India's Supreme Court has embarked on an ambitious reform that will see the speedy disposal of about 65,000 cases, some of which have been pending for many years.

Among other things, the country’s top court has set up a special criminal appeal bench that will hear and dispose of all important pending cases starting January 7, reported The New Indian Express on Tuesday.

The reform, initiated by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, is to ensure that by the end of 2014, all long-pending cases should have been disposed of, the report said.

The special bench will hear cases that have been pending for a minimum of five years. Besides a criminal bench, there are special benches for constitutional matters, women and children.

Another separate special bench is one relating to mercy petitions for death sentences. There are reportedly 197 pending cases seeking mercy from death sentences and some require immediate hearing, the Express said, quoting a court registry official.

Notification issued

The apex court issued a notification in early December announcing the formation of the new regular criminal bench in which cases will be taken up by a two-judge bench, the report said.

Cases that are expected to come up before this bench are expected to involve larger criminal "interpretations or questions or matters" that are required to be settled, reported the Express.

As on December 1, the Supreme Court had 65,661 cases pending and all these will be dealt with, the report said.
It quoted a retired judge SN Dhingra as saying that mounting cases in the top court has greatly concerned litigants and governments.

"It is a fundamental right of every citizen to get speedy justice and speedy trial which also is the fundamental requirement of good judicial administration," the report quoted him saying.

Source: Al Jazeera