Supreme Court seeks response from Allahabad HC on disposal of appeals of convicts languishing in UP jails

The Supreme Court on Wednesday has sought response and suggestions from Allahabad High Court and its Bench at Lucknow with respect to the disposal of appeals of convicts who are languishing in jails of Uttar Pradesh over a decade, wherein such appeals have not been listed or heard. 

Keeping in mind the exigencies in disposal of batch of criminal appeals, the bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy asked the AAG Garima Prasad of Uttar Pradesh that state government does not require any court orders pertaining to release of convicts. 

The State government should take swift action themselves in disposal of criminal appeals, and convicts can be released, the state government does not need any certificate, said the bench. 

Justice Hrishikesh Roy was also concerned with the fact that there are number of convicts who have resources to approach the court, while on the other hand there are some who do not have any resources /recourse to approach the court. 

AAG Garima Prasad submitted that there are a number of poor convicts, who do not have any resources. She also apprised the court that more than 7,000 people are crowding in jail who have already spent 10 years in prison.

She submitted the note of guidelines before the bench dealing with the aspects. Such aspects includes period of sentence undergone, the heinousness of the crime, the age of the accused, the period taken in trial and whether the appellants are diligently prosecuting the appeals inter alia may be factors which may be material. She contended before the bench that she has spoken to jail authorities and the registrar of High Court, It was found out that there was delay on account of convict, for eg – delay in filing appeal, and other factors as such. 

With regard to the reference of data of serving period of sentence is of 10 years i.e. without remission. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said to State Govt - “You have just stated that since 1990s criminal appeals are pending.”

AAG Garima Prasad submitted that there are certain prohibited categories wherein certain classes of offences falls down.

Bench to State –“ Did you make any consultation with the registrar of High Court?”

State of UP – “ My lord, It was informal consultation.”

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul – “Why can’t we simply issue notice to High Court for suggestion and call them for their response.” 

AAG Garima Prasad addressed the cause of delay and prolonging criminal appeals that advocates do not get respective fee for the case, (Including Legal Aid advocates also), once convicts get bail, then appellant convicts are not traceable. Counsel of State of U.P. further suggested to ensure that appellant convicts do not fled away i.e. as soon as their appeal gets listed for hearing then appellant convict should personally appear on the date of hearing. Suggestions /proposal in case of grant of bail, recusal to join proceedings on behalf of state of Uttar Pradesh.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul – “what is the position in 1st matter listed today”?

AAG, Garima – “ The appellant undergone 7 years of his sentence.” I urge all these matters to be sent for rehearing before high court. 

Bench came across a peculiar situation and asked the counsel of state that does person remains habitual offender after serving 15 years of sentence?

Senior Advocate Viraj R. Datar suggested about the changes to be made in Probation Rules and also submitted to the bench that there is Sentence Review Board in each state where Remission is being considered. He stated that In Uttar Pradesh, Remission is not being considered. Ld. AAG intimated the court that large number of convicts-appellants has been released. Remissions are taking place. 

To which the Bench advised the U.P. Govt that before the next date of hearing, it is incumbent upon you take appropriate action in this regard. 

On a lighter note, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said to AAG, Garima Prasad that now we have given you certificate also to work on the issue. (Certificate here implies permission) 

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The apex court was of the view that matters could be remitted before the High court for reconsideration.

The State Government has filed its affidavit in a batch of petitions filed before apex court seeking indulgence to grant bail to those prisoners who have been languishing in jail for years and in some cases more than 14 years. 

In its affidavit, the State Government said, “There are presently more than 183000 criminal appeals are pending before the High Court judicature at Allahabad and the Lucknow bench of the Court. Many criminal appeals of the year 1990s are still pending for final hearing. Despite the disposal of 16279 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.”