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RTI Response Shows 931 Bail Petitions Are Pending Before Supreme Court

The RTI query had been filed by Saket Gokhale in the aftermath of Arnab Goswami's petition being listed immediately before the top court.

New Delhi: The response to a Right to Information (RTI) Act query has revealed that there are 931 pending interim, regular or anticipatory bail petitions pending before the Supreme Court. In addition, there are also 141 petitions related to suspension of sentence are also pending.

The RTI query was filed by activist Saket Gokhale in the aftermath of Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami getting bail. In that matter, eyebrows were raised when the petition was taken up for hearing on November 10, 2020, just a day after it was filed. At the time, the Supreme Court was closed for Diwali, with on a vacation bench functioning.

According to LiveLaw, Gokhale’s petition sought regarding the number of interim bail applications pending with the Supreme Court registry that hadn’t had a first listing as of November 12, 2020.

In his reply dated December 18, the additional registrar and central public information officer of the top court Ajay Agarwal said the court does not maintain information regarding interim bail applications in the manner which Gokhale sought.

However, he did provide information regarding the number of cases relating to bail and sentence suspension pending in the SC. The response adds:

“…as per the Supreme Court Subject Category 1409 which deals with “Criminal matters relating to bail/interim bail/anticipatory bail”, the number of pending SLP matters pertaining to the above Subject Category (as per data available in ICMIS software as on 18.12.2020) is 931 (which includes matters pertaining to not only interim bail but also bail/anticipatory bail, etc.).

Further, as per Supreme Court Subject Category 1436 which deals with “Criminal matters relating to suspension of sentence”, the number of pending matters pertaining to the above subject Category (as per data available in ICMIS software as on 18.12.2020) is 141.”

Gokhale had also sought information about the average waiting period from the time an interim bail application is filed with the registry and it is listed before the appropriate bench. To this query, the CPIO said that no information/data is maintained.

“The information/data is not maintained in the manner as sought for. However, all matters are listed/eliminated/deleted as per guidelines, practice and procedure which are available in public domain viz. website www.sci.gov.in under the link “PraCtice & Procedure (sic) and also in accordance with the circulars and general or specific directions of the Hon’ble Court. You may, therefore, visit the website for getting the desired information,” the reply stated.

According to LiveLaw, data regarding pendency of cases before the Supreme Court is not available in the public domain. The National Judicial Data Grid provides data about the pendency of cases in high courts and subordinate courts in the country, but not the top court.

Goswami had filed the petition in the top court on November 9, the same day that the Bombay high court refused to provide interim relief in a suicide abetment case. The case was listed before the high court immediately, and the Supreme Court granted bail to him on November 11, expressing displeasure at the high court order, saying that constitutional courts must intervene when personal liberty is at stake.

Before the order was pronounced, Supreme Court Bar Association president Dushyant Dave wrote to the SC registry complaining about the ‘selective listing’ given to Goswami’s petition.

“This is a gross abuse of administrative power, whosoever has exercised it on administrative side. It gives an impression that Clients represented by certain Lawyers are getting special treatment, which does not speak well if the great Institution, that the Supreme Court is,” Dave remarked.

In a subsequent petition that sought relief to jailed journalist Siddique Kappan, the Supreme Court observed that ‘every case is different‘. Kappan’s lawyer Kapil Sibal had asked the bench, including Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, why the court had heard Goswami’s bail plea even as it was pending in a lower court but was eager to push the plea against Kappan’s arrest to a lower court.