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Sunday, March 19, 2017

To sum up: (i) The High Courts may issue directions to subordinate courts that – (a) Bail applications be disposed of normally within one week; (b) Magisterial trials, where accused are in custody, be normally concluded within six months and sessions trials where accused are in custody be normally concluded within two years; (c) Efforts be made to dispose of all cases which are five years old by the end of the year; (d) As a supplement to Section 436A, but consistent with the spirit thereof, 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; (e) The above timelines may be the touchstone for assessment of judicial performance in annual confidential reports. (emphasis added) (ii) The High Courts are requested 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; (iii) The High Courts may prepare, issue and monitor appropriate action plans for the subordinate courts; (iv) The High Courts may monitor steps for speedy investigation and trials on administrative and judicial side from time to time; (v) The High Courts may take such stringent measures as may be found necessary in the light of judgment of this Court in Ex. Captain Harish Uppal (supra) .


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.509 OF 2017
       (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.)No. 4437 of 2016)

Hussain and Anr.                             …Appellants


Union of India                               …Respondent


                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.511 OF 2017
        (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.)No. 348 of 2017)

Aasu                                         …Appellant


State of Rajasthan                           …Respondent

                               J U D G M E N T


1.    Leave granted. Grievance in these appeals is against  denial  of  bail
pending trial/appeal where appellants  have  been  in  custody  for  a  long
2.    In the first case, the appellants have been in the custody  since  4th
August, 2013 on the allegation of having  committed  offence  under  Section
21(c) of the Narcotics Drugs and  Psychotropic  Substances  Act,  1985  (the
NDPS Act).  Their bail application, pending trial, has been  dismissed.   In
the second case, the appellant is in custody since 11th January,  2009.   He
has been convicted by the trial court under Section 302  IPC  and  sentenced
to undergo life imprisonment.  His bail application has  been  dismissed  by
the High Court pending appeal.  The appellants contend that,  having  regard
to the long period of custody, they are entitled to bail as speedy trial  is
their fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

3.    To consider the question as to the circumstances in which bail can  be
granted on the ground of delayed proceedings when a person  is  in  custody,
notice was also  issued  to  learned  Attorney  General  and  Mr.  Siddharth
Luthra, Senior Advocate was appointed Amicus Curiae.

4.    We have heard learned counsel for the parties, the learned amicus  and
the learned Additional Solicitor General.

5.    During the hearing reference has been made to the  decisions  of  this
Court dealing with the issue and reference has also  been  made  to  Section
436A Cr.P.C. which provides for grant of bail when a  person  has  undergone
detention  upto  one  half  of  maximum  prescribed  imprisonment.   It  was
submitted that the said provision applies only during trial  and  the  first
case is not covered by the said provision as the appellant therein  has  not
undergone the requisite detention  period  to  claim  bail  under  the  said

6.    With regard to grant of bail, pending appeal, reference has been  made
to decisions of this Court in  Akhtari Bi (Smt.)  v.  State of  M.P.[1]  and
Surinder  Singh   alias   Shingara  Singh   v.   State  of  Punjab[2]  which
provides that if the appeal is not heard for 5 years,  excluding  the  delay
for which the accused  himself  is  responsible,  bail  should  normally  be
granted.  The second case is  not  covered  by  the  said  judgment  as  the
pending appeal in the High Court is of the year 2013.

