A district court in Bareilly has sentenced two men to imprisonment for stealing Rs 370 after 29 years, highlighting the snail-paced process of the courts. Times of India reported that Chandra Pal, Kanhaiya Lal and Sarvesh had offered Wajid Husain tea laced with a drug on a Punjab-bound train in 1988. The trio had then stolen Rs 370 from Husain’s suitcase. On July 18, 2017, a court headed by additional district and sessions judge Sarla Dutta sentenced the two of them to five years in prison and a fine of Rs 10,000 each. The third accused had died in 2004. Additional district government counsel (ADGC) Suresh Babhu Sahu told the paper, “An FIR was lodged against three people – Chandra Pal, Kanhaiya Lal and Sarvesh – under IPC sections 379 (theft), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison) and 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property) at GRP station at Bareilly in 1988. In 2004, it came to light that Pal had died. Then the case was transferred to the court of the additional district and sessions judge against Kanhaiya Lal and Sarvesh.”
Husain who was 30 at the time of the incident and is 59 now, is a labourer in Bihar and came to the court in 2012 to testify against the accused. Meanwhile, Pal had been absconding for 16 years and put off the trial at a railway magistrate’s court all along. The two accused, Lal and Sarvesh are in their sixties with families in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh. According to the report, they regret the mistake they made in their youth.
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The law ministry data tells that there are a whopping 2.8 crore pending cases in lower courts whereas about 38.7 lakh pending cases in high courts across the country. Shortage of judges is one of the leading causes for such huge list of pending cases. About 4,954 posts of judges are vacant. A subordinate judiciary report has found that about 58.8 lakh cases are pending in district courts in UP. Maharashtra has 31.8 lakh, West Bengal 26.95 lakh, Bihar 20.88 lakh and Gujarat 20.56 lakh pending cases. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written to chief ministers about the issue and the apex court has asked the chief justices to dispose of all court cases that are older than five years.