Voicing concern over the delay in hearing of criminal appeals, the Supreme Court has directed the Centre to explore the possibility of having alternative fora for hearing of pleas by adopting suitable legislative or administrative measures. A bench comprising Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit said a large number of criminal appeals were pending in different high courts and it takes more than 10 years for hearing.
The apex court said speedy justice is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and if the cases are not heard within the reasonable time, this right may be rendered meaningless.
It issued notice to Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist the top court and inform it accordingly.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand was asked to apprise the Attorney General about the issue. It also appointed senior advocate Dhruv Mehta as amicus curiae in the matter.
“It appears necessary to explore the suggestion whether there can be an alternative fora for hearing of appeals by adopting suitable legislative or administrative measures to effectuate the mandate of fundamental right under Article 21. We, accordingly, issue notice to the Attorney General to assist this Court on the question as to what can be remedies to ensure hearing of criminal appeals within a reasonable time,” the bench said.
The order was passed on a plea filed a man convicted for offence of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Jharkhand High Court.
He had approached the apex court against refusal of bail by the high court on account of delay in hearing of appeal. The top court had requested the high court to hear the appeal expeditiously.
However, the high court had, in its subsequent order, noted that it “is unable to hear appeals of the convicts where they are in custody for more than 13.5 years due to paucity of bench”.
Referring to a meeting of the Arrears Committee of the Supreme Court, which was held on April 8, the apex court noted that it is necessary to explore whether there can be alternative fora for hearing of appeals.
“The scene depicted in the impugned order is not limited to the Jharkhand High Court. Similar position prevails in several High Courts where large number of criminal appeals are pending and hearing takes more than ten years. In many cases, the convicts are in custody for many years. It appears that there is no likelihood of such appeals being heard in the expected time of about one year or at least within five years,” the bench said.