“Timely delivery of justice is a part of human rights,” the Supreme Court today said and fixed deadlines for deciding long-pending criminal cases in high courts and trial courts across the country.
Issuing a slew of directions to all high courts, a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said, “Denial of speedy justice is a threat to public confidence in the administration of justice” and the fundamental right to speedy trial “cannot be denied even on the plea of non-availability of financial resources”.
It asked the high courts to issue directions to subordinate courts to decide bail pleas “normally within one week”, besides asking magistrates to conclude trial in petty offences, where undertrials are in jails, within six months.
The sessions courts will have to conclude trials in serious offences within two years, if the accused are in jail, the apex court said, adding strict adherence to the timeline be ensured by making it a part of Annual Confidential Reports of judicial officers.
“Efforts be made to dispose of all cases which are five years old by the end of the year,” it said, adding “if an undertrial has completed period of custody in excess of the sentence likely to be awarded if conviction is recorded, such undertrial must be released on personal bond. Such an assessment must be made by the concerned trial courts from time to time.”
“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 the high courts 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.
It also requested the Chief Justices of all high courts to “forthwith take appropriate steps” in pursuance of earlier directions issued by the apex court in various judgements.
The apex court said appropriate monitoring mechanism on the administrative side as well as on the judicial side be set up by high courts for speedy disposal of cases of undertrials pending in subordinate courts and appeals pending in high courts.
( Source – PTI )