7.    In Abdul Rehman Antulay and ors. v.   R.S.  Nayak  and  anr.[3]  while
holding that speedy trial at all stages is part of right under  Article  21,
it was held that if there is violation of right of speedy trial, instead  of
quashing  the  proceedings,  a  higher  court  can  direct   conclusion   of
proceedings in a fixed time.  In the light of these principles, the  present
appeals can be disposed of by directing that the pending trial in the  first
case and the appeal in the  second  case  may  be  disposed  of  within  six
months.  We order accordingly and dispose of the matters to  the  extent  of
grievance in the two cases.
8.    However, since the issue is arising  frequently,  inspite  of  earlier
directions of this Court, further consideration has become necessary in  the
interest of administration of justice and  for  enforcement  of  fundamental
right under Article 21.
9.    As already noticed, speedy trial is a part  of  reasonable,  fair  and
just procedure guaranteed  under  Article  21.   This  constitutional  right
cannot  be  denied  even  on  the  plea  of  non-availability  of  financial
resources.  The court  is  entitled  to  issue  directions  to  augment  and
strengthen investigating machinery, setting-up of new courts,  building  new
court houses, providing more staff and equipment to the courts,  appointment
of additional  judges  and  other  measures  as  are  necessary  for  speedy
10.  Directions given by this Court in Hussainara Khatoon  (supra)  to  this
effect were left to be implemented by the High Courts[5] are as follows:
“2. Since this Court has already laid down the guidelines by  orders  passed
from time to time in this writ petition and in subsequent orders  passed  in
different cases since then, we do not consider it necessary to  restate  the
guidelines periodically because the enforcement of  the  guidelines  by  the
subordinate courts  functioning  in  different  States  should  now  be  the
responsibility of the different High Courts to which they  are  subordinate.
General orders for release of  undertrials  without  reference  to  specific
fact-situations in different cases may prove to be  hazardous.  While  there
can be no doubt that undertrial prisoners should not languish  in  jails  on
account of refusal to enlarge them on bail for want  of  their  capacity  to
furnish bail with monetary obligations, these are matters which have  to  be
dealt with on case-to-case basis keeping in mind the  guidelines  laid  down
by this Court in the orders passed in this writ petition and  in  subsequent
cases from time to time. Sympathy for the undertrials who are  in  jail  for
long terms on account of the pendency of cases has  to  be  balanced  having
regard to the impact of crime, more particularly, serious crime, on  society
and these considerations have to be  weighed  having  regard  to  the  fact-
situations in pending cases. While there can be  no  doubt  that  trials  of
those accused of crimes should be disposed of as early as possible,  general
orders in regard to judge strength of subordinate judiciary  in  each  State
must be attended to, and its functioning overseen, by the High Court of  the
State concerned. We share the sympathetic concern  of  the  learned  counsel
for the petitioners that undertrials should not languish in jails  for  long
spells merely on account of their inability to  meet  monetary  obligations.
We are, however,  of  the  view  that  such  monitoring  can  be  done  more
effectively by the High Courts since it would be  easy  for  that  Court  to
collect and collate the statistical information in that  behalf,  apply  the
broad guidelines already issued and deal with the situation  as  it  emerges
from the status reports presented to it. The role of the High  Court  is  to
ensure that the guidelines issued by this Court are  implemented  in  letter
and spirit. We think it would suffice if we request the  Chief  Justices  of
the High Courts to undertake a review of such  cases  in  their  States  and
give appropriate directions where needed  to  ensure  proper  and  effective
implementation  of  the  guidelines.  Instead  of  repeating   the   general
directions already issued, it would be sufficient to remind the High  Courts
to ensure expeditious disposal of cases. …”
                                                            (emphasis added)

11.     Deprivation of personal liberty without  ensuring  speedy  trial  is
not consistent with Article 21. While deprivation of  personal  liberty  for
some  period  may  not  be  avoidable,   period   of   deprivation   pending
trial/appeal cannot be unduly long.   This  Court  has  held  that  while  a
person in custody for a grave offence  may  not  be  released  if  trial  is
delayed, trial has to be expedited  or  bail  has  to  be  granted  in  such

12.    Timely delivery of justice is a part  of  human  rights.   Denial  of
speedy justice is a threat to public confidence  in  the  administration  of
justice.  Directions of this Court  in  Noor  Mohammed   v.   Jethanand  and
anr.[7] are as follows:
“ 34. … … …Therefore, we request the  learned  Chief  Justice  of  the  High
Court of Rajasthan as well as the other learned Chief Justices  to  conceive
and adopt a mechanism, regard being had to the priority of cases,  to  avoid
such inordinate delays in matters which can  really  be  dealt  with  in  an
expeditious  manner.  Putting  a  step  forward  is  a  step   towards   the
destination. A sensible individual inspiration and  a  committed  collective
endeavour would indubitably help in this regard. Neither less, nor more.”

