This article has been written by Soumyadutta Shyam. It delves into the facts of the case, the law discussed therein, the judgement by the Patna High Court, the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues raised in the appeal, the arguments advanced by the parties, the final judgement and a comprehensive analysis of the case.

This article has been published by Shashwat Kaushik.


Delay in the deliverance of justice often results in frustration, anguish and a feeling of helplessness for people seeking justice. The judicial procedure is lengthy and complex, leading to people spending years awaiting decisions to be delivered in their cases. The maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied” is relevant in this context. Timely and decisive delivery of justice is crucial to ensure that the rule of law prevails. It is also important to maintain the credence of the common population in the justice system of a nation. The Supreme Court has, on numerous occasions, stated the fact that delay in delivering justice is infringement of the Right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution

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In this case of Anil Rai v. State of Bihar (2001), the Apex Court provided guidelines relating to the delivery of judgements, envisaging them to be followed by all courts. The Court criticised the Judges of the Patna High Court for the unnecessary delay in delivering the judgement in this case. It was observed, holding back the judgements tends to shake the faith of the parties in the outcome of litigation. 

Details of Anil Rai vs. State of Bihar (2001)


AIR 2001 SC 3173

Name of the Petitioner 

Anil Rai

Name of the Respondent 

State of Bihar


Justice K.T Thomas and Justice R.P Sethi 

Facts of Anil Rai vs. State of Bihar (2001)

The appellants, with other accused individuals, constituted an unlawful assembly for furthering the common object of murdering Lal Muni Rai and Chand Muni Rai, who were brothers.  Prior to the incident, the victims had hostile relations with the accused persons. On the day of the incident, Lal Muni Rai was returning home after attending an event at Panchayat Bhawan. As he reached a location north of the residence of Subhash Chand Rai , the accused grabbed and forcibly restrained him, armed with firearms. The commotion attracted the attention of some of Lal Muni Rai’s relatives, including Chand Muni Rai (Victim), Bipin Rai, Sishir Rai , Sanjiv Rai and Hoshila Devi, who were also prosecution witnesses in this case, rushed to the scene. Upon arriving at the spot, the witnesses saw Lal Muni Rai being restrained by all the accused except Subhash Chand Rai. Lal Muni Rai managed to free himself and tried to run away, but he was shot and killed by Avinash Chand Rai (Accused no.1). 

Subsequently, when Chand Muni Rai arrived at the spot, Subhash Chand Rai shot and killed him. Avinash Chand Rai also fired at other relatives, but none of them were injured. After the incident, three of the accused ran away from the place of occurrence and left the village. The remaining accused rushed towards the house of Avinash Chand Rai. The sounds of gunshots reached the nearby Kuchhila Police Station, prompting the arrival of Akhileshwar Kumar, A.S.I. and Arbind Kumar, A.S.I., and other policemen. They discovered the bodies of the victims and saw Hoshila Devi crying. Her statement was recorded at the crime scene. The accused also fired shots at the police personnel. 

Additional police forces, including the Sub-Inspector, were summoned to the scene to apprehend the accused individuals. During the search of Avinash Chand Rai’s residence, he was apprehended along with Anil Rai with possession of a rifle, four live cartridges, and six empty cartridges. On the rooftop of the building, two other individuals, Ram Parvesh Yadav and Bhajwan Yadav, were apprehended with a country made firearm and a regular double barrel gun. Amit Kumar Rai was caught with a gun and cartridges from Avinash Chand Rai’s residence. The remaining accused persons who tried to escape were captured later.

The prosecution presented 14 witnesses, including Prosecution Witnesses  1, 2, 5, 6 and 12. One witness, Mukati Singh (who has assisted police in search of Avinash Chand Rai’s house and termed as eye witness) turned hostile during the trial. The defence examined three other persons, including Dr. Basant Kumar, who conducted medical examinations on the wounded accused persons. 

