The Supreme Court on Monday told the Uttar Pradesh government that it will issue a blanket bail order if the officials fail to take a decision on releasing undertrial prisoners, the Hindustan Times reported.

Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh made the statement after they were told that 853 persons are in custody for more than 10 years and their criminal appeals have not been decided.

The justices were hearing a petition of an Uttar Pradesh resident named Suleman, who has been in jail for 12 years, NDTV reported. He approached the Supreme Court after no High Court bench was available to hear his appeal.

“If you [state government] are not able to handle it, then we will,” the Supreme Court said. “There is a problem with both the high court and the state. You cannot put these people behind bars indefinitely.”

The court asked Additional Advocate General Garima Parshad how many single-offence cases could be considered for bail on priority, the Hindustan Times reported. She responded saying that the state was yet to scrutinise the list and segregate persons who have committed single offences from the ones who are incarcerated in multiple cases.

On May 9, when the matter was last heard, the Uttar Pradesh government and Allahabad High Court had said that bail pleas of 350 convicts had been pending for over 10 years and 159 those who have been incarcerated for more than 15 years.

Last week, the High Court filed a status report in the Supreme Court, saying that between April and July 17, bail applications of 62 prisoners were decided. However, 232 fresh bail applications were filed in the period, the High Court added.

The Supreme Court has recommended the state to consider taking up single-offence cases in one go. Unless there are special circumstances, all of them could be released on bail, the court added.