Man’s wait for jus­tice ends af­ter 21 years as HC quashes case

The Free Press Journal - - MUMBAI - NARSI BENWAL

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that though ‘jus­tice’ to USbased Garvit Chopra was de­layed by more than two decades, it was not de­nied to him. The Bom­bay High Court re­cently came to his res­cue and quashed a rob­bery case that was pend­ing against Chopra since 1996.

A di­vi­sion bench of Jus­tice Ra­jen­dra Sa­vant and Jus­tice San­deep Shinde granted re­lief to Chopra, ob­serv­ing that an ac­cused can never be de­prived of his con­sti­tu­tional right of “speedy trial.”

Chopra was a col­lege go­ing stu­dent when he was named in a com­plaint ac­cus­ing him of steal­ing a car stereo in 1996. The com­plaint also named an­other ac­cused who was ac­quit­ted in the case way back in 2003.

With the pas­sage of time, Chopra moved to US to pur­sue his stud­ies and ended up set­tling there. He now re­sides in the US with his wife.

How­ever, it was only af­ter a decade of the com­plaint be­ing reg­is­tered, that is in 2006, that Chopra learnt that a court had is­sued a non­bail­able war­rant against him. He learnt that he was named in the case and that the co-ac­cused was ac­quit­ted and that a case was still pend­ing against him.

Ac­cord­ingly, he en­gaged an ad­vo­cate and ap­proached the con­cerned mag­is­trate in And­heri. He was re­leased on bail and there­after he kept tabs on the case through his ad­vo­cate. How­ever, ev­ery­time he was in­formed that the case pa­pers were not trace­able.

More­over, the pros­e­cu­tion in the case could not come up with any strong ev­i­dence against Chopra and its sole wit­ness had turned hos­tile.

In­ter­est­ingly, even the com­plainant had turned hos­tile and the stolen car stereo was never re­cov­ered by the Megh­wadi po­lice, which was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case.

Af­ter scru­ti­n­is­ing the ma­te­rial on record, Jus­tice Sa­vant said, “In our view, the ap­pel­lant’s (Chopra’s) con­sti­tu­tional right recog­nised un­der Ar­ti­cle 21 stands vi­o­lated. Con­sid­er­ing the facts of the case, we feel that, it would be un­fair he is rel­e­gated to the trial court for seek­ing a dis­charge from the case. We can­not over­look the fact that, the case is of 1996 and the wit­nesses in the case would not be avail­able, as they were not avail­able in the year 2003 when the co- ac­cused was tried.”

“In our view, the pos­si­bil­ity of trial, in this case is bleak and we see no pro­pri­ety in keep­ing the sub­ject case pend­ing. In the facts of the case and hav­ing re­gard to the na­ture of ac­cu­sa­tions made against the ap­pel­lant, we feel and we are con­vinced that the pe­ti­tioner has been de­nied his con­sti­tu­tional right to a speedy trial and there­fore the crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings ini­ti­ated against him in the year 1996 and pend­ing since then, de­serve to be quashed and set aside,” Jus­tice Sa­vant added.

CHOPRA WAS a col­lege go­ing stu­dent when he was named in a com­plaint ac­cus­ing him of steal­ing a car stereo in 1996. The com­plaint also named an­other ac­cused who was ac­quit­ted in the case way back in 2003. Now, aftr more than two decades, the Bom­bay High Court has quashed the rob­bery case against him.

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