After evaluation of the evidence, the Trial Court ruled that the prosecution was successful in establishing the guilt of the accused. Main accused Avinash Chand Rai and Subhash Chand Rai were convicted and sentenced under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), while the other accused were convicted Section 302 read with Section 149 of IPC. Additionally, all accused persons were convicted under Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959. They were sentenced to life imprisonment for offences under Section 302 read with Section 149 of IPC and to rigorous imprisonment for one year for violation of the Arms Act, 1959.

Key individuals in the case

Accused Persons

As aforementioned, in the case, several individuals were accused of committing serious crimes:

  1. Accused No. 1: Avinash Chand Rai 
  2. Accused No. 2: Subhash Chand Rai 
  3. Accused No. 3: Awadh Bihari Rai 
  4. Accused No. 4: Anil Rai
  5. Accused No. 5: Awani Rai 
  6. Accused No. 6: Amit Kumar Rai
  7. Accused No. 7: Satya Narain Yadav
  8. Accused No. 8: Ram Parvesh Yadav alias Bharat Dusadh 
  9. Accused No. 9: Bhajwan Yadav alias Gorakh Kahar


Throughout the proceedings, several witnesses provided crucial testimony:

  1. Prosecution Witness No. 1: Bipin Rai
  2. Prosecution Witness No. 3: Sishir Rai
  3. Prosecution Witness No. 5: Sanjiv Rai
  4. Prosecution Witness No. 6: Hoshila Devi
  5. Prosecution Witness No.10: Dr. Jai Shankar Misra
  6. Prosecution Witness No.11: Akhileshwar Kumar A.S.I.
  7. Prosecution Witness No.12: Mukati Singh
  8. Prosecution Witness No.13: Arbind Kumar A.S.I. 

Law discussed 

This case dealt with issues of both Fundamental Rights set out by the Constitution as well as aspects of Criminal law.

Section 302 IPC : punishment for murder

Section 302 of the IPC provides an alternative punishment of either death or imprisonment for life with fine if an accused is found guilty of murder. In this case, the victims were shot to dead by Avinash Chand Rai  and Subhash Chand Rai . They were subsequently convicted of murder. Their conviction was affirmed by both the Patna High Court as well as the Supreme Court.

Section 149 IPC : common object

Section 149 incorporates the rule of vicarious liability and holds a person responsible for a crime that a person may not have personally committed, but by being a member of an unlawful assembly, they become liable. This Section lays down that every member of an unlawful assembly having a common object is liable for the acts carried out by any other member of that assembly, and is guilty of the substantive offence and punishable for that offence.

In this case, the other accused, apart from Avinash Chand Rai  and Subhash Chand Rai were sentenced as per Section 302 read with Section 149 of IPC. The appeal of Ram Parvesh Yadav and Bhajwan Yadav was partly allowed by the Patna High Court. The Supreme Court, partly granted the appeals presented by Awadh Bihari Rai (Accused no. 3), Anil Rai (Accused no.4), Awani Rai (Accused no.5), and Amit Kumar Rai (Accused no. 6), and revoked their sentence under Section 302 read with Section 149 of IPC. They were instead held liable as per Section 148 read with Section 149 of IPC as they did not intend to murder the victims, but only intended to assault the victims. 

Section 353(1) : judgement

Section 353(1) states that the judgement in all trials before any Criminal Court of original jurisdiction shall be delivered in open court by the presiding officer immediately after the conclusion of the trial or some subsequent time, for which the parties and their pleaders shall be notified:-

(i) by delivering the whole judgement; or 

(ii) by reading out the whole judgement; or

(iii) by reading out the operative part of the judgement and explaining the substance of the judgement in a language which is understood by the accused or their pleader.

The Supreme Court while explaining Section 353(1) of the CrPC, interpreted the meaning of “some subsequent time” mentioned in the Section as not more than a period of six weeks. Additionally, the Court observed that unnecessary delay in the delivery of judgement is in conflict with the principle of law.

Section 157 : procedure of investigation of the CrPC

Section 157(1) of the CrPC states that if from the information received or otherwise an officer-in-charge of a police station has reason to infer the commission of an offence which he is empowered under Section 156 to investigate, he shall immediately send a report of the same to a Magistrate empowered to take cognizance of such offence upon a police report and shall go in person or shall depute one of his subordinate officers to go to the spot to investigate he facts and circumstances of the case and if required, to take measures for the discovery and arrest of the offender.

