Summary of Landmark judgment

Case: Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar

Date of Order / Judgment: 9th March 1979.

The Matter Heard By Bench of : Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Justice R.S. Pathak and Justice A.D. Koshal


A writ petition habeas corpus was filed before the court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. This writ petition was also filed before the court. because it was for the release of 17 under trial prisoners. It depicted a sorrowful picture of the administration of justice within the state of Bihar. an outsized number of persons which even included mainly the categories like women, children, and other deprived categories of poor section and that they all were locked behind the bars and were seeking for the trial as well as their release. Thus, the State of Bihar was advised to file a revised chart which was focused in clearly mentions the year- wise break- from the under- trial prisoners after segregating the prisoners into two categories that is ones charged with minor offences and others who have been charged with major offences, but although this direction was not carried by the state. The petition acknowledged that the under- trial prisoners who have done minor offences as they were imprisoned for quite 10 years. Those people were considered to the poorest strata that weren't even able to afford an advocate and also, they were refused to grant bail.


Whether right to speedy trial come within the ambit of Article 21?
What’s the essence of speedy trial under criminal justice?

Observation of the Supreme Court

The court realized the plight of under- trial prisoners whose denial of rights. Court gave stress upon unable to interact a lawyer and disregarding human rights were the main issues which have focused and also to be solved. The court realized the denial and disregarding nature of private liberty. The court also found that the under - trial prisoners of whose list which was filed before the court, they need been in jail for a longer period. Even the period of time was too long enough than the prescribed time range that they could have been sentenced to jail if convicted. The court recommend the State also as Central Government, by directing them to list out the entire number of cases, location of courts of magistrates and courts of session. Mainly the Articles include Article 14, Article 39A and Article 21. Honourable Supreme Court of India held that the State cannot deny the constitutional right of speedy trial and equal access to justice shouldn't be denied on any grounds.


The court observed the above case and also directed that the under -trial prisoners whose name and particulars were filed by Mrs. Hingorani should be released. It had been because imprisonment like false imprisonment was considered to be an illegal and also violative of their Fundamental Rights enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The court also mandated that in the time of charging bailable offences, they need to be produced before the Magistrate on remand dates. The government ought to name a legal advisor at their own expenses for making an application for bail. A quick trial is much required for securing justice. The court also ordered both the government as well as High Court to display the particulars regarding the location of the courts of magistrate and court of sessions in the State of Bihar along with the cases pending in each court on 31st December, 1978. They were also asked to state the rationale of pendency of cases. On next remand dates the under- trial prisoners should be produced before the court in order that the state government ought to designate a lawyer of its own expense. The state cannot avoid its constitutional obligation to supply speedy trial to the accused by the way of pleading. Free legal service to the poor and therefore the needy people is an essential elementary factor of legal aid. Another direction by the honourable court was to supply the under- trial prisoners charged with bailable offences, free legal aid by the state, on their next remanded dates before the Magistrates. The court further held that detaining them for any long would be illegal and is clearly against the elemental rights under Article 21 as these prisoners are behind the bars