Mahesh Jethmalani
Mahesh Jethmalani

2G Spectrum case, India’s biggest Economic Crime, deserved speedier disposal: Sr Adv Mahesh Jethmalani speaks on criminal justice delays

"Did the Auditor General and the Supreme Court commit a Himalayan blunder which decimated the telecom sector or is Special Judge OP Saini's verdict questionable? The nation needs to and wants to know", Jethmalani said.

Aditi Singh

Calling it India’s biggest economic crime, Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani recently remarked that the 2G Spectrum case deserved a “much speedier disposal” and that the investigating agencies’ appeals against the acquittal of all accused should be fast-tracked.

Senior Advocate Jethamalani was speaking on the theme, 'Making our Criminal Justice System Work' at the third lecture of Prof NR Madhava Menon Memorial Lecture Series organized by the Akhil Bharatiya Abhivakta Parishad.

The welcome address was delivered by Prof (Dr) Dilip Ukey, Vice-Chancellor, MNLU, Mumbai who paid his tribute to Prof Menon.

While sharing his views on delays in investigation and trial, even in high profile cases, Senior Advocate Jethmalani remarked that it is undeniable that a long time ago, the criminal justice system commenced its path down a slippery slope.

He opined that the failure of all stake-holders in the system to check on this slide has resulted in the present-day alarming situation, where there is an avalanche caused by an earth-shattering docket explosion.

He went on to add,

"Nor is speedy justice visible in, arguably, the biggest economic crime in India's history, namely, the 2G spectrum case. The crime which occurred in 2008... first chargesheet was filed in 2011. After an ensuing trial, the Special Judge acquitted all the accused in December 2017. So much for the Auditor General's report and the prima facie view of the Supreme Court. The CBI has filed an appeal... We are in 2020."
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani

Observing that the case deserved a much speedier disposal and that the appeals should now be fast-tracked, he added,

"Did the Auditor General and the Supreme Court commit a Himalayan blunder which decimated the telecom sector or is Special Judge OP Saini's verdict questionable? The nation needs to and wants to know."
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethamalani

Senior Advocate Jethmalani also pointed towards the ongoing delay in final disposal of other high high profile cases such as the 2006 Malegaon bomb blast, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur's case etc.

"Delay in investigation is the hallmark of our investigation", he remarked as he pointed out that the verdict in the infamous 1993 Bombay Blast case came out only after 24 years.

Raising concerns with regard to the "docket explosion" of cases and the exponential increase in arrears of cases each year, Senior Advocate Jethmalani said,

"Alas, the biggest stakeholders have too little to do. Unless the other stakeholders - the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the legal professionals take steps... victims can only helplessly stand by as the Tsunami of arrears drowns them."
Senior Advocate Jethmalani

Speaking on the ways to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system, Senior Advocate Jethmalani suggested giving more power to the Directorate of Prosecution.

To this end, he suggested the constitution of an investigating wing of the Directorate of Prosecution to advice the Police, CBI, SFIO etc. on crucial aspects of investigation. Jethmalani also called for enhancing the fee structure of prosecutors and providing them with state-of-the-art facilities.

Some of the other steps proposed by Senior Advocate Jethmalani were:

  • Introducing e-filing of all steps in investigation to avoid belated FIRs.

  • Setting statutory deadlines for a time-bound investigation.

  • Giving powers to Magistrate to direct procurement of handwriting and voice samples, phone passwords etc.

  • Providing legal aid from the first remand itself.

  • Time-bound filing of discharge applications.

  • Encouraging mediation for compounding offences and arriving at enforceable settlements.

  • Conducting time-bound trials and imposition of costs for seeking adjournments.

  • Mandatory signing of police statements by the witness in the presence of his/her lawyer in order to avoid the risk of him turning hostile.

  • Vesting High Courts with original trial jurisdictions for economic offences if the pecuniary jurisdiction is satisfied.

  • Preventing misuse of police power to settle civil disputes.

During his address, Senior Advocate Jethmalani also spoke on the poor judge-to-population ratio in India.

He pointed that as of December 2017, subordinate courts had 6,000 vacancies. He added that High Courts are functioning at 62% of their approved strength.

Jethmalani added that while the Executive was largely to be blamed for the number of judges, the Judiciary has also failed to create a talent pool of those who are qualified and willing to be appointed as judges.

The Session ended with a Question and Answer session.

Watch the Session :

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