In this case, the counsel representing Subhash Chand Rai alleged that there was delay in dispatching the copy of the FIR to the Area Magistrate. However, it was found that there was no delay in sending the copy of the FIR to the Magistrate. The purpose of dispatching a duplicate of the FIR to the Area Magistrate under Section 157 of the CrPC was also explained by the Supreme Court. The purpose of this requirement is to notify the Magistrate about the investigation of cognizable offences so that they can maintain control over the investigation and provide proper direction if required.

Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 : punishment for using arms, etc 

Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 sets out that a person who utilises any arms and ammunition in violation of Section 5, will be punishable with a prison term ranging from a  minimum of three years to a maximum of seven years and shall also be subject to a fine. Section 5 lays down relevant rules in relation to license possession of firearms.

In this case, the accused were found in possession of heavy arms and ammunition. During the search and seizure, Avinash Chand Rai was caught with a rifle, four live cartridges, together with six empty cartridges. Ram Parvesh Yadav along with Bhajwan Yadav, were caught with a country made gun and a double barrelled gun. Amit Kumar Rai (Accused No. 6) was apprehended with a gun and 5 cartridges. Thus, they were sentenced as per Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959.

Article 21 of the Constitution : right to a speedy trial

Article 21 of the Constitution states, “No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” The “Right to Speedy Trial” has been held by the Supreme Court to be a fundamental right within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution. In Hussainara Khatoon v, Home Secretary, State of Bihar (1979), the importance of ensuring  a speedy trial was highlighted by the Supreme Court. A writ of habeas corpus was submitted for some under trial prisoners who had been in jails in Bihar for a long time awaiting their trial. The Supreme Court ruled that the “right to speedy trial” is a fundamental right intrinsic in the guarantee of protection of life and liberty set out under Article 21 of the Constitution. Speedy trial is the spirit of justice. It was further observed that in the United States, speedy trial is one of the Constitutional rights set forth in the sixth amendment. Any procedure that cannot guarantee a reasonably expeditious trial cannot be treated as reasonable, fair or just. Thus, the Court directed the Bihar Government to set free the under trial prisoners on their personal bonds.

In Moses Wilson v. Karturba (2008), the Supreme Court expressed its apprehension over the delay in disposing of cases and ordered the relevant authorities to take proper action promptly before the situation worsened. Here, a suit was instituted for a small sum of money in 1947, and it subsequently dragged on for 60 years. Therefore, the court conveyed a sense of  worry about the delay in disposing of cases in India. The Court observed that as a result of delay in disposing of cases, people were losing confidence in the judiciary.

In the aforementioned case, references were also made to cases such as  M.H Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra (1978), Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar (1979), A.R Antulay v. R.S Nayak (1992), Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab (1994) and other cases that clearly established “the right of speedy trial” as a part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Further, the Supreme Court in this case, while quoting the case of  R.C Sharma v. Union of India (1976), stressed the need for expediting the delivery of judgements. The Court further observed that many cases remain in a “judgement reserved” state for extended periods. The need for cutting down the time between the completion of arguments and the delivery of judgements was also emphasised. The Court also suggested appropriate guidelines to be followed by High Courts in this regard.

Judgement of the Patna High Court

The Sessions Court sentenced nine persons for various crimes, including murder, on 4th May, 1991. Subsequently, the convicts presented their appeals before the Patna High Court. Whilst in prison, the convicts anticipated for their case to come before the High Court. It took five years for the case to reach the High Court. The Advocates representing the appellants addressed the contentions before  the Division Bench, and on 23rd August, 1995, the judges adjourned the appeals for an unspecified period for judgement. The accused and their family members nervously waited for the judgement, devoid of any progress on the matter in the Court. Unfortunately, one convict died in jail while awaiting the judgement. A significantly long period elapsed since the parties presented their arguments before the Court.

