Criminal appeal must be pending for 5 years or more to seek bail on grounds of delay: Jammu & Kashmir High Court
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently decided that a plea seeking a stay of execution and grant of bail based on a delay in the completion of the trial or the disposition of an appeal in the case can be heard only if the criminal appeal has been pending for more than five years (Raghubir Singh V/s UT of J&K). As a result, a Division Bench comprising Justices Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Puneet Gupta refused a bail application based on the fact that the accused had been in prison for more than 13 years for a murder charge. The Court noted that the lower court's order of conviction and sentence was issued on July 23, 2020, and the appeal was filed on August 6, 2020. In this regard, the Court pointed to the decision of a High Court coordination bench in the case Rakesh Kumar Vs. State of J&K, which stated that a 5-year delay in the disposal of an appeal is required to be eligible for bail on grounds of delay. The following was said in the said judgement: "The Supreme Court concluded in the Akhtari Bi case that quick justice is a basic right derived from Article 21 of the Constitution. It was decided that the accused had the right to request for bail if the trial and appeals in criminal cases were delayed. It was decided that if an appeal was not resolved within five years due to no fault of the appellant, such convicts could be released on bond with conditions set by the court." Given that the appeal was filed against the conviction and sentence in the year 2020, and in light of the ratio of the judgement in Akhtari Bi vs. State of MP [AIR 2001 SC 1528] and the view expressed by the Coordinate Bench of this court, of which one of us (Thakur-J) was a member, we believe that since five years have not elapsed from the date of the filing of the presentment, we believe that the appeal should be dismissed.