13.  In Thana Singh  v.  Central Bureau of Narcotics[8] this Court  directed
that liberal adjournments must be avoided and witnesses once  produced  must
be examined on consecutive dates.  Directions were also issued  for  setting
up of sufficient laboratories, for disposal of seized  narcotics  drugs  and
for providing charge-sheets  and  other  documents  in  electronic  form  in
addition to hard copies of same to avoid delay.

14.   In Akhtari Bi (supra) this Court observed as under:
“5. … … …it is incumbent upon the High Courts to  find  ways  and  means  by
taking steps to ensure the disposal of criminal appeals,  particularly  such
appeals where the accused are in jails, that the  matters  are  disposed  of
within the specified period not exceeding  5  years  in  any  case.  Regular
Benches to deal with the criminal cases can be set up where such appeals  be
listed for final disposal. We feel that if an  appeal  is  not  disposed  of
within the aforesaid period of 5 years, for no fault of the  convicts,  such
convicts may be released on bail on such conditions as  may  be  deemed  fit
and proper by the court. In computing the period of 5 years, the  delay  for
any period, which is requisite in preparation of the record  and  the  delay
attributable to the convict or his counsel can be  deducted.  There  may  be
cases where even after the lapse of 5 years  the  convicts  may,  under  the
special circumstances of the case, be held not entitled to bail pending  the
disposal of the appeals filed by them. We request the Chief Justices of  the
High Courts, where the criminal cases are pending for more than 5  years  to
take immediate effective steps for their disposal  by  constituting  regular
and special Benches for that purpose.”

15.   Again in Imtiyaz Ahmad   v.   State of Uttar Pradesh  and  Ors.[9]  it
was observed that long delay has the effect of blatant violation of rule  of
law and adverse impact on access to justice which is  a  fundamental  right.
Denial of this right  undermines  public  confidence  in  justice  delivery.
These  observations  have  been  reiterated  in  recent  Constitution  Bench
judgment in Anita Kushwaha etc. etc.  v.  Pushap Sudan  etc.  etc.[10].   In
the said judgment it  was  noticed  that  providing  effective  adjudicatory
mechanism, reasonably accessible and speedy, was part of access to  justice.

16. In Bhim Singh V. Union  of  India[11],  it  was  observed  that  central
government must take steps in consultation with  the  state  governments  in
fast tracking all types of  criminal  cases  so  that  criminal  justice  is
delivered  timely  and  expeditiously.  In  the  same  case,  in  a  further
order[12] it was noted that more than 50% of the prisoners in various  jails
are undertrial prisoners. In spite  of  incorporation  of  Section  436A  in
Cr.PC. undertrial prisoners continue to remain in prisons  in  violation  of
the  mandate  of  the  said  section.  Accordingly,  this   court   directed
jurisdictional Magistrate/Chief Judicial Magistrate/Session  judge  to  hold
one sitting in a week  in  each  jail/prison  for  2  months  for  effective
implementation of Section 436A. Again in  Re:  Inhuman  Conditions  in  1382
Prisons[13] reference was made to the advisory issued by  Ministry  of  Home
Affairs  to  all  States  for  implementation  of   Section   436A,   Cr.PC.
stipulating constitution of a review committee in every district  under  the
chairmanship of the District Judge. It was noted that 67% of  the  prisoners
in the jails were undertrials prisoners.