The judges did not show any haste until one of them came close to the date of superannuation. The appeals submitted by Subhash Chand Rai (Accused no. 2), Avinash Chand Rai (Accused no. 1), Awadh Bihari Rai (Accused no. 3) and Amit Kumar Rai (Accused no. 6) were dismissed. The appeal presented by Ram Parvesh Yadav (Accused no. 8) and Bhajwan Yadav (Accused no. 9) was partially granted in relation to their sentence under Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC, but their conviction under the Arms Act was upheld. Section 302 as aforementioned stipulates that  murder is punishable by life imprisonment or death, and may also incur a fine, and Section 149, makes members of an unlawful assembly liable if an offence is committed by any member of that unlawful assembly. However, the conviction and sentence of Ram Parvesh Yadav (Accused no. 8) and Bhajwan Yadav (Accused no. 9) under Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959, which provides for the punishment for using arms, remained unchanged.

Appeal to the Supreme Court

A criminal appeal was presented before the Supreme Court via Criminal Appeal No. 389 of 1998 in this case. Avinash Chand Rai (Accused no. 1) and Subhash Chand Rai (Accused no. 2) were originally sentenced for murder under Section 302 of the IPC by the Trial Court. The other accused were accused convicted under Section 302 read with Section 149 of the IPC for common intention by the Trial Court. They were also convicted under Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 for using firearms. They were sentenced to life imprisonment for offences under Section 302 read with Section 149 of the IPC and to rigorous imprisonment for one year for violation of the Arms Act, 1959.  A Special Leave Petition was filed by Satya Narain Yadav (Accused No.7) which was dismissed by the Supreme Court because of his failure to produce of the surrender on 27.03.1998. The Supreme Court noted that a dual judge bench of Patna High Court took two years to deliver the judgements, while the accused were suffering in jail. The Court criticised the approach of the High Court in this case and questioned what consequence should arise when High Court judges fail to deliver judgements for many months or sometimes even years after the conclusion of the contentions.

It was alleged before the Supreme Court that the excessive, unexplained and negligent delay in pronouncing the judgements undermined the prerogative of appeal given in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). Such delay violated the Right of Personal Liberty provided under Article 21 of the Constitution.

In light of such terrible and dreadful situations prevalent in some High Courts of the country, the Supreme Court examined the impact of such delays on the rights of the litigants. The Apex Court resolved to consider this aspect and give proper directions.

Issues raised

The pertinent question before the Supreme Court in this instance was – Whether the delay in delivering judgements infringe upon the Right to Personal Liberty set forth under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Arguments of the parties


The Advocate appearing for the appellants cited the judgements in Surendra Nath Sarkar v. The Emperor (1941), Jagarnath Singh v. Francis Kharia (1948) and Sohagiya v. Rambriksh Mahto (1961 BLJR 282) to demonstrate that only because of delays in delivering the judgement for the period between six months to ten months, the High Courts ruled these judgements as adverse in law and overruled them. In R.C Sharma v. Union of India (1976), the Supreme Court, after observing that the Code of Civil Procedure,1908 did not set out a time limit for delivering judgements ruled that an excessive delay between hearing of contentions and pronouncement of judgements, unless justified by rare and unusual situations, is really unacceptable even when written contentions are presented. It is common that a few points which the litigant believes to be crucial may not have been noticed. But, the pertinent point is that litigants should have some belief in the outcome of litigation. This belief is disturbed when there is a significant lapse of time between hearing of contentions and pronouncement of judgements.

The Advocate representing Subhash Chand Rai criticised the judgements of the Trial and High Court for different reasons. It was argued that because the witnesses favoured by the Courts were hostile towards the appellants, their testimony should not be trusted unless corroborated with material particulars. They also tried to use the delay in dispatching the duplicate of the FIR to the Area Magistrate to their advantage.  Additionally, they disputed that Hoshila Devi could not be regarded as an eyewitness since she did not actually see the incident. It was also claimed that the credibility of the statements of Prosecution Witnesses 1 (Bipin Rai) and 5 (Sanjiv Rai) could not be established since their names were not mentioned in the FIR.  

