WP 1128 of 1986
Quashing long pending proceedings against persons accused of offences under Motor Vehicles Act

Summary :

Common Cause filed this petition seeking certain directions from the court regarding:  Quashing of all proceedings against persons accused of offences under the Motor Vehicles Act where the proceedings were initiated more than one year ago and were still pending in any court in the country. Common Cause requested the Court:

  1. To direct the unconditional release of the accused and dismissal of all proceedings pending in Criminal Courts with respect to offences under Indian Penal Code or other penal statutes which had been pending for more than three years from the date of their institution and for which offences the maximum sentence provided under law was not more than six months - with or without fine. This direction was sought in respect of all prosecutions whether lodged by police, other governmental agencies or by a private complainant;
  2. To direct the unconditional release of all the accused and dismissal of criminal proceedings against persons who had been in police or judicial custody for a period of more than three years from the date of their arrest or remand to such custody, where the offences alleged were not punishable with more than seven years with or without fine; and
  3. To direct the unconditional release of the accused and dismissal of proceedings against persons accused of offences under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code [I.P.C.] where the proceedings had been pending in any Court for more than one year from the date of their institution.

It was further requested that the aforesaid directions must not only be applicable on the pending cases, but also to cases executed hereinafter. The court issued certain directions in lieu of that and disposed of the petition on May 1, 1996. Further, a Clarificatory Order was issued by the Court on November 28, 1996, where the Hon’ble Supreme Court modified its judgment. According to the final order:

1. The time limit on pendency of criminal cases shall be inapplicable in cases in which such pendency is attributable to the actions of the accused. Thus, the accused would not be entitled to earn any discharge or acquittal if they seek to take advantage.

2. The phrase ‘pendency of trials’ and ‘non-commencement of trial’ shall be construed as: 

(a) In case of the Sessions Court and warrant cases by magistrates (if cases are instituted upon police reports) the trials shall be treated to have commenced when charges are framed

(b) In trials of warrant cases by magistrates, when cases are instituted otherwise than on police report, such trials shall be framed against the concerned accused.

(c)The following additions were made to the list of offences to which directions contained in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall not apply:

"(n) Matrimonial offence under IPC including S 498A or under any other law in force for the time being;

(o) Offence under Negotiable Instruments Act including offences under S 138 thereof;

(p) Offences relating to criminal misappropriation of property as well as criminal breach of trust;

(q) Offences under S 304-A IPC or any offence pertaining to rash and negligent acts;

(r) offence affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals as listed in Chapter IV of IPC"

3. In offences mentioned from (n) to (r), wherein accused have been discharged or acquitted following the judgment dated 1.05.1996, the accused are liable to be proceeded against again.