"Outcome of appeal awaited even after 40 years": Supreme Court expresses shock over criminal appeal pendency in Allahabad High Court

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A Supreme Court bench of Justices Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai today expressed shock to know that criminal appeals in Allahabad High Court are pending since 1980. Justice Rao remarked, “The person might have committed an offence in 1970s, considering that the trial concluded in 5 or 6 years, he might have approached the court in 1980. If he was 40 years old then, he must be over 80 years now!”

Court was hearing a plea for bail moved by a person who had been given life imprisonment. The petitioner had preferred an appeal before the Allahabad High Court against the conviction and sentence as his plea for suspension of sentence was rejected by the High Court. Meanwhile, the petitioner moved Supreme Court seeking release on bail.

The petitioner contended that he has already undergone three years of imprisonment and there is no likelihood of the appeal being heard in the near future.

In the instant case, earlier in 2019, Court had observed that expeditious hearing cannot be directed only in cases where convicts approach the Supreme Court and had taken a view that the convicted persons cannot be under incarceration for an indeterminate period of time.

Court on analysing the data available on National Judicial Data Grid had noted that High Courts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Patna, Rajasthan, Bombay and Orissa have pendency of case which are over 30 years old. Court had also directed these High Courts to file affidavits submitting their plan of action for deciding the criminal appeals that have been pending before the High Courts for a long period of time.

When the matter came up for hearing today, the counsel for Madhya Pradesh High Court submitted that steps, as had been directed by the Apex Court earlier, have been taken to curb pendency in the High Court and that there is no appeal older than 30 years in the High Court.

Justice Gavai at this point remarked, “30 years is still not a reasonable time.” The counsel then suggested that the solution to this problem would be creation of special benches. The bench retorted to this saying that there are designated benches to hear criminal appeals in every court and creating special benches would not be the appropriate solution.

The bench then proceeded to ask the counsel for Allahabad High Court about the pendency. The counsel for Allahabad High Court submitted that the oldest cases in the High Court are from the year 1980.

Justice Rao at this point remarked that if the appeal pertains to the year 1980, the trial must have commenced in the 1970s and the person might have committed an offence back then.

Justice Rao then said, “If a person committed an offence when he was 40, he must be 80 years old now and he is still awaiting the outcome of the appeal.”

The bench thereafter proceeded to ask ASG KM Natraj who was present in the court for some other case to assist them in this matter and adjourned it accordingly.

Case title: Khursheed Ahmed Vs State of UP