Moreover, the counsel appearing for the appellant pointed out contradictions in the statements of eyewitnesses and medical evidence regarding the victim’s wounds and the retrieval of a single-barrelled gun from Subhash Chand Rai. They argued that the prosecution failed to link the appellants to the crime, especially since the appellants made allegations that they were injured  by the police after their arrest. It was further claimed that the investigation was vitiated, so the accused should have been acquitted. As Mukati Singh was a hostile witness, whose testimony did not name Accused no. 2 i.e, Subhash Chand Rai, he should have been acquitted by setting aside the judgement in these appeals.

The advocate representing Subhash Chand Rai, criticised the testimony of Hoshila Devi, highlighting alleged contradictions between her statement and the medical evidence. They argued she couldn’t be considered an eyewitness, by questioning the reliability of her testimony and pointing out that she mentioned the accused using a rifle, but only a gun was found.  During her testimony at the trial, Prosecution Witness No. 6 (Hoshila Devi) provided a detailed account of the events observed by her. She recounted how she and her relatives rushed to the northern part of the village upon hearing commotion, where they found Lal Muni Rai being restrained by some people, including Accused Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, along with two others armed with guns and rifles. Despite Lal Muni Rai’s attempt to flee, Avinash Chand Rai shot him from behind, causing him to fall to the ground. Another unknown person also fired at Lal Muni Rai. When Chand Muni Rai arrived at the scene, Subhash Chand Rai shot him from the verandah. Subhash Chand Rai also fired shots at Hoshila Devi and others, who managed to escape but returned later. Hoshila Devi never mentioned that her husband, Chand Muni Rai, received only a single gunshot. This raises the possibility of another bullet fired by Subhash Chand Rai or a missed shot fired by another accused person affecting the victim, which cannot be dismissed. 

Judgement in Anil Rai vs. State of Bihar (2001)

Based on the eyewitness statements of Prosecution Witnesses 1, 2, 5, and 6,  the seizure of firearms from Avinash Chand Rai and Subhash Chand Rai, the hostility between them and the victims, and the medical evidence, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence of Avinash Chand Rai and Subhash Chand Rai. On the other hand, Satya Narain who filed a Special Leave Petition earlier was given the benefit of an altered sentence, as his conviction under Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC was set aside and as an alternative he was convicted under Section 148 read with Section 149 IPC and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment. 

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals submitted by Subhash Chand Rai. The appeals submitted by Awadh Bihari Rai, Anil Rai, Awani Rai and Amit Kumar Rai were partially granted by revoking their conviction under Section 302 read with Section 149 of IPC. Instead, they were found liable for offences punishable under Section 148 read with Section 149 IPC and sentenced to three years of rigorous imprisonment. Additionally, the sentence under Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959, was confirmed. 

Since, some of the accused persons such as Awadh Bihari Rai (Accused no. 3), Anil Rai (Accused no. 4), Awani Rai (Accused no. 5) and Satya Narain Yadav (Accused no. 7) had already served their sentences of the term of three years, they were released.

Rationale behind this judgement

The Supreme Court observed that while justice delayed is justice denied, justice withheld is much more detrimental. The Apex Court reiterated its judgement in M.H Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra (1978), where it was held that the procedure laid down by Article 21 of the Constitution denotes a “fair and reasonable procedure” that conforms to the civilised principles like natural justice, firmly rooted in the collective conscience. The right of appeal in criminal cases is deemed fundamental to civilised jurisprudence, and delaying the delivery of justice post-trial undermines this right. Granting the right to appeal to comply with the requirement  cannot be turned into a sham by extending the delivery of judgement for causes that are not accountable either to the parties involved or to the State or to the legal profession. Delay in disposing of appeals because of shortage of judges, deficient infrastructure, lawyers’ strikes, and situations accountable to the State is understandable. However, after the entire process of participating  in the justice delivery system has concluded and the only  remaining task is the delivery of judgement, no justification can be given for further postponement in adjudicating the rights of the parties, especially when it impacts any of the rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court further delved into the meaning and interpretation of Section 353(1) of the CrPC. The court explained that the provision stipulates that the judgement in each trial in any criminal court of original jurisdiction should be delivered in open court immediately following the completion of the trial or at some subsequent time for which due notice will be given to the parties and their counsel. The phrase “some subsequent time” in Section 353(1) stated in this provision means delivering the judgement without unnecessary delay, as postponing the delivery of judgement is contradictory to the rule of law. Such delay should not exceed a term of six weeks under any circumstance. However, for High Courts, no specific time is prescribed in either the Code of Civil Procedure or the CrPC. Nevertheless, as the delivery of judgement is a fundamental aspect of the justice system, it must be devoid of delay. Unchecked delay in the disposal of cases will undermine the confidence of the people in the judiciary. The Apex Court asserted the need for conserving its stature, esteem, and honour for the achievement of rule of law. 