17.    In  Imtiyaz  Ahmad  (supra)  this  Court  noted  that  serious  cases
involving murder, rape, kidnapping  and  dacoiting  were  pending  for  long
period.  In some cases proceedings are delayed on account  of  stay  orders.
Out of the said cases, in 9 per cent cases stay was operating for more  than
20 years, in 21 per cent stay was operating for more than 10 years.   Having
regard to the situation noticed in the judgment,  this  Court  directed  the
High Courts to dispose of cases in which proceedings were stayed  preferably
within six months from the date of stay  orders.   The  Law  Commission  was
directed to make recommendation  for  measures  to  be  adopted  by  way  of
creation of additional courts and the like matters. The Law Commission  made
its recommendations in its 245th Report which was examined by  the  National
Court Management Systems Committee (NCMSC) to  determine  additional  number
of courts required.  The said  report  was  thereafter  considered  by  this
Court in judgment dated 2nd January, 2017 in Imtiyaz  Ahmad   v.   State  of
U.P. & Ors. [Criminal Appeal No. 254-262 of 2012]. After noticing the  stand
of the Ministry of Law and Justice on the subject of creation of  additional
posts, this Court  also  noted  the  recommendations  of  the  14th  Finance
Commission whereby additional  fiscal  allocation  was  provided.   In  that
context, the Prime Minister’s letter to the  Chief  Ministers  calling  upon
them to allocate funds in the State Budgets was also referred  to.   Further
follow up letter of the Law  Minister  and  Resolution  of  Chief  Justices’
Conference held in April, 2016 were  also  referred  to.   Thereafter,  this
Court issued directions for computing the required  judge  strength  of  the
district judiciary and also directed the State  Governments  to  take  steps
for  enhancing  the  judge  strength  accordingly.  The  directions  are  as
“22. Having regard to the above background, we now proceed to formulate  our
directions in the following terms :

i) Until NCMSC formulates a scientific method for determining the basis  for
computing the required judge strength of the district judiciary,  the  judge
strength shall be computed for each state, in accordance  with  the  interim
approach indicated in the note submitted by the Chairperson, NCMSC;

ii) NCMSC is requested to endeavour the submission of its  final  report  by
31 December 2017;

iii) A copy of the interim report submitted by the Chairperson, NCMSC  shall
be forwarded by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to the Chief  Justices
of all the High Courts and Chief Secretaries of all states within one  month
so as to enable them to take follow-up  action  to  determine  the  required
judge strength of the district judiciary based on the NCMSC interim  report,
subject to what has been stated in this judgment;

iv) The state governments shall take up with the High Courts  concerned  the
task of implementing the interim report of the Chairperson,  NCMSC  (subject
to what has been observed above)  and  take  necessary  decisions  within  a
period of three months from today for enhancing the required judge  strength
of each state judiciary accordingly;
v) The state governments shall cooperate  in  all  respects  with  the  High
Courts in terms of the resolutions passed in the joint conference  of  Chief
Justices and  Chief  Ministers  in  April  2016  with  a  view  to  ensuring
expeditious disbursal of funds to the state  judiciaries  in  terms  of  the
devolution made under the auspices of the Fourteenth Finance Commission;

vi) The  High  Courts  shall  take  up  the  issue  of  creating  additional
infrastructure required for meeting  the  existing  sanctioned  strength  of
their state judiciaries and the enhanced strength in terms  of  the  interim
recommendation of NCMSC;

vii) The final report submitted by NCMSC may  be  placed  for  consideration
before the Conference of Chief Justices. The directions in (i)  above  shall
then be subject to the ultimate decision that is taken  on  receipt  of  the
final report; and

viii) A copy of this  order  shall  be  made  available  to  the  Registrars
General of each High Court and to all Chief Secretaries of  the  States  for
appropriate action.”

      The said matter now stands adjourned to July, 2017.
18.   During Joint  Conference  of  Chief  Ministers  of  States  and  Chief
Justices of High Courts held in April, 2015, a decision was taken  that  all
High Courts will establish Arrears Committees and prepare a  plan  to  clear
backlog of cases pending for  more  than  5  years.   Such  Committees  have
reportedly been established.  In Chief Justices’ Conference held  in  April,
2016 under Item No. 8 inter alia the following resolution was passed:


                       xxx  xxx   xxx

      Resolved that

(i) all High Courts shall assign top most priority  for  disposal  of  cases
which are pending for more than five years;

(ii) High Courts where arrears of cases pending for  more  than  five  years
are concentrated shall facilitate their disposal in mission mode;

(iii) High Courts shall progressively thereafter set a target  of  disposing
of cases pending for more than four years;

(iv) while prioritizing the  disposal  of  cases  pending  in  the  district
courts for more than five years, additional incentives  for  the  Judges  of
the district judiciary be considered where feasible; and

(v) efforts be made for strengthening case-flow management rules.”

