Bail applications to be disposed of normally within one week: Supreme Court of India

Hussain and Anr. v. Union of India


The appeals were filed against denial of bail pending trial/appeal where appellants have been in custody for a long period. The Supreme Court discussed various cases such as Hussain Ara Khatoon v. State of Bihar[(1995) 5 SCC 326)], Akhtari Bi  v. State of M.P. [(2001) 4 SCC 355], Noor Mohammed v. Jethanand and anr. [(2013)5 SCC 202], Thana Singh v. Central Bureau of Narcotics[(2013) 2 SCC 590], Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee representing undertrial prisoners v. Union of India and Ors. [(1994) 6 SCC 731], Imtiyaz Ahmad v. State of U.P. & Ors. [(2012) 2 SCC 688], Ex. Captain Harish Uppal v. Union of India [(2003) 2 SCC 45].

In A.R. Antulay and ors. v. R.S. Nayak and anr. [(1992) 1 SCC 225] it was held that speedy trial is a part of reasonable, fair and just procedure guaranteed under Article 21. The Supreme Court in Thana Singh v. Central Bureau of Narcotics [(2013) 2 SCC 590] directed that liberal adjournments must be avoided and witnesses once produced must be examined on consecutive dates. In Imtiyaz Ahmad v. State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors.[ (2012) 2 SCC 688] 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. In Anita Kushwaha v. Pushap Sudan, it was noticed that providing effective adjudicatory mechanism, reasonably accessible and speedy, was part of access to justice. In Bhim Singh v. Union of India, 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.

The Court also dealt with the issue of obstruction of Court proceedings by uncalled for strikes/abstaining of work by lawyers or frequent suspension of court work after condolence references. In Ex. Captain Harish Uppal v. Union of India [(2003) 2 SCC 45], it was held that such suspension of work or strikes are clearly illegal. 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 and appropriate steps must be taken. High Courts were directed to strictly monitor this issue and take stringent measures in the interest of administration of justice.

The Supreme Court observed that 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.

The Supreme issued the following directions –

(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

(ii) High Courts 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) High Courts may prepare, issue and monitor appropriate action plans for the subordinate courts.

(iv) 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 in Ex. Captain Harish Uppal v. UOI.

High courts were also directed to take appropriate steps consistent with earlier directions in different cases to have appropriate monitoring mechanism on administrative side as well as judicial side for speeding up disposal of cases of undertrials pending in subordinate courts and appeals pending in the High Courts.