted the prosecution’s argument that a number of factors led to the delays, including the death of some of the defendants and the fact that some of the defendants were absconding while others had gone abroad.
The judge also considered the gravity of the alleged crime in refusing to dismiss the case, despite the fact that “the calendar matter had been waiting for a long number of years.”
The High Court, on the other hand, has ordered the Magistrate to investigate whether the accused made an intentional attempt to avoid appearing in court. In addition, the Magistrate was asked to consider dividing up the case and establishing a schedule for preparing charges against those accused who are present and attending.
The High Court suggested that a schedule for witness examination be established. The trial court was also ordered to continue with the trial and make every effort to finish it as soon as possible.