In a recent landmark order, the Supreme Court has delivered a stern directive to all courts, emphasizing the imperative need for expeditious judgment delivery and disposal of bail applications. The bench, led by Justices Bela Trivedi and Satish Chandra Sharma, explicitly instructed High Courts to adhere meticulously to the guidelines set forth by the Apex Court in various decisions.
The genesis of this directive can be traced back to a disconcerting delay observed in the Patna High Court’s rendering of a judgment on an anticipatory bail application. The single-judge bench, which heard the application and reserved its orders on April 7, 2022, astonishingly released the judgment almost a year later, on April 4, 2023. The Supreme Court, having sought a report from the Registrar General of the Patna High Court last year, expressed its dismay at the prolonged delay in a recent hearing on January 17.
The Apex Court, while perusing the report submitted by the Registrar General, underscored its consistent concern regarding the time lapses in disposing of bail applications. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the Patna High Court’s delay, stating, “This Court, time and again, has expressed great concern about the delay taking place in the disposal of the bail applications and has issued guidelines from time to time.”
Referencing its judgment in the case of Anil Rai Vs. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court reiterated the need for expeditious delivery of judgments. The guidelines outlined in this case include the addition of a specific column in judgments, mentioning the date of reserving and pronouncing the judgment. Furthermore, the Chief Justices of High Courts are directed to monitor cases where judgments are not pronounced within a month of reservation and take appropriate action.
In the event of a judgment not being pronounced within three months, parties are permitted to file applications for early judgment. If the delay extends to six months, parties have the right to request the transfer of the case to another bench. The court emphasized the significance of these guidelines, stressing their repeated issuance to ensure timely justice.
The court also cited Its decision in the case of Satendra Kumar Antil Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation and Anr., where specific directions were issued for the swift disposal of bail applications. Bail applications, except in certain mandated circumstances, are expected to be disposed of within two weeks. Applications for anticipatory bail, with the exception of intervening applications, should be resolved within six weeks.
Expressing deep concern over the persistent delays despite established guidelines, the court conveyed its dissatisfaction with the handling of bail applications. However, recognizing the unique circumstances in each High Court, the Supreme Court has entrusted the responsibility to the High Courts to develop mechanisms ensuring the prompt disposal of reserved cases.
“We leave it to the High Courts to evolve a system/mechanism to check and verify at the end of each month, the pendency of cases reserved for judgments and orders in each Court,” the court stated.
This order comes as a resounding call for accountability in the judicial system, emphasizing the fundamental importance of timely justice, particularly in matters concerning personal liberty. As the legal fraternity grapples with ensuring the swift disposal of cases, the Supreme Court’s directive serves as a significant benchmark, urging High Courts to adopt proactive measures for the benefit of litigants awaiting justice.