HC raps Maharashtra government over delay in serving warrants and summons

The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to form a policy, or amend existing laws to ensure that warrants and summons are served expeditiously to accused and witnesses.

A bench of Justices S C Dharamadhikari and Bharati Dangre was hearing a PIL claiming that the issue of a large number of pending summons and warrants, especially in cases of cheque bounce, was delaying hearings.

In a previous hearing in September 2016, the petitioner had also submitted data to show that “almost 80 per cent cases of cheque bounce under the Negotiable Instruments (NI) Act were pending at the stage of service of summons”.

At the time, the court had directed the Maharashtra government to take immediate steps to ensure that summons were served expeditiously.

On the last hearing yesterday, however, the bench noted that since the September 2016 hearing, the Maharashtra government had done “little” to comply with the Court’s order.

The state’s counsel, advocate JP Yagnik informed the bench that a special drive had been conducted recently to execute pending warrants and summons, and that the state had also decided to send summons in NI Act cases through the registered post of the Indian postal service since the police machinery was already “overburdened”.

The bench, however, dismissed the argument saying that such temporary measures were inadequate and that the state must create statutory provisions to solve the problem.

“The home department must issue some binding instructions and punish lapses. The law must be amended to ensure that there is no delay in serving of summons or execution of warrants in court cases,” the bench said.

“Why has the state failed to comply with the court’s orders and formulate a policy or mechanism? Is the High Court expected to take care of everything? The state’s sovereign and legal functions can’t be outsourced,” the bench noted.

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