Delhi government rapped for not appointing public prosecutors

New Delhi, March 20: The Delhi High Court has pulled up the city government for its failure in filing up vacancies of additional and assistant public prosecutors in district courts, saying their shortage is one of the predominant causes for delay in disposal of criminal cases.

A division bench of Justice Kailash Gambhir and Justice Sunita Gupta also questioned how can any criminal court function in the absence of a public prosecutor in the courts even that the Supreme Court has given directions for completing the trial of all MPs and legislators facing criminal prosecution within a period of one year after the charges are framed.

“One of the predominant cause for delay in disposal of criminal case is due to shortage of public prosecutors. It is quite shocking to learn that some of the public prosecutors have been burdened to take care of the work of two criminal courts,” it said.

This “lackadaisical and apathy” of the government in not filling up of the vacancies on the posts of assistant public prosecutors and additional public prosecutors is quite “intriguing and appalling”, observed the court.

It noted that it is the statutory obligation of the state to ensure that every criminal court whether be of metropolitan magistrate or the sessions court has the assistance of an able and competent public prosecutor.

“It is also the duty of the state to ensure that the public prosecutors so appointed have all the requisite facilities for their efficient functioning to discharge their day to day duties,” it added.

The amicus curiae assisting the court informed it that the infrastructure facilities and other facilities available to them in the discharge of their day to day duties are not sufficient.

The public prosecutors have not been able to keep their files in safe custody due to the paucity of space, and insufficiency of racks or cabinets, he said.

He further submitted that for want of proper safekeeping of files, which get lost often and due to this, adjournments are being sought frequently by the public prosecutors, which ultimately leads in delaying the criminal trials.

The court also expressed its dissatisfaction and dismay over the conditions in which the public prosecutors have been working.

The Delhi government has submitted that the proposal for creation of 63 posts of assistant public prosecutors, 38 posts of additional public prosecutors and one post of chief prosecutor has been made.

It was also submitted that after the said proposal isapproved by the Lt. Governor, the Union Public Service Commission shall be approached to fill up the vacancies.

The court said that it will be taken as a case of gross negligence on the part of the concerned ministry or department, especially the Delhi home department “if they do not take prompt steps in filling up the vacancies”.

“It is thus made clear to the Delhi government that this court will take strict view, if at any stage it is found that due to any lapse or negligence, timely appointment of public prosecutors have not taken place. The backup of 10 percent of the strength of the public prosecutors in each and every district shall also ensure that during certain exigencies also, the criminal courts will not go unrepresented with these public prosecutors,” said the court in its order.

Taking suo moto cognizance of the issue, the high court has been monitoring the issue of delays in trials since 2009.

Assistant public prosecutors are government lawyers appointed for the courts of the metropolitan magistrates, while additional public prosecutors serve in sessions courts.