19.   The position of five year old cases continues to be alarming  in  many
States.   Total number of more than  five  year  old  cases  in  subordinate
courts at the end of the year 2015 is said to be 43,19,693 as noted in  para
9 of the judgment of this Court dated 2nd January,  2017  in  Imtiyaz  Ahmad
v.  State of U.P. & Ors. [Criminal Appeal No. 254-262 of  2012].  Number  of
undertrials detained for more than five years at the end of  the  year  2015
is said to be 3599.[14]  Number of appeals  pending  in  High  Courts  where
detention period is beyond five years may be still higher.

20.   It appears that annual action plans have been prepared  by  some  High
Courts with reference to the subject of discussion in  the  Chief  Justices’
Conference.  Reference to action plan of the Punjab and Haryana  High  Court
for the year 2011-2012[15] shows that undertrials who were  in  custody  for
more than two years as on 1st April, 2011 in Session Trial cases  and  those
in custody for  more  than  six  months  in  Magisterial  Trial  cases  were
targeted for disposal, apart from five year old  cases  and  other  priority
cases.   Similar  targets  were  fixed  for  subsequent  years  and   result
reflected in the pendency figures shows  improvement  in  disposal  of  five
year old cases and cases of undertrials  in  custody  beyond  two  years  in
Session  Trial  cases  and  six  months  in  Magisterial  Trial   cases   in
subordinate courts in the jurisdiction of Punjab & Haryana  High  Court.[16]
Reportedly, success is on  account  of  monitoring  inter  alia  by  holding
quarterly meetings of District Judges with Senior High Court Judges as  well
as constant monitoring by concerned Administrative  Judges[17].  Presumably,
there is similar improvement as a result of planned  efforts  elsewhere.  In
view  of  successful  implementation  of  plan  to  dispose  of   cases   of
undertrials in custody in two years in Session Trial cases  and  six  months
in Magisterial trials, we do not see any reason why this target  should  not
be set uniformly.   The same need to be regularly  monitored  and  reflected
in  performance  appraisals  of  concerned  judicial  officers.    Handicaps
pointed out can be tackled at appropriate level.   Accordingly,  we  are  of
the view that plan of each High Court  should  include  achieving  the  said
target and not the target of five years  for  undertrials  in  custody.   Of
course, if such cases can be disposed of earlier, it may  be  still  better.
Plans can be revised  as  per  local  conditions.  We  also  feel  delay  in
disposal of  bail  applications  and  cases  where  trials  are  stayed  are
priority areas for monitoring.  Timeline for disposal of  bail  applications
ought to be fixed by the High Court.  As far as possible, bail  applications
in subordinate courts should ordinarily be decided within one  week  and  in
High Courts within two-three weeks.  Posting of  suitable  officers  in  key
leadership positions of Session Judges and Chief  Judicial  Magistrates  may
perhaps go a long way in dealing with  the  situation.  Non  performers/dead
word must  be  weeded  out  as  per  rules,  as  public  interest  is  above
individual interest.
21.   Another suggestion which cropped up during the hearing of the  present
case relates to remedying the situation of delay in  trials  on  account  of
absconding of one or the other accused during the  trial.   In  this  regard
our attention has been drawn  to  an  amendment  in  the  Code  of  Criminal
Procedure, 1898  of  Bangladesh  by  way  of  adding  Section  339B  to  the
following effect:
“Trial in absentia
[339B.  (1) Where after the compliance with the requirements of  section  87
and section 88, the Court has reason to believe that an accused  person  has
absconded or concealing himself so that he cannot be arrested  and  produced
for trial and there is no immediate prospect of  arresting  him,  the  Court
taking cognizance of the offence complained of shall, by order published  in
at least two national daily Bengali Newspapers having wide circulation],

direct such person to  appear  before  it  within  such  period  as  may  be
specified in the order, and  if  such  person  fails  to  comply  with  such
direction, he shall be tried in his absence.

