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To cut backlog, Supreme Court deadline for bail and trial in lower courts

According to records, there were more than 43 lakh cases pending for five years or more at the end of 2015 while 3,599 undertrials were in custody for more than five years, awaiting disposal of cases.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: March 11, 2017 5:06:55 am
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FRAMING AN “action plan” for quick disposal of cases, the Supreme Court has set a deadline of a week for deciding bail applications and two years for disposal of all serious crime cases by sessions courts. The court further said that trials pending for five years or more should be decided by the end of 2017.

A bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and Uday U Lalit, underlining various directions issued by the apex court over time as well as resolutions passed in the joint conferences of chief ministers and chief justices, held that an appropriate action plan must be laid down for subordinate courts and high courts.

It asked all high courts to issue directions to subordinate courts that all bail applications should normally be disposed of by judicial officers within one week. “Magisterial trials, where accused are in custody, be normally concluded within six months and sessions trials where accused are in custody be normally concluded within two years,” said the bench.

The court said that efforts are to be made to dispose of all cases, which are more than five years old, by the end of 2017. According to records, there were more than 43 lakh cases pending for five years or more at the end of 2015 while 3,599 undertrials were in custody for more than five years, awaiting disposal of cases.

Referring to these statistics, the bench said that an action plan has to be put in place with targets to be achieved by judicial officers, which will be reflected in their annual confidential reports (ACRs).

“The high courts are requested 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,” said the apex court. It also asked high courts to monitor the implementation of this action plan and issue all further directions on the administrative as well as judicial sides to ensure quick disposal of cases.

The order came as the court came across two criminal cases where the accused were in custody for a number of years while their cases awaited final orders. Senior lawyer Sidharth Luthra was appointed as the amicus curiae. Asking chief justices of high courts to come up with their annual action plan and prioritise cases where the accused were in custody, the bench underlined that judicial services are “missions for serving the society”.

“The mission is not achieved if the litigant who is waiting in the queue does not get his turn for a long time. …decision of cases of undertrials in custody is one of the priority areas. There are obstructions at every level in enforcement of right of speedy trial…in spite of all odds, determined efforts are required at every level for success of the mission. Ways and means have to be found out by constant thinking and monitoring. Presiding Officer of a court cannot rest in the state of helplessness,” said the bench, issuing a slew of directions.

As reported by The Indian Express, the Supreme Court-released statistics, as of April 30, 2016, had highlighted huge pendency of cases across states and Union territories. Over 2.18 crore cases remained pending, of which more than 22.5 lakh cases had failed to be decided in the last 10 years — 10.3 per cent of total pendency.

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