New Delhi: Mocking the investigating agencies probing cases involving foreign nationals, particularly Pakistanis, for years together, the Supreme Court Thursday said criminal justice system in India may not be swift but has certainly not collapsed.
"Our criminal justice system may not be working swiftly. Surely it has not collapsed," observed the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale.
The court's caustic observation came when it was told that investigation was going on till date in the case of two Pakistani prisoners arrested in Jammu and Kashmir, way back in March and April 2005.
Justice Lodha asked: "How can you justify that man is in custody and investigation is going on for five years."
"Why it took five years? How can you justify it? Investigation can't proceed at snail's pace," he added.
The court said that "human dignity should not be lost".
As Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra sought to reason it out, the court said: "Something that is indefensible must not be defended. Why not order their immediate release."
The court's observation came in the course of the hearing of a petition by Jammu and Kashmir Panther Party's chief, Prof Bhim Singh on the plight of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails long after their sentence was over or in whose case, investigation or trial was yet to be over.
In respect of Pakistani nationals who have completed their sentences and were still languishing in Indian jails, the court said: "There must be an inbuilt mechanism where on the completion of their sentences their repatriation should automatically commence."
Asserting that the legal process must follow and there could not be any laxity, the court wondered how long it would go on monitoring such cases.
"It can't be an ongoing process as far as court is concerned. It is an ongoing process as far as government is concerned."
Taking note of the progress made in the cases of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, the court complimented the "service" rendered by Prof. Bhim Singh.
"You have put government on the toes. They are working hard. They are trying their best," observed Justice Lodha.
The court also complimented ASG Malhotra by telling Prof. Bhim Singh that "ASG has done some home work. You may or may not give credit to him".
Malhotra told the court that appeals against the acquittal of four Pakistani prisoners have been filed in high courts of Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir - one in the former and the other three in the latter.