(2) Where in a case after the production or appearance of an accused  before
the Court or his release on bail, the accused person absconds  or  fails  to
appear, the procedure as laid down in sub-section (1) shall  not  apply  and
the Court competent to try such person for the offence complained of  shall,
recording its decision so to do, try such person in his absence.”
                                                  (emphasis added)
22.   It is for the concerned authority to  take  cognizance  of  the  above
amendment which may considerably reduce delay in  cases  where  one  or  the
other accused absconds during the trial.

23.   Learned Amicus Curiae as well as learned Additional Solicitor  General
have suggested that monitoring by all High Courts  is  necessary  to  ensure
minimizing adjournments at all levels, taking steps to remove  obstacles  in
speedy trials including setting up of adequate number of  laboratories,  use
of  Video  Conferencing  to  examine  scientific   experts   or   otherwise,
appointment of public prosecutors, compliance of Section 207/208 Cr.P.C.  by
scanning/digitizing police reports, introduce system for electronic  service
of summons (wherever necessary), issuing  timelines  for  disposal  of  bail
matters at all levels. It has also been suggested that  suitable  amendments
ought to be made in the Code of Criminal Procedure for permitting  tendering
evidence of medical witnesses on the pattern of Section 293  Cr.P.C.   While
we have discussed some of the  issues  germane  to  the  subject  of  speedy
trials, in view of directions already issued  by  this  Court,  issuance  of
further directions and monitoring of directions already issued  is  left  to
the concerned High Courts.

