The Bombay High Court on Thursday expressed concern over the delay in commencement of trial in the cases of killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and activist Govind Pansare, and said there should not be a "failure" in delivery of justice.
A division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla said it has been seven years since Dabholkar was shot dead and five years since Pansare was killed.
The bench observed that while the probe agencies are still carrying out investigation with regard to the absconding accused in the Pansare case and recovery of weapon used in the killing of Dabholkar, the trial should commence at the earliest against those arrested.
"There should be some certainty (about the trial). There should be no failure of justice delivery...both for the victims and their families and also the arrested accused... since they also have fundamental rights," the court said.
The court was hearing petitions filed by families of Dabholkar and Pansare, seeking court supervision in the probe being carried out in the two cases.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the Dabholkar case, while the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is probing the Pansare case.
"What is at stake here is the very credibility of the criminal justice delivery system. People should not lose complete faith in the system," the bench said.
The crimes happened in 2013 and 2015, the bench noted.
"It would not be proper to delay the commencement of trial," it said.
"Today, the arrested accused persons may also raise questions about their rights. There is always a presumption of innocence and until held guilty, no one can be kept behind bars indefinitely," the court said.
The bench directed the CBI and the state CID to inform the high court on March 24 by when trial would commence in the two cases.
CBI counsel Anil Singh informed the bench that search operation for the murder weapon in the Dabholkar case would complete within a month.
CID counsel Ashok Mundargi told the court that they are on the look out for the absconding accused in the case. Dabholkar, a well-known anti-superstition activist, was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013.
Pansare was shot on February 16, 2015 near his house in Kolhapur in western Maharashtra. He died four days later.