Guidelines for pronouncement of judgements by the High Courts

The Supreme Court in this case issued appropriate guidelines relating to the pronouncement of judgements by the High Courts. The guidelines are listed below:-

  • The Chief Justices of the High Courts may give proper instructions to the Registry that in a case when the judgement is reserved and delivered subsequently, a column may be attached in the judgement, on its first page, following the case title, the date of reserving the judgement, and the date of delivering may be distinctly stated.
  • The Chief Justices of the High Courts, on their administrative authority, should instruct the Court officers/ Readers of different benches in the High Courts to present each month the index of cases in those matters where judgements reserved are not delivered in that month. 
  • On observing that after the completion of the arguments, the judgement is not delivered within two months, the Chief Justice can further consider the suitability of issuing the statement of those cases in which the judgements have not been delivered in less than a term of six weeks from the date of completion of the arguments to the judges of the High Court for their information. Such communication should be delivered confidentially.
  • Where the judgement is not delivered within three months from the date of reserving it, any party to the case can submit an application in the High Court with a plea for early judgement. This application will be presented before the relevant Bench within two days after the expiry of three months from the date of reserving the judgement.
  • If the judgement in any event is not delivered in an interval of six months, any party can present an application before the Chief Justice of the High Court with a plea to transfer the case to a different bench for fresh arguments. The Chief Justice can allow the said plea or pass another order at his discretion.

Other aspect of the judgement 

While dealing with the appeals, the Supreme Court observed that Prosecution Witnesses 1, 2, 5 and 6, accepted by the Trial and High Court, had bad relations with the accused because of previous animosity. The stance of the law is that animosity is a “double-edged sword” that can be a motive for the crime as well as a reason for false incrimination. In regard to the antagonistic witnesses, the courts should carefully analyse their testimony to determine whether their testimony is believable, irrespective of the fact of animosity. When animosity is proved as motive for the crime, the accused cannot say that in spite of substantiation of crime the hostile witness should not be believed. However, this possibility must be considered when assessing the prosecution witnesses in relation to the participation of the accused in the crime. Testimony of eyewitnesses should not be dismissed simply because  the deceased was related to the eyewitnesses or because of some previous animosity between the accused and the witnesses. Just the fact of animosity in this instance, especially when it is presented as a motive for the crime, cannot be the ground for dismissing the testimony of the eyewitness.

Regarding the issue of sending the duplicate of the FIR to the Area Magistrate under Section 157 of the CrPC, the Supreme Court stated that the Section is drafted to keep the Magistrate informed about the investigation of cognizable offences, enabling them to supervise the investigation and issue proper instructions, if necessary, in accordance with Section 159 of the CrPC. However, where the FIR is filed promptly and the investigation commences without delay based on that FIR, the delay in forwarding the copy of the report to the Magistrate does not by itself confirm that the investigation has been compromised. In this case, the FIR was registered within 15 minutes of the incident, and many of the accused were caught immediately. Moreover, there was no delay in forwarding the copy of the FIR to the Area Magistrate. The Advocate representing the appellant Subhash Chand Rai did not provide any evidence to convince the Court that there was extraordinary delay in dispatching the duplicate of the FIR to the Area Magistrate.