24.   In view of the above, we do  consider  it  necessary  to  direct  that
steps be taken forthwith by all concerned to effectuate the mandate  of  the
fundamental right under Article 21 especially  with  regard  to  persons  in
custody in view of the directions already  issued  by  this  Court.   It  is
desirable that each High Court  frames  its  annual  action  plan  fixing  a
tentative time limit for subordinate courts for deciding criminal trials  of
persons in custody and other long pending cases and monitors  implementation
of such timelines periodically.  This  may  perhaps  obviate  the  need  for
seeking directions in individual cases from this Court.  We also  feel  that
it is desirable for Chief Justices of all the  High  Courts  to  take  other
steps consistent with the  directions  already  issued  by  this  Court  for
expeditious disposal of  criminal  appeals  pending  in  High  Courts  where
persons are in custody by fixing priority having regard to the  time  period
of detention.  We also reiterate the directions for setting up  of  adequate
number of forensic laboratories at all levels.   Specification  of  some  of
these issues is in addition  to  implementation  of  other  steps  including
timely investigation, timely serving of summons on  witnesses  and  accused,
timely filing of charge-sheets and furnishing of copies of charge-sheets  to
the accused.  These aspects need constant monitoring by High Courts.
25.   One other aspect pointed out is the obstruction of  Court  proceedings
by  uncalled  for  strikes/abstaining  of  work  by  lawyers   or   frequent
suspension of court work after condolence references. In  view  of  judgment
of this Court in Ex. Captain Harish Uppal versus Union of  India[18],   such
suspension of work or strikes are clearly illegal and it is high  time  that
the legal  fraternity  realizes  its  duty  to  the  society  which  is  the
foremost.  Condolence references can be once in while periodically say  once
in two/three months and not frequently.   Hardship  faced  by  witnesses  if
their evidence is not recorded on the day they are  summoned  or  impact  of
delay on undertrials  in custody on account of such avoidable  interruptions
of court proceedings is a matter of concern  for  any  responsible  body  of
professionals and they must take  appropriate  steps.   In  any  case,  this
needs attention of all concerned authorities – the Central  Government/State
Governments/Bar Councils/Bar Associations as well as  the  High  Courts  and
ways and means ought to be found out  to  tackle  this  menace.   Consistent
with the above judgment, the High Courts must monitor this  aspect  strictly
and take  stringent  measures  as  may  be  required  in  the  interests  of
administration of justice.
26.   Judicial service as well as legal  service  are  not  like  any  other
services. They are missions for serving the society.   The  mission  is  not
achieved if the litigant who is waiting in the queue does not get  his  turn
for a long time.  Chief Justices and Chief Ministers have resolved that  all
cases must be disposed of within five years which by any standard  is  quite
a long time for a case to be decided in the first court.  Decision of  cases
of undertrials  in  custody  is  one  of  the  priority  areas.   There  are
obstructions at every level in  enforcement  of  right  of  speedy  trial  –
vested interests or unscrupulous elements  try  to  delay  the  proceedings.
Lack  of  infrastructure  is  another  handicap.   Inspite  of   all   odds,
determined efforts are required at every level for success of  the  mission.
Ways and means have to be found out by  constant  thinking  and  monitoring.
Presiding Officer of a court cannot rest in the state of helplessness.  This
is the constitutional responsibility  of  the  State  to  provide  necessary
infrastructure and  of  the  High  Courts  to  monitor  the  functioning  of
subordinate courts to ensure timely disposal of cases.  The  first  step  in
this direction is preparation of an appropriate action plan at the level  of
the High Court and thereafter at the level  of  each  and  every  individual
judicial officer.  Implementation of the action plan  will  require  serious
efforts and constant monitoring.
27.   To sum up:
(i)  The High Courts may issue directions to subordinate courts that –
(a)   Bail applications be disposed of normally within one week;
(b)    Magisterial  trials,  where  accused  are  in  custody,  be  normally
concluded within six  months  and  sessions  trials  where  accused  are  in
custody be normally concluded within two years;
(c)   Efforts be made to dispose of all cases which are five  years  old  by
the end of the year;
 (d) As a supplement  to  Section  436A,  but  consistent  with  the  spirit
thereof, 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;
(e)   The above timelines may be the touchstone for assessment  of  judicial
performance         in         annual         confidential          reports.
(emphasis added)
(ii)   The High Courts are requested 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;
(iii)       The High Courts  may  prepare,  issue  and  monitor  appropriate
action plans for the subordinate courts;
(iv)  The High Courts may monitor steps for speedy investigation and  trials
on administrative and judicial side from time to time;
(v)   The High Courts may take such  stringent  measures  as  may  be  found
necessary in the light of judgment of  this  Court  in  Ex.  Captain  Harish
Uppal (supra) .
28.   Accordingly, we request the Chief  Justices  of  all  High  Courts  to
forthwith take appropriate steps consistent  with  the  directions  of  this
Court in Hussain Ara Khatoon (1995) 5 SCC 326) (supra),  Akhtari  Bi  (Smt.)
(supra),  Noor  Mohammed  (supra),  Thana  Singh  (supra),  S.C.  Legal  Aid
Committee  (supra), Imtiaz Ahmad (supra), Ex. Captain Harish  Uppal  (supra)
and Resolution of Chief Justices’ Conference  and  observations  hereinabove
and to have appropriate monitoring mechanism in place on the  administrative
side as well as on the judicial side for speeding up disposal  of  cases  of
undertrials pending in subordinate courts and appeals pending  in  the  High
      We place on  record  our  appreciation  for  the  valuable  assistance
rendered by Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni, learned Additional Solicitor  General
and Mr. Siddharth Luthra, learned Senior Advocate.
       A copy of this order be sent to all the courts.

                                                         [Adarsh Kumar Goel]

                                                        [ Uday Umesh Lalit ]
MARCH 9, 2017.
[1]   [2] (2001) 4 SCC 355
[3]   [4] (2005) 7 SCC 387
[5]   [6] (1992) 1 SCC 225 – Para 86
[7]   [8] Hussainara Khatoon and ors (IV)   v.  Home Secreta?

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