A division bench of Justice A Hon’ble Mr. Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel Hon’ble Mr. Justice Uday Umesh Lalit observed “The scene depicted in the impugned order is not limited to the Jharkhand High Court. Similar position prevails in several High Courts where large number of criminal appeals are pending and hearing takes more than ten years. In many cases, the convicts are in custody for many years1. It appears that there is no likelihood of such appeals being heard in the expected time of about one year or at least within five years.
Since speedy justice is a fundamental right under Article 21, such right may be meaningless, if appeal is not heard within the reasonable time.” Senior Counsel Dhruv Mehta was appointed as the amicus curiae to assist the court.
The directions of the Court came after a petition was filed by Mr. Sadaullah against the State of Jharkhand. The petitioner was convicted of murder and had been sentenced to life imprisonment. While hearing, the Jharkhand High Court had refused to hear the Appellant’s appeal while observing that much older appeals were still pending.
The Court then relied on a meeting of the stakeholders held by the Arrears Committee of the Supreme Court, wherein it had highlighted the pendency of criminal appeals before High Courts.
The Committee had suggested, “Thus, there is need for re-engineering of the structure of administration of justice by which the Supreme Court and the High Courts may discharge only core constitutional functions while the statutory appeals or other statutory functions can be dealt with by an alternative mechanism by courts of appeal which, in hierarchy will be higher to the district judges but below the High Court.”
The next hearing of the case is scheduled on 21 November.