Higher courts needn’t be given original documents: Supreme Court

Higher courts needn’t be given original documents: Supreme Court

New Delhi: A month after ruling that stay on trial proceedings, particularly in corruption cases, must not exceed six months, the Supreme Court has taken another significant step to ensure speedy completion of trials, holding that the present practice of higher courts seeking original records of a case from lower courts must be done away with.
Original records are sought by the Supreme Court and high courts while hearing a plea of an accused challenging interim order of a trial court. The proceedings in the lower court get stalled till the documents are sent back to it from the SC or HC.
Now a bench of Justices A K Goel and R F Nariman has ruled the present practice must be done away with and the SC and HCs should get photocopies or scanned copies of the trial court records to decide the case and the original documents should remain with the trial court to ensure uninterrupted proceedings.
“We direct that if, in future, the trial court records are summoned, the trial courts may send photocopy/scanned copy of the record and retain the original so the proceedings are not held up. In cases where specifically original record is required by holding that photocopy will not serve the purpose, the appellate/revisional court may call for the record only for perusal and the same be returned while keeping a photocopy/scanned copy of the same,” the bench said.
The bench said its order was in continuation of the apex court’s March 28 verdict, in which it ruled that higher courts should not stay trial proceedings for more than six months. It had said lower courts could proceed after a six-month period, preventing the accused from dragging on the trial.
“To give effect to directions in judgment of this court dated March 28, we direct that wherever original record has been summoned by an appellate/revisional court, photocopy/scanned copy of the same may be kept for its reference and original returned to the trial courts forthwith,” the apex court said.
The court said the right of the accused has to be considered vis-a-vis the interest of society. Larger societal interests get affected due to delay in trial proceedings after the original records are sent to higher courts.
The apex court in its March 28 verdict said, “It is well accepted that delay in a criminal trial, particularly in the Prevention of Corruption Act cases, has deleterious effect on the administration of justice.