A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, P S Narasimha and Sudhanshu Dhulia issued notice to the Registrar General of the HC and directed him to respond on why appeals were not being decided expeditiously.
It passed the order on an appeal filed by two convicts–one of them completed three-and-half years out of a seven year sentence and the other has undergone more than eight-and-half years, out of a sentence of 10 years. They approached the apex court through their advocate Rishi Malhotra alleging that there had been inordinate delay on the part of HC in granting hearing on their plea resulting in them spending more than half of sentence awarded by the trial court. They pleaded for grant of bail till their appeals were decided by the HC.
Though the petitioners had not arrayed the High Court as a party in their case, the apex court, however, issued notice to the HC as it decided to examine the larger issue of delay on the part of HC in deciding appeals.
“We have seen similar kinds of situations arising in pending appeals in the State of UP. Going by the facts presented in such matters, the appeals have been pending for a fairly large number of years. We, therefore, take the instant case, as a test case and considering the importance of the matter, we add the Registrar General of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad to the array of parties,” the bench said.
It directed the Registrar General to file response on the normal process adopted by the High Court to list the criminal appeals especially when the convicted appellants are undergoing a term sentence as against the life sentence.
“How many benches are normally available to take up the pending appeals and whether there is any special mechanism for listing of appeals where a person has been convicted for a term sentence of 10 years or less. Similarly, whether any such special mechanism is in place for listing the matters where life sentence has been imposed upon the appellant(s),” the bench asked HC.
“Whether any preference is given to appeals where the person concerned is not released by virtue of relief under Section 389 of the Code and is still undergoing sentence in a prison. The number of appeals which are pending in different categories and whether any policy has been framed to have the appeals taken up in a systematic way at an early date,” the bench asked the HC while framing five questions for it.