In an important landmark judgment addressing the case of Sajeev vs.State of Kerala, the Supreme Court recently deliberated on critical concerns surrounding material witness depositions and procedural delays impacting the resolution of appeals, emphasizing the urgent need for expedited justice in the Indian legal system.

The case under review involved an appeal against a Kerala High Court judgment in a murder case that occurred two decades ago. Justices Sanjay Karol and Abhay S. Oka presided over the bench that upheld the conviction of the appellants, recognizing the gravity of this tragic incident that transpired twenty years prior.

The Court expressed considerable apprehension over the frequent omissions in recording material witness depositions, which commonly resulted in repeated adjournments. These delays significantly contributed to the backlog and prolonged the resolution of appeals, highlighting the pressing need for procedural reforms.

To address these issues and enhance the efficiency of the appeals process, the Court meticulously examined Order XX of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, focusing particularly on sub-rules 2 and 3 of Rule 5. The proposed reforms aim to streamline the requisition of case records in criminal appeals, especially in cases involving life sentences or the death penalty.

The suggested reforms primarily comprise the following key recommendations:

1.  E-Copies of Original Records  : The Court recommended an amendment to Sub-Rule 3 to include the insertion of soft copy before original records. This amendment aims to expedite the availability of records to the court while also aligning with environmentally conscious practices by promoting the use of electronic records over physical copies.
2.  Extension of Requisition  : The Court advocated extending the requisition of soft copies of records to cases where leave is granted against an order of acquittal or conviction. This broader application seeks to ensure a more comprehensive and efficient process in handling appeals, irrespective of the nature of the appeal outcome.
3.  Providing Soft Copies to Counsels  : Upon receiving these e-copies of the records, the Court directed that they should be promptly provided to the learned counsel representing the parties involved. This move toward accessibility and transparency aims to facilitate a more informed and expedited legal process.

In a bid to ensure the implementation of these reforms, the Court further directed the Registry to present a copy of the judgment to the Chief Justice of India for consideration and appropriate directives, signifying the importance and urgency of these reforms in the legal framework.

The key legal provisions discussed in the judgment primarily revolve around Order XX of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, with a particular focus on sub-rules 2 and 3 of Rule 5. These rules specifically pertain to the procurement of physical copies of original records in criminal appeals, especially those involving life sentences or the death penalty.

The proposed amendments seek to enhance accessibility and efficiency by allowing for the requisition of e-copies of original records, promoting a shift towards electronic records rather than relying solely on physical documentation. The extension of this provision to cases where leave is granted against an order of acquittal or conviction reflects the Court’s commitment to streamlining the appeals process and ensuring a more comprehensive and modernized approach.

This significant judgment from the Supreme Court reflects a progressive step towards modernizing legal procedures, embracing technology, and streamlining the norms governing criminal appeals, ultimately aiming for a more efficient and swifter delivery of justice.

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