Unexplained inordinate delay can be a very crucial factor for quashing a criminal complaint
The Supreme Court of India in the case titled Hasmukhlal D. Vora Vs. The state of Tamil Nadu observed that unexplained inordinate delay can be considered a 'very crucial factor' for quashing a criminal complaint.
The Supreme Court bench observed that the law is meant to exist as a shield to protect the innocent, rather than it being used as a sword to threaten them.
The Apex Court bench noted that the complainant has provided no explanation for the extraordinary delay of more than four years between the initial site inspection, the show cause notice, and the complaint.
The Supreme Court stated that:
"There has been a gap of more than four years between the initial investigation and the filing of the complaint, and even after a lapse of a substantial amount of time, no evidence has been provided to sustain the claims in the complaint. In fact, the absence of such an explanation only prompts the Court to infer some sinister motive behind initiating the criminal proceedings. While inordinate delay in itself may not be ground for quashing of a criminal complaint, in such cases, unexplained inordinate delay of such length must be taken into consideration as a very crucial factor as grounds for quashing a criminal complaint.. While this court does not expect a full-blown investigation at the stage of a criminal complaint, however, in such cases where the accused has been subjected to the anxiety of a potential initiation of criminal proceedings for such a length of time, it is only reasonable for the court to expect bare-minimum evidence from the Investigating Authorities."
The Apex court also made the following observations while allowing the appeal;
Law must not be used as a tool to harass the accused.
"The purpose of filing a complaint and initiating criminal proceedings must exist solely to meet the ends of justice, and the law must not be used as a tool to harass the accused. The law is meant to exist as a shield to protect the innocent, rather than it being used as a sword to threaten them."
The duty of the High Court is to look into each and every case with great detail to prevent a miscarriage of justice.
"While it is true that the quashing of a criminal complaint must be done only in the rarest of rare cases, it is still the duty of the High Court to look into each and every case with great detail to prevent miscarriage of justice. The law is a sacrosanct entity that exists to serve the ends of justice, and the courts, as protectors of the law and servants of the law, must always ensure that frivolous cases do not pervert the sacrosanct nature of the law."