The injustice caused to a large number of accused was brought to the attention of the apex court by advocate Rishi Malhotra who argued that what was happening in the HC was a clear violation of the law.
The Allahabad high court, where a record 9.24 lakh cases are pending, has got a wake-up call from the Supreme Court to dispose of bail applications and cut backlog.
Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit asked the HC chief justice to look into how a large number of such pleas remain unsettled, some of them for a year and more when there is a specific direction from the SC that they have to be decided within a month.
Millions of cases are pending in India’s courts, draining litigants of resources and pointing towards an urgent need for more judges and judicial reforms.
The SC has in a judgment, Hussain and Another Vs Union of India, in May concluded that in criminal cases where trial is on, the bail plea may take one month as trial court records need to be summoned.
But appeal against conviction pending before HC has to be cleared in two weeks.
“This court, invoking the right to life has observed that the HCs may dispose of the bail matters within a period of one month. It is brought to our notice that in spite of the said decision, the cases are being adjourned for long period even in bail applications pending appeals,” said the bench, in a case where bail plea was pending for over six months.
“We request the chief justice of the High Court to look into the matter and assign the matter to an appropriate Bench so that the bail application is disposed of within a period of two weeks.”
The injustice caused to a large number of accused was brought to the attention of the apex court by advocate Rishi Malhotra who argued that what was happening in the HC was a clear violation of the order in the Hussain case.
“A copy of this order be sent to the registrar general of the High Court for being placed before the chief justice. The matter is adjourned for four weeks to await progress of the matter in the High Court,” SC said.
The very fact that the top court bench kept the matter pending and will hear it again instead of disposing it of means that the judges intend to monitor the issue, says Malhotra.
“Timely delivery of justice is a part of human rights,” the SC had said in that case and fixed deadlines for deciding long-pending criminal cases in high courts and trial courts across country.
The apex court had asked all HCs to issue directions to subordinate courts to decide bail pleas “normally within one week”, besidesasking magistrates to conclude trial in petty offences, where undertrials are in jails, within six months.
“The timelines may be the touchstone for assessment of judicial performance in annual confidential reports,” it said.
The apex court then issued guidelines for the high courts as well and asked them “to ensure that bail applications filed before them are decided as far as possible within one month and criminal appeals where accused are in custody for more than five years are concluded at the earliest”.
It also asked HCs to prepare, issue and monitor appropriate action plans for subordinate courts.
“The high courts may monitor steps for speedy investigation and trials on administrative and judicial side from time to time,” it said.