New Delhi, Jan 16 (Agencies): Annoyed by the Allahabad High Court's "casual approach" in acquitting a man charged with rape and kidnapping, the Supreme Court has observed that criminal justice system is not working properly in the country and recommended urgent steps to stem the rot.

Slamming the High Court for setting aside the trial court order through a "cryptic and perfunctory" verdict, based on "conjectures and surmises", it cautioned, "We must remember that a strong and efficient criminal justice system is a guarantee to the rule of law and vibrant civil society."

It advised that the criminal cases relating to offences against the state, corruption, dowry death, domestic violence, sexual assault, financial fraud and cyber crimes are fast-tracked and decided in a fixed time frame, preferably, within three years.

"We are constrained to observe that criminal justice system is not working in our country as it should," said a bench of justices Aftab Alam and RM Lodha.

"The criminal trials are protracted because of non-appearance of official witnesses on time and the non-availability of the facilities for recording evidence by video conferencing," said the bench.

"The public prosecutors have their limitations. The defence lawyers do not make themselves available and the court would be routinely informed about their pre-occupation with other matters. The courts remain over-burdened with the briefs listed on the day and they do not have adequate infrastructure," the bench said.

Upset by the High Court acquitting "an accused convicted of a serious crime" without "application of mind", the bench went on to list several maladies plaguing the country's criminal justice system and recommending urgent steps to stem the rot.

While expressing its frustration over various shortcoming plaguing the judiciary, the bench also touched the issue of police reform saying they "are yet to take place despite (September 2006) directions of this (apex) court."

Restraining itself from making elaborate comment over the issue, being adjudicated by a different three-judge bench, it, however, said, "The investigators hardly have professional orientation. They do not have modern tools."

"And on many occasions impartial investigation suffers because of political interference," the bench added