Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has written to the Chief Justices of all High Courts, requesting them to constitute Special Benches on Saturdays for hearing criminal appeals/ jail appeals in which legal aid has been provided.
The CJI’s letter began with identification of the issue of increasing backlog of cases due to delay in disposal. “As you are aware, a large number of criminal appeals/ jail appeals are pending in various High Courts. Delay in disposal of these appeals raises question about the efficacy of the administration of justice as a while and criminal justice system in particular,” the letter said.
Justice Misra then acknowledged that one of the methods to ensure expeditious disposal of such appeals is to identify and dispose of such appeals in which legal aid has been provided at State expenses.
“May I, therefore, impress upon you to explore the possibility of hearing such criminal appeals/ jail appeals, in which legal-aid-counsel has been provided, on Saturdays by specially constituted Bench for the purpose, after obtaining consent of the concerned legal-aid counsel and State counsel. This will go a long way in ensuring speedy disposal of criminal appeals/ jail appeals,” Justice Misra wrote.
According to sources, High Courts of Karnataka, Patna, Chhattisgarh and Orissa have already started complying with the CJI’s request.
A Bench comprising Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer had also, just last week, expressed “shock” over pendency of criminal appeals for decades. This is a “troubling situation” and a “solution needs to be found out” for speedy disposal of appeals in various High Courts, the Bench had said.
It had then issued notice on the Petition seeking grant of bail to those convicts whose pleas are not likely to be taken up for hearing in the near future. The Court had further sought details of the total number of appeals pending before the High Courts from the Registrar General within six weeks.