The argument concerning the medical evidence regarding the nature of the injuries sustained by the deceased was also dismissed by the Court. The Court observed that the evidence was misinterpreted and exaggerated. Furthermore, it was observed that the weapon recovered from Subhash Chand Rai was a gun and not a rifle. The expert witness used the word “firearm”, which encompasses both guns and rifles. It is important to note that the expert witness was an expert in medical science and not a ballistic expert.

Further, the Apex Court rejected the argument put forth by the counsel representing one of the accused persons, which suggested that since Prosecution Witness no. 12 was proclaimed hostile and did name the Accused no. 2, the prosecution’s case should be deemed unsuccessful. The Court observed that the mere act of the court granting permission to the Public Prosecutor to cross-examine their own witness, despite being declared hostile, does not erase the evidence provided by the said witness. 

The other advocates representing the rest of the accused persons put forward that the conviction of their clients i.e, accused no. 3 to Accused no. 7 under Section 302 and 149 of IPC were not right. The Court, while examining the scope of Section 149 of IPC, stated that until it is conclusively established that all of the accused persons shared the common object and took part in the occurrence of the crime,  Section 149 cannot be applied. There was neither direct evidence nor circumstantial evidence to show that  Accused no. 3 (Awadh Bihari Rai) to Accused no. 7 (Satya Narain Yadav) had a mutual common object with Avinash Chand Rai (Accused no. 1) and Subhash Chand Rai (Accused no. 2) to cause the death of the victims. Even if there was a common object, it was just for rioting. However, there was enough evidence to show that Accused no. 3 (Awadh Bihari Rai) to Accused no. 7 (Satya Narain Yadav) constituted an unlawful assembly with the common object to use violence against Lal Muni Rai.

Analysis of Anil Rai vs. State of Bihar (2001) 

The case of Anil Rai v. State of Bihar (2001) highlights the importance of timely pronouncement of judgements, upholding the principles of fairness, equity, and the rule of law. The delay of two years in delivering the judgements by the Patna High Court, as highlighted by the Supreme Court, not only inflicted undue suffering on the appellants but also undermined the credibility of the justice system. As aforementioned, the prolonged delay in the delivery of judgements is not only a denial of justice, but also a violation of the fundamental right to speedy trial enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. 

The Apex Court reminded the High Courts of their constitutional duty. By critiquing the approach of the Patna High Court judges and issuing guidelines for timely delivery of judgements, the Apex Court emphasised the need for accountability and efficiency within the judicial system. These guidelines, though directive in nature, aimed to streamline the process of delivering judgements and prevent undue delays that erode public trust in the judiciary. It thus pointed out the detrimental effect such a long interval between the completion of arguments and the delivery of judgement might have on the outcome of the case.

Moreover, this case emphasises the significance of evidence evaluation in criminal proceedings. The Supreme Court’s examination of witness testimonies, medical evidence, and arguments highlights the importance of a thorough and impartial judicial review process.


The case of Anil Rai v. State of Bihar (2001) serves as a reminder as to how important it is for the courts to make decisions quickly and fairly. The Supreme Court’s intervention to address delays in delivering judgements, shows its dedication to protecting the right to a speedy trial and ensuring justice is served properly. By setting rules for timely judgements and carefully reviewing evidence, the Apex Court reaffirmed its role as the guardian and protector of the Constitution. Moving forward, the implementation of these guidelines is crucial to restoring public trust in the judiciary and upholding the rule of law.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is “common object” under Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code?

Section 149 of the IPC contemplates the commission of a crime by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of a common object. This provision proclaims the vicarious liability of the members of an unlawful assembly, the common object of which is to commit a crime. If an unlawful assembly is formed with the common purpose of committing an offence, and if that crime is committed in furtherance of that object by any member of the unlawful assembly, all members will be liable for that crime.

Which Article of the Constitution recognises ‘Right to Speedy Trial’ as a fundamental right?

The Right to Speedy trial has been recognised as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court as an aspect of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.



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