New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday observed that it is a failure of the system that accused have to wait for 20-25 years before their cases are finally decided.
"These are the real issues. These are the issues that should bother us. Instead what are we doing? Just fire-fighting… Fire-fighting on a daily basis," regretted a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The bench, also comprising Justice Surya Kant, added: "A large number of accused, who could be entitled to acquittal, languish for jail in 20-25 years. And if they come out, they would have already suffered."
The court was hearing an appeal against rejection of a bail by the Allahabad High Court.
Senior advocate Devadatt Kamat, appearing for the accused, pointed out that there is no possibility of the appeal being finally decided anytime in the near future and hence it would be unjust if the accused remains incarcerated for a long period in these circumstances.
The bench acknowledged the concerns and accepted that the Allahabad High Court has been hearing appeals which are 25 years old.
"What do we do? That's the reality. This high court has been hearing very, very old matters. But can we release all the accused only since their appeals are pending for a long time? We can’t even do that," observed the top court.
At the same time, the bench noted: "Why should an accused languish for countless number of years for bail when his appeal can't be decided within a reasonable time?"
Kamat requested the bench to evolve a mechanism by way of some guidelines in matters like this so that valuable rights of the people could be protected.
To this, the bench said Kamat may file his suggestions on this aspect. It also sought views of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate RS Sodhi as to how to ameliorate the situation. Sodhi is a retired judge of the Delhi High Court.
"As a custodian of the State, you should also help us in this situation," the Bench told Mehta while fixing the matter for further consideration on Thursday.