Supreme Court sets time limit for lower courts to ensure speedy trial

  • Holding that speedy trial in criminal cases is part of the fundamental rights of an accused, the Supreme Court has suggested a time-frame for lower courts to decide a case to ensure that the accused do not suffer in jail due to prolonged proceedings.

    A bench consisting of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit asked all the high courts to issue directions to subordinate courts to decide bail applications within a week and in cases where the accused is in custody, magisterial trial should be concluded within six months and sessions trial (for offences punishable with more than seven years) within two years. It said efforts should be made to dispose of all cases more than five years' old by the end of the year.

    Expressing its concern over alarming number of old cases pending in lower courts, the bench said all possible efforts should be made for their quick disposal. The total number of more than five-year old cases in subordinate courts at the end of the year 2015 is said to be 43, 19,693 and number of under-trials detained for more than five years at the end of the year 2015 is said to be 3599.

    "Speedy trial is a part of reasonable, fair and just procedure guaranteed under Article 21. This Constitutional right cannot be denied even on the plea of non-availability of financial resources. The court is entitled to issue directions to augment and strengthen investigating machinery, setting-up of new courts, building new court houses, providing more staff and equipment to the courts, appointment of additional judges and other measures as are necessary for speedy trial," the bench said.

    It was further said that the high court shall regularly monitor performance of judicial officers and the time-lines should be made the touchstone for assessment of their performance in annual confidential reports.

    The bench said vested interests and unscrupulous elements would always try to delay the proceedings but determined efforts are required to be made by the judiciary for success of the mission.

    "Judicial services as well as legal service are not like any other services. They are missions for serving the society. Chief Justices and Chief Ministers have resolved that all cases must be disposed of within five years which by any standard is quite a long time for a case to be decided in the first court," it said.

    It also asked the high courts to ensure that bail applications filed before them are decided within one month and criminal appeals where accused are in custody for more than five years are concluded at the earliest.


    With more than 2 crore cases pending in the Indian district courts, the decision of the Supreme Court to finally take a plunge and make some constructive provisions for the same was the need of the hour. It is the duty of the court to ensure that the accused do not suffer because of the prolonged proceedings. Lot of false cases are filed against innocent people and they have to rot in the jails because of the cumbersome judicial system. Hopefully with the new provision such cases will be managed in a much better manner.

    Visit the Indian Kanoon section of LawRato to learn more on Indian Laws.

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