“Muddai Sust, Gawah Chust” (the complainant is lazy, but the witness is active). This was how a special city court described the CBI for not being vigilant enough to ensure the disposal of a 37- year-old case, probably the oldest pending matter in the country. The CBI’s decision of transferring a prosecutor from a court without posting another one in advance, drew the court’s ire which not only rebuked the agency but also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on its Director of Prosecution for delaying the criminal case. The remarks were made by Special Judge Sanjay Kumar Aggarwal, who was hearing a case of theft of an antique idol from the ancient Takashakeshwar Mahadev temple in Allahabad in 1981 which was being allegedly smuggled to New York. The case is at the stage of final arguments.
The court said it was aware that it “cannot put its neck” into the administrative affairs of a department as the sole prerogative of the agency was to man its human resources. It said the issue was not why a particular senior public prosecutor of this court was transferred when the hearing of this 37 years old case was in progress. But the question is “why steps in anticipation were not taken by the Director Prosecution so that no inconvenience is caused to this court for effective disposal of this oldest case and the other old cases in which the hearing was in progress,” the court said.
The judge said as per mandate of the Supreme Court, for effective disposal of more than 10 year old cases, it had specifically asked previous prosecutor B K Singh to prepare himself, but he was transferred within six months. He was transferred at a time when he had advanced himself with all the facts and law of the cases pending in this court and no advance information was sent to court regarding his transfer, the judge said. “As is apparent on the face of the record, this is the best case where an old saying ‘Muddai Sust, Gawah Chust’ has come true in all its spirit. The case was filed by the CBI and hence the it should have been vigilant enough to see that the old cases are disposed off as early as possible,” the court observed.
The court also sent its order to the Home Secretary and the Director of CBI to take necessary action in this regard. It asked them to lay down guidelines for transfer and posting of public prosecutors if they deem it appropriate so that directions of superior courts may not be frustrated. Holding the CBI’s Director of Prosecution solely liable for further delaying the case, with the court saying due to this, the accused were suffering and asked him to deposit the cost with the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. It said the only plea which has come forward from the Director of Prosecution was that the prosecutor was transferred in public interest, which appeared to be “vague”.
It said “it appears to be merely a camouflage to cover up the wrong. Therefore, an attempt appears to have been made by the Director Prosecution (CBI) to subterfuge in order to get the disposal of the cases delayed by derailing the ongoing old case from its track for the reasons best known to him.” Noting that records of CBI cases are voluminous and the parties have to be patient, the judge said in this case, the prosecution has tried to damage the net “at its own whims” and transferred the prosecutor without understanding the intricacies or making any advance preparations. The court said a new prosecutor should have been appointed at least three months in advance so that he could understand the cases through his predecessor as he cannot be expected to have a “magical wand which may bring all data in his mind by simply touching the wand with the file”.
“One may assume that there might have been some legal difficulties which could have resulted in the delay of this case for a span of 37 years, but when this court tried to take up the reins and was on the verge of crossing the yellow line for disposal of this case, the entire journey has been crashed by the Director Prosecution (CBI). “By these kind of unwarranted actions of the prosecuting agencies adverse public opinion regarding delay in disposal of cases is formed, for which the courts have to bear the brunt of the society for whom the justice administration system has been created,” the court said.