New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern at the pendency of criminal appeals in some high courts for a period between 30-40 years, and sought a report from the high courts where pendency is high.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B. R. Gavai noted that criminal appeals in some high courts are pending for 30-40 years, and sought a report from the courts on measures to reduce this pendency. “Serious matter… just told appeals pending in Allahabad High Court for 40 years,” it said.
Counsel representing the Madhya Pradesh High Court submitted that suggestions have been submitted to reduce pendency as per the instructions of the top court. As the bench queried appeals of which year are pending in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, counsel replied that there are various appeals between 20-30 years, which are pending, and no appeal is pending for more than 30 years.
During the hearing, the bench noted that every HC has a separate criminal appeal bench, and therefore, there is no need for a special designated court. As counsel suggested developing a procedure to hear new appeals within a time frame, the bench noted that old appeals cannot be kept aside, paving way for hearing of new appeals.
“What will happen to the old appeals? See, this has a cascading effect,” it noted.
The bench also queried counsel appearing for the Allahabad High Court regarding pendency. It was informed the oldest criminal appeals pending are from 1980. As this, the bench remarked that a person who had committed an offence in the 1970s, at the age of 30-40 years, would be 80-90 years now.
The top court was informed that in total, over 27,000 appeals were pending from 1980 to 2020 — over 14,000 appeals were pending before the single judge and over 13,000 appeals before the division bench. The top court sought reports from the HCs of Allahabad, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Patna, Bombay, and Orissa.
The top court was hearing bail plea by Khursheed Ahmad, as his appeal against conviction under Section 302 of the IPC was pending before the Allahabad High Court. Apart from the state governments, the top court had also sought assistance from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to address the larger issue of pendency of criminal appeals.