Wherever there is inordinate delay on the part of the investigating agency in completing the investigation, such delay, ipso facto, would provide ground for quashing the First Information Report or the proceedings arising therefrom.
The above view is supported by a decision of Supreme Court in Raghubir Singh and Others Vs. State of Bihar[(1987) AIR(SC) 149]. Reference may also be had to Bell v. Director of Public Prosecutions of Jamaica and Anr.  2 All ELR 585 and the article in 1985 CLR 175 captioned ‘The Power of the Courts to stay a Criminal Prosecution.’
The matter gained further attention when a Constitution Bench of this Court has made a glimpse of the delay involved in criminal proceedings at all stages Abdul Rehman Antulay Vs. R.S. Nayak and another etc. etc., . Though the background for the reference made in that case to the Constitution Bench pertained to the delay in the trial stages, the Bench has made clear references to the delay in the investigation stage also. In paragraph 81 the learned Judges have observed thus:
“Now, can it be said that a law which does not provide for a reasonably prompt investigation, trial and conclusion of a criminal case is fair, just and reasonable? It is both in the interest of the accused as well as the society that a criminal case is concluded soon. If the accused is guilty, he ought to be declared so. Social interest lies in punishing the guilty and exoneration of the innocent but this determination (of guilt or innocence) must be arrived at with reasonable despatch – reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. Since it is the accused who is charged with the offence and is also the person whose life and/or liberty is at peril, it is but fair to say that he has a right to be tried speedily. Correspondingly, it is the obligation of the State to respect and ensure this right. It needs no emphasis to say, the very fact of being accused of a crime is cause for concern. It affects the reputation and the standing of the person among his colleagues and in the society. It is a cause for worry and expense. It is more so, if he is arrested. If it is a serious offence, the man may stand to lose his life, liberty, career and all that he cherishes.”
If this was a case which needed no sanction from the government for submitting the charge-sheet before the court, the investigating agency could have filed the charge-sheet at the end of four years from the lodgment of FIR. In this context, it is apposite to refer to the legislative fixation of periods for taking cognizance of different offences. An offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years has to be taken cognizance of by the court concerned within three years of the date of registration of the FIR. Of course, this is subject to certain other exceptions. As pointed out earlier, the legislature has not chosen to fix any period to take cognizance of the offence if the punishment prescribed thereto exceeds imprisonment for three years. The offence alleged against the appellant is punishable with imprisonment up to seven years. These aspects were highlighted by us for the purpose of satisfying ourselves that criminal proceedings pending against the appellants cannot be quashed on the mere ground that the investigation consumed a period of four years.
More Cases Referred
- Raj Deo Sharma Vs. The State of Bihar, AIR 1999 SC 3524 : (1999) CriLJ 4541 : (1999) 7 JT 317 : (1999) 6 SCALE 150 : (1999) 7 SCC 604 : (1999) 3 SCR 124 Supp :
- State of Andhra Pradesh Vs. P.V. Pavithran, AIR 1990 SC 1266 : (1990) CriLJ 1306 : (1990) 2 JT 43 : (1990) 2 SCC 340 : (1990) 1 SCR 746
- Hussainara Khatoon and Others Vs. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, Patna, AIR 1979 SC 1360 : (1979) CriLJ 1036 : (1980) 1 SCC 91
- Abdul Rehman Antulay Vs. R.S. Nayak and another etc. etc., AIR 1992 SC 1701 : (1992) 1 SCC 225 : (1991) 3 SCR 325 Supp
- Raj Deo Sharma Vs. The State of Bihar, AIR 1998 SC 3281 : (1998) CriLJ 4596 : (1998) 4 Crimes 53 : (1998) 7 JT 1 : (1998) 5 SCALE 477 : (1998) 7 SCC 507 : (1998) 2 SCR 130 Supp