NEW DELHI: Emphasising that access to justice is democratised and equitably allocated, the Supreme Court has suggested the chief justices of all high courts to dispose off over 91,000 bail pleas pending there.
Citing figures from the National Data Judicial Grid, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee expressed concern over the pending bail applications in the country and said, “The chief justices of every high courts and administrative judges of districts should in their administrative capacities utilize the Information and Communications Technology tools to remedy the institutional problem of bail applications and monitor the pendency as liberty is not a gift for the few.”
Stressing that the high courts and trial courts must enforce the basic rule of the criminal justice system of ‘bail, not jail’ in practice, the judges said, “The grant of bail is the solemn expression of the humaneness of the justice system.”
The suggestions came in the judgement by which the top court extended the interim bail granted to Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami and two others in a 2018 abetment to suicide case.
Besides 91,000 bail pleas, 12,66,133 criminal matters such as writ petitions, appeals, revisions and applications are pending in high courts. There are 1,96,861 bail pleas pending in district courts.
“The data on the NJDG is available in the public realm. The NJDG is a valuable resource for all High Courts to monitor the pendency and disposal of cases, including criminal cases. For Chief Justices of the High Courts, the information which is available is capable of being utilized as a valuable instrument to promote access to justice, particularly in matters concerning liberty.” it said.
“Courts must be alive to the need to safeguard the public interest in ensuring that the due enforcement of criminal law is not obstructed. The fair investigation of crime is an aid to it. Equally it is the duty of courts across the spectrum – the district judiciary, the High Courts and the Supreme Court – to ensure that the criminal law does not become a weapon for the selective harassment of citizens,” the judgement noted.
It added that high courts get burdened when lower courts decline anticipatory bail or bail in deserving cases and this problem continues in the Supreme Court as well, when high courts refuse similar reliefs.