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In a stunning revelation exposing glaring judicial inefficiency, the Supreme Court recently expressed profound surprise and concern over the inexplicable one-year delay by the Patna High Court in delivering a judgment on an anticipatory bail plea.

The case under scrutiny involved an application seeking anticipatory bail concerning alleged offenses under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). Initially presented before a single-judge bench of the Patna High Court, the plea underwent a thorough hearing and was subsequently reserved for orders on 7th April 2022. However, to the bewilderment of legal practitioners, the matter was not concluded until 4th April 2023. This extensive delay was attributed to the presiding judge’s prior involvement as a lawyer in a related bail matter stemming from the same information report, prompting the reassignment of the case to another Bench for consideration.

The delay in dispensing justice drew profound dismay from the Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices Bela M. Trivedi and Satish Chandra Sharma, who raised poignant concerns about the inexplicable tardiness that impeded the expeditious delivery of justice. Subsequently, on 19th July 2023, a different bench of the Patna High Court dismissed the bail plea, citing the petitioner’s alleged failure to establish a compelling case for anticipatory bail, as mandated under Section 45 of the PMLA 2002.

Challenging this dismissal, the petitioner escalated the matter by appealing against the decision to the apex court. However, during the course of the proceedings, the Supreme Court displayed reservations regarding the grant of anticipatory bail, eventually leading to the withdrawal of the plea.

The Supreme Court’s attention was drawn to the alarming fact that despite the matter being reserved for orders on 7th April 2022, the judgment was only pronounced on 4th April 2023, causing significant consternation about procedural efficiency and the timely dispensation of justice.

In response to this disquieting delay, the apex court, expressing astonishment and profound concern, issued directives to the Registrar General of the Patna High Court. The Registrar General was tasked with conducting a thorough investigation into the matter and providing a comprehensive report by 8thJanuary 2024.

Consequently, the case is scheduled to be listed on 8th January 2024 solely for compliance purposes, awaiting the submission of the detailed report by the Patna High Court.

The ramifications of suc’ a prolonged delay in the judicial process, particularly concerning matters as crucial as anticipatory bail, extend beyond the petitioner’s right to swift justice. This delay also casts serious doubts on the efficiency and timeliness of justice delivery within the legal system. It poses a challenge to the fundamental principles of timely justice delivery, which form the bedrock of a robust legal framework.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the pressing need for expeditious legal proceedings and the imperative requirement for systemic reforms to ensure the prompt resolution of cases, especially those involving crucial legal rights and liberties.

As the matter remains pending for compliance and further investigation, stakeholders, including legal experts and concerned citizens, keenly await the Supreme Court’s response to address this disconcerting delay and to uphold the principles of swift and fair justice delivery.

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