SC directs HC to hear bail plea of life convict in jail for 21 years

The top court noted that his criminal appeal before the HC has been pending for 16 years


The Supreme Court has directed the Allahabad High Court to consider the life convict’s bail application who has spent over 21 years in jail, on November 18. (Virendra vs State of Uttar Pradesh and anr- W.P Crl. No. 343 of 2020)  

Advocate on Record (AoR) Rohit Amit Sthalekar, Advocates ZU Khan, Sulaiman Mohd Khan, Taiba Khan and Ashish Choudhary appeared for the petitioner.

A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah said, “Ends of justice be served in giving the liberty to the petitioner to make a fresh application for suspension of sentence and grant of bail before the High Court in the pending criminal appeal. We observe that in event the bail application is filed, the same shall be considered forthwith by the High Court.”


The petitioner approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution, praying for a direction from the Supreme Court to expeditiously dispose of his criminal appeal pending at the High Court since 2004.

The petitioner also submitted that he deserves sympathy, as he has been languishing in jail for more than 21 years (without remission). It has been sixteen years since his conviction in 2004 and neither has he been granted bail during the pendency of appeal nor has his appeal been heard by the High Court.

The top court noted the submission made but decided to not entertain the plea since his criminal appeal against his conviction order was already pending before the High Court. The Bench said, “The criminal appeal was filed by the petitioner in 2004 and the High Court on 19.07.2004 (July 19, 2004) directed the bail application be heard after receipt of the record. It appears that the bail remained pending from 2004 to 2013 and was disposed of for want of prosecution. Thereafter, several dates were fixed for hearing of the appeal but could not be heard till date.”

While asking the petitioner to approach the High Court again, the Supreme Court directed the lower court to decide on the bail application filed “preferably within a period of one month.”

Delay in Justice

It has been long enough since the Indian Judiciary is trying to cope with the backlog of cases and high pendency levels.  With Covid-19, the functioning has decelerated even more. A few months ago, in June, the Supreme Court had ordered six High Courts to file affidavits detailing their plan of action to reduce the pendency of criminal appeals that have been lying pending for a long period of time. (Khursheed Ahmed v State of Uttar Pradesh SLP Crl. D. No. 35524 of 2019).

The Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat noted that according to the National judicial data grid (NJDG), criminal appeals pending before the High Courts for over 30 years stood at a staggering 14,484.

The whopping number does pose a serious challenge to the judicial system and the Bench had importantly observed that the right to speedy trial would also include right to speedy disposal of appeals of those convicted. “If such appeals are not taken up for hearing within a reasonable time, the right of appeal itself would be illusory, inasmuch as incarcerated convicts (who are denied bail) would have undergone a major part- if not whole of the period of their sentence”, the court remarked.

The Supreme Court order dated November 18, 2020 may be read here: 


Role of courts in delayed justice: Article 21 violation
Haphazard Appointment Of Judges Worsening High Court Judicial Delays



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