NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today took strong note of denial of bail to the accused whose pleas have been pending in Madhya Pradesh high court for almost two decades and asked the Centre whether any steps were being taken to expedite it.
The apex court was informed that Madhya Pradesh High Court was currently hearing criminal appeals of the years 2001 and 2002.
A bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and Indu Malhotra issued notice to Centre and Madhya Pradesh government to specify the steps being taken for expeditious disposal of such appeals by creating an alternative forum, especially for the accused in custody.
The court was hearing a plea challenging denial of bail to an accused by the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on the ground that appeal is pending.
"Issue notice to the Union of India as well as to the State of Madhya Pradesh to consider whether any steps are being taken to ensure expeditious hearing of such appeals by creating an alternative forum as suggested", the bench said.
It requested the Attorney General K K Venugopal to depute any Additional Solicitor General to assist the court in the matter and posted it for further hearing on July 17.
The bench referred to its verdict earlier this year, which had stressed the need for "re-engineering of the structure of administration of justice by which the Supreme Court and the High Courts may discharge only core constitutional functions, while the statutory appeals or other statutory functions can be dealt with by an alternative mechanism by courts of appeal which, in hierarchy, will be higher to the district judges but below the High Court".
The bench referred to another verdict of last year by which it had asked the High Courts to issue directions to subordinate courts for speedy disposal of bail applications, normally within a week.
It had then directed that the magisterial trials, where accused are in custody, be concluded within six months and sessions trials where accused are in custody be ended within two years.
It had said that efforts should be made to dispose of all cases which are five years old by the end of the year.
Huge pendency of criminal appeals in High Courts have caught the attention of the apex court recently as on February 6, in another case, the apex court had expressed concern over the pendency of such cases as old as 42 years in the Allahabad High Court.
It had said that "some drastic measures" need to be taken to reduce pendency in judicial system and a mechanism needs to be evolved soon, for speedy disposal of cases related to petty offences, which has been clogging the judicial system.
The apex court was then informed that the oldest criminal appeals in the country of 1976 are pending in Allahabad High Court.
Besides the Allahabad High Court, the court was also concerned with the pendency in Madhya Pradesh High Court, where there was pendency of over 70,000 cases since 1994.
The Allahabad High Court had said in its report before the top court that average time taken for disposal of appeal is 11.
39 years and had attributed the delay to shortage of judges, heavy filing of cases, conduct of lawyers and lack of infrastructure.
In its report, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had said that it has total of 71,474 cases pending since 1994, in its three branches -- Jabalpur, Indore and Gwalior.
The total number of appeals where the sentence is life imprisonment are 15,424.
As many as 21,662 appeals where the sentence is up to three years for petty offences are pending since 1995 while appeals where sentence is more than three years and up to five years are 8,442.