National

Supreme Court seeks details of 1,581 cases against MPs and MLAs

Asks Centre to frame scheme for setting up special criminal courts in States to deal with their cases

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the government to frame a central scheme for setting up special courts across the country to exclusively try criminal cases involving ‘political persons.’

In a determined effort to cleanse politics of criminality and corruption, the apex court said it takes years, probably decades, to complete the trial against a politician.

By this time, he or she would have served as a minister or legislator several times over.

Countering the Centre’s argument that setting up such courts would depend on the availability of funds with the States, the apex court said “the problem can be resolved by having a central scheme for setting up of courts exclusively to deal with criminal cases involving political persons on the lines of the fast track courts...”

A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha ordered the government to place the scheme before it on December 13, the next date of hearing. It said the scheme should provide details of the funds required to set up such courts.

The Bench said the Supreme Court would directly interact with the State governments on issues like the appointment of judicial officers, public prosecutors, court staff and other requirements of manpower and infrastructure for the special courts.

Giving no quarter, the apex court directed the Centre to submit a report card by December 13 on the status of the 1,581 criminal cases pending against Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies at the time of the 2014 elections.

The court said it wanted to know whether its March 10, 2014 order to complete the trial in all these cases within a year’s time had been complied with or not.

On March 10, 2014, a Supreme Court Bench of Justice (retired) R.M. Lodha and Justice Kurian Joseph had ordered the government to conclude criminal trials in which charges have been framed against sitting MPs and MLAs “speedily and expeditiously” within a year.

The apex court had ordered the trials to be held on a day-to-day basis.

Only “extraordinary circumstances” would justify a trial exceeding the one-year deadline, Justice Lodha’s Bench had made it clear then.

Referring to the March 2014 order, Justice Gogoi’s Bench said it wanted the government to report back by December 13 on how many of these 1,581 cases were finally decided and how many ended in acquittals and convictions for MPs and MLAs.

The court further directed the Centre to place on record how many cases have been filed against sitting and former legislators between 2014 till date. The apex court said it wanted details of the status of each such case and how the criminal trials ended in every one of them.

Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni, for the Centre, submitted that the Centre was not averse to the setting up of special courts to exclusively try political persons. He said there is no room for a second opinion that corruption and criminality should be wiped out of politics. Mr. Nadkarni said the government would support any move for the “utmost expeditious disposal” of criminal cases involving political persons.

However, on a plea by petitioner and Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay for a life ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections, the government remained non-committal, simply saying that the recommendations of the Law Commission and the Election Commission (EC) was under its active consideration.

The Bench agreed to examine the issue raised whether such a lifetime ban would be discriminatory and a violation of Article 14 (right to equality), especially when such a disqualification has not been provided either under the Constitution or The Representation of the People Act of 1951.

Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, for the EC, also supported the proposal for special courts to try politicians.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 3:42:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-seeks-details-of-1581-cases-against-mps-and-mlas/article19961061.ece

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