It means that a person who approaches the HC now against conviction and sentence awarded by a trial court may have to wait 35 years to get her/ his case decided and if s/he is involved in heinous offences, where getting bail is anyway difficult, then s/he may have to languish in jail for many years waiting for justice. The startling data was placed before a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy.
Court Disposed Of 5,231 Cases In Its Best Year
The bench is examining ways to rescue thousands of convicts who are languishing in various jails of UP waiting for their appeals to be heard. As per the state government affidavit, appeals from 1990s are being heard by the Allahabad HC at present and appeals filed thereafter are in line to be heard.
As per the data, the most efficient year in terms of disposal of cases was 2019, when the high court decided a record 5,231 criminal appeals in a year. Going by that figure, it will take almost 35 years to dispose of the over 1.8 lakh cases and that too when no new appeal filed in the near future is entertained out of turn.
“There are presently more than 1,83,000 criminal appeals pending before the high court of judicature at Allahabad and the Lucknow bench of the court. Many criminal appeals of the year 1990s are still pending final hearing. Despite disposal of 16,279 criminal appeals in the past five years, it is hardly a third of 41,151 fresh criminal appeals filed in the same period; thus, the disposal rate of 18% is a challenge and there appears no likelihood of early hearing of such a large number of appeals. Meanwhile, there are almost 7,214 convicts lodged in various jails of Uttar Pradesh who have already undergone 10 years of their life sentence,” the state said in its reply.
The affidavit was filed in a batch of petitions seeking the apex court’s interference to grant bail to those prisoners who have been languishing in jails for years and in some cases more than 14 years. Asked by the apex court to suggest guidelines which can be adopted to release the prisoners from jail, additional advocate general Garima Prashad and advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain of the UP government said bail could be granted in those cases in which the convict had undergone half of the sentence awarded.
“Bail to be considered by the high court in cases of such convicts who have already undergone a total period of actual imprisonment as under:
(i) In cases of life convicts — 10 years (ii) In other cases — where prisoner has undergone more than half of the period of the maximum sentence awarded,” the Uttar Pradesh government said.
It, however, said “to ensure public peace and the well-being of society, life convicts who are hardened criminals, repeat offenders, kidnappers, in crimes related to massacre and habitual criminals, be not granted bail”.
Large vacancies of judges is also one of the reasons for piling up of cases as at present 93 judges are working against the sanctioned strength of 160 of the high court.
Times View: Both the judiciary and the jails seem to be overwhelmed and the prisoners have no choice but to suffer. The guilty shouldn’t serve more time than he or she has been sentenced for. The state must find a long-term and permanent solution to this mess.