Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Bombay High Court failed to  to evaluate even prima facie of the most basic issue thereby refusing bail to the accused, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud* and Indira Banerjee, JJ has reminded the High Courts and District Courts of their duty to ensure human liberty.

In the judgment running into 55-pages, here is what the Court said:

Fair Investigation

The public interest in ensuring the due investigation of crime is protected by ensuring that the inherent power of the High Court is exercised with caution. That indeed is one – and a significant – end of the spectrum. The other end of the spectrum is equally important: the recognition by Section 482 of the power inhering in the High Court to prevent the abuse of process or to secure the ends of justice is a valuable safeguard for protecting liberty.

The need to ensure the fair investigation of crime is undoubtedly important in itself, because it protects at one level the rights of the victim and, at a more fundamental level, the societal interest in ensuring that crime is investigated and dealt with in accordance with law. On the other hand, the misuse of the criminal law is a matter of which the High Court and the lower Courts in this country must be alive.

“Courts should be alive to both ends of the spectrum – the need to ensure the proper enforcement of criminal law on the one hand and the need, on the other, of ensuring that the law does not become a ruse for targeted harassment.”

Procedural hierarchy of Courts

The procedural hierarchy of courts in matters concerning the grant of bail needs to be respected. The High Court has the power to protect the citizen by an interim order in a petition invoking Article 226. Where the High Court has failed to do so, the Supreme Court would be abdicating its role and functions as a constitutional court if it refuses to interfere, despite the parameters for such interference being met.

“The doors of this Court cannot be closed to a citizen who is able to establish prima facie that the instrumentality of the State is being weaponized for using the force of criminal law. Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defense against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens. Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one day too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions.”

Emphasizing on the role of the district judiciary, which provides the first point of interface to the citizen, the Court said,

“Our district judiciary is wrongly referred to as the “subordinate judiciary‘. It may be subordinate in hierarchy, but it is not subordinate in terms of its importance in the lives of citizens or in terms of the duty to render justice to them.”

High Courts get burdened when courts of first instance decline to grant anticipatory bail or bail in deserving cases. This continues in the Supreme Court as well, when High Courts do not grant bail or anticipatory bail in cases falling within the parameters of the law. The consequence for those who suffer incarceration are serious. Common citizens without the means or resources to move the High Courts or this Court languish as undertrials. Courts must be alive to the situation as it prevails on the ground – in the jails and police stations where human dignity has no protector. As judges, we would do well to remind ourselves that it is through the instrumentality of bail that our criminal justice system’s primordial interest in preserving the presumption of innocence finds its most eloquent expression.

“Tasked as we are with the primary responsibility of preserving the liberty of all citizens, we cannot countenance an approach that has the consequence of applying this basic rule in an inverted form. We have given expression to our anguish in a case where a citizen has approached this court. We have done so in order to reiterate principles which must govern countless other faces whose voices should not go unheard.”

Data reflecting pending Bail applications in High Courts and District Courts across India

Noticing that 15,54,562 bail applications are currently pending in High Courts and District Courts across India, the Court said that

“The Chief Justices of every High Court should in their administrative capacities utilize the ICT tools which are placed at their disposal in ensuring that access to justice is democratized and equitably allocated. Liberty is not a gift for the few. Administrative judges in charge of districts must also use the facility to engage with the District judiciary and monitor pendency.”

[Arnab Manoranjan Goswami v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 964, decided on 27.11.2020]


*Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud has penned this judgment. Read more about him here

Also read: Anvay Naik Suicide|High Court abdicated it’s duty by failing to make prima facie evaluation of FIR. Here’s why SC granted interim bail to the accused

SC grants interim bail to 3 accused in Anvay Naik suicide case. Calls Bombay HC order erroneous

Hot Off The PressNews

For the purpose of filing of pleadings, petitions, affidavits or other documents in High Court and all other Courts in State of Tripura, following specifications of paper and font type would be applicable:

“Superior quality A4 size paper having not less than 75 GSM printing on both sides of paper with font — Times New Roman, font size 14, in one and half line spacing (for quotations and indents — font size 12 in single line spacing), with margin of 4 cm on left & right snd 2 cm on top & bottom.”

For all other internal communications and official purposes of Registry of the High Court and other courts of District Judiciary also, A4 size paper having not less than 75 GSM would be utilized and except for judgments of Courts, printing may be done on both sides in all documents.


Tripura High Court

[Order dt. 23-03-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Terming the inadequacy of judges to be the root cause for the delay in disposal of cases resulting in huge backlog, the 3-Judge Bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ said that until National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMSC) formulates a scientific method for determining the basis for computing the required judge strength of the district judiciary, the judge strength shall be computed for each state, in accordance with the prevailing ‘Unit system’ of the High Courts.

Under the ‘Unit system’, weightage is given to cases based on their nature and complexity. The High Courts have established disposal norms for the district judiciary based on units allocated for disposal of different cases. On the basis of the units prescribed, performance is rated from “excellent” and ‘very good’ to ‘unsatisfactory’. Earlier, the ‘rate of disposal method’ was being applied to resolve this issue. Under the Rate of Disposal Method, the Commission first looked at the current rate at which judges dispose of cases and how many additional judges working at a similar level of efficiency would be required so that the number of disposals equals the number of institutions in any one year time frame. However, the method was criticized on the ground that a lower rate of disposal may not necessarily reflect upon the efficiency with which a judge has conducted the court. Trials are held up because of a paucity of public prosecutors, absence of witnesses on dates fixed for trial, laxity of police in service of summons, etc.

The Court said that while prescribing units for disposal, a robust attempt must be made by the High Courts to ensure that due importance is given to the disposal of old cases. The units prescribed for disposal must provide adequate incentives to attend to complex and time consuming cases. It was also said that the District judges with long years of experience in the service are in a position to appreciate practical realities and to indicate the manner in which the unit system can be revised in each state to encourage judges at both the trial and the appellate level to take up those cases which consume judicial time and which should not be placed on the back-burner for fear that the judge will not be able to fulfill the units expected. The Chief Justices should initiate the process of revising unit based norms in relation to their states.

The Court further said that in prescribing the judge strength it is necessary to ensure that a backlog does not result in the future as a result of an increase in annual filings. One method of estimating the extent of the increase in future filings is to have regard to the increase reflected over a comparable period in the past for which data is available. Those figures can be extrapolated to determine the increase in annual filings. The enhancement in the strength of the district judiciary should be such that a ‘five plus zero’ pendency is achieved i.e. wiping out the backlog within a target period of five years.

The Court has requested the NCMSC to submit it’s final report by 31 December 2017. [Imtiyaz Ahmad v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 7, decided